Bride on A Budget: Going to the Chapel…

Finding a church is harder than you think.

Though I promised details on finding the perfect photographer in my last post, that has to hold in favor of something much more important: the ceremony. After all, it’s the whole point of the wedding day.

When we first started dating, Matt often commented on how lucky it was that we’re both Catholic. While this is technically true, my fiancé is a little more devout than I am. A self-confessed “Chrimeaster” Catholic, I attend services only a few times a year—namely Christmas and Easter—and rarely otherwise prioritize church during my busy weekends.

When wedding talk started, Matt felt quite strongly about getting married in a Catholic church, but my Chrimeaster tendencies diluted any opinions I had on the matter. I told him I’d be happy to oblige, but under one condition: He’d have to take care of the details.

This proved harder than expected. As is the case with many young transplants to big cities, I had never taken the time to join any parishes. Even Matt, with his slightly higher attendance rate, didn’t have a regular church. When he started calling chapels to inquire about availability, many places insisted we join as parishioners before a date could even be discussed. Hmm . . . think Catholicism offers extra credit for being a multiple-parish member?

After discovering that the church closest to our reception venue, the Arts Club of Washington, was booked for our date, we tried St. Patrick’s in downtown DC. That church told us we had to be members for six months before we could even talk about a wedding date. Six months? That was a gamble we simply weren’t willing to take.

Next, Matt moved on to churches in Georgetown, but he consistently found their wedding-ceremony fees too expensive. Most other Washington churches would have been far enough away from the Arts Club to require transportation for our guests, and budget was already strained enough.

After that, we met with a priest in Chinatown. He was very pleasant, and we enjoyed meeting with him—right up until he spoke disapprovingly of our choice to live together before marriage. From there, we quickly determined that this church was not the right place for us.

After rounds of strikeouts, we finally found a perfect fit at Holy Rosary—an adorable Italian church near Judiciary Square. The first time I walked in, the ornate interior reminded me exactly of my Nonna’s house. The parish priest has a decidedly more liberal attitude, and we’re grateful he’s allowing us to add to or subtract from the ceremony as we see fit. Now we’re sorting through readings, songs, and other things—and we’re excited to make the ceremony as beautiful as possible.

Lessons From the Budget Bride:
Prioritize the ceremony. If you're planning to be married in a church or synagogue, try to book the ceremony site before booking the reception site. Matt and I did both simultaneously and as we found out, it was much harder to coordinate than anticipated. 
Different churches have different ground rules. Matt and I are writing our own vows and hope to use a family friend as officiant. Not all churches were receptive to those ideas, so make sure you ask what's okay before booking a date.  

>> Need help finding a great photographer? Check back next time to hear how I picked mine. 

More>> Bridal Party Blog | Wedding Guide | Wedding Vendor Search