Weddings/Civil Unions

weddingWelcome. Throughout its long history, St. James Episcopal Parish has held weddings for members and others from our Amesbury community and neighboring towns. We cordially invite you to become part of this joyous tradition. We hope that these materials will be helpful in making your plans; if, however, you have any questions not addressed here, please contact our Rector, the Rev. Susan Esco Chandler. She will be happy to discuss your concerns and will also schedule the date you finally select for your wedding.

Eligibility – The St. James Episcopal Church and Meditation Chapel are available for the weddings, ceremonies of commitment, and the blessing of civil unions of couples who have a valid marriage license and have completed pre-marital counseling with the priest.  Three sessions are the diocesan minimum with five the optimum.  The number of sessions will be determined in consultation with the officiating priest.

Making and Confirming a Reservation – To make reservations for a rehearsal and ceremony, call the parish (978-388-0030). Upon initial inquiry, you will be sent an informational packet.  After reading the information, if you are still interested, please fill out the information sheet from the packet and mail it back to St. James.  You will then be contacted by the priest to make an appointment for an initial meeting.

Rehearsals and Ceremonies – Rehearsals and ceremonies are usually held on weekends, according to the following schedule. The priest may be able to make additional times of the week available, by special request.

Fridays      3:00 p.m.– 6:00 p.m.
Saturdays  10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Saturdays  10:00 a.m.– 4:00 p.m.
Sundays     2:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

About Rehearsals

  • One hour is scheduled for each rehearsal.
  • The rehearsal must start on time. If the ceremony participants are more than 30 minutes late, the rehearsal is cancelled.
  • The marriage license must be presented at the rehearsal.

About Ceremonies

  • Two hours are reserved in the Church for the day of the ceremony. You and your guests will have access to the Church one hour before the starting time.
  • The ceremony begins promptly at the time for which the Church is reserved.
  • All persons who participate in the ceremony should attend the rehearsal.

Because the Church may schedule more than one rehearsal or ceremony on a given day, please be prompt and considerate of the time.

The priest oversees all rehearsals and ceremonies and is fully authorized to enforce Church policies. In the event that a wedding planner or service coordinator is used, that person should contact the priest to review Church policies.

Officiants for the Ceremony

Clergy of St. James – The clergy of St. James Episcopal Church is available to officiate upon consultation. They require a series of conferences and premarital sessions with the couple prior to the ceremony. To make an appointment, please call 978-388-0030.

Guest Clergy – Ministers, priests, or rabbis holding ordained status in their denominations are welcome to assist at weddings and blessings of civil unions in St. James Episcopal Church and Meditation Chapel; however, they must be authorized to officiate at weddings by the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Clergy from outside the Commonwealth should confirm their status by calling the Licensing Office in Boston at 617-727-2836 and obtaining a special license legally qualifying them to officiate in Massachusetts. In addition, they must obtain permission from their local ecclesiastical office and/or parish.

Note: If either party has been divorced, the officiant should be informed at once, and may require a copy of the decree absolute. In certain cases, the remarriage of divorced persons must receive ecclesiastical approval well in advance of the wedding.

Music – All music in St. James Episcopal Church, including music for weddings and blessings of civil unions, is under the direction of the Music Director, Matt Siess. For an initial discussion regarding the music for your service, contact the rector.

The St. James Organist, Matt Siess, will play the organ for ceremonies if his schedule is in accord with your ceremony date. If you would prefer a guest organist, you must apply in writing to the Rector, enclosing a resume of the guest organist, at least six weeks before the ceremony.

As soon as a ceremony is confirmed, couples should then contact the organist, at least six weeks before the ceremony, to discuss musical selections. If the organ is not to be used, please note recorded music is not permitted in the Church.

Singers and Instrumentalists – All vocal selections are subject to the approval of the Music Director. Guest soloists must be requested in writing at least six weeks. Note: Electronic amplification is not available for singers.

  • All arrangements for additional instrumentalists must be approved by the Music Director before firm arrangements are made.
  • $25 per singer or instrumentalist will be added to the Organist’s fee in compensation for the extra consultation and rehearsal time.
  • The Music Director may suggest competent students and local professional musicians. However, the Church does not act as a booking agency; all arrangements and fees must be finalized between the couple and the musicians directly, once approval has been granted.

Piano – A piano is available for use in the Parish Hall of the Church.

Photographs/Audio and Visual Recordings – All arrangements for photography and videotaping in the Church must be made in advance with the priest. In some cases, the Church may request permission of the couple to take photographs for use in illustrating The St. James Church’s Website or other publications. If permission is granted, all photo rights belong to St. James Episcopal Church.

  • Photographs and videos may be taken with flash or illumination during the processional and recessional only.
  • During the actual ceremony, all photographs and videos must be taken using existing light; no flash or illumination is permitted.

Guest Books – Guest books are permitted and may be placed on a stand in the narthex.

Flowers – Please contact the Rector to discuss arrangements and fees.

Furnishings – The following items are available in the Church:

  • Chancel table (altar) with white frontal (long cover) and two brass candlesticks with white candles, which will be lit during the service.
  • One dual kneeler (Church pews have kneelers)
  • One brass cross, centrally located on the wooden shelf behind the altar.
  • Four ornate chairs

Fixed furnishings or ornaments in the Church may not be otherwise altered or removed. A “Unity Candle” is not used in the Episcopal Marriage service.

No aisle runners are permitted in the Church.

No rice, confetti, balloons, birdseed, rose petals, or other materials shall be thrown in or around the Church or Chapel.

Fees – All fees must be paid prior to the service. Make check payable to St. James Episcopal Church.

Ceremonies in the Sanctuary –  Contributing Members; no charge; $350 non-members

Ceremonies in the Meditation Chapel – Contributing Members; no charge; $300 non-members

Honoraria – Checks should be made out to each individual (the sexton, organist, photographer) for honoraria, and sent to the parish no later than one week prior to the service.

The Sexton – $100 – The Sexton is required to be at all rehearsals and services. Make check payable directly to the Sexton, by name.

The Minister – For pledging members of St. James, an honorarium for the officiant is invited.  Any monies collected are used to fund the Priest’s Discretionary Fund.


For non-members, the discretionary fund honorarium is $300.00.  The Rector’s Discretionary Fund is used at the discretion of the rector to offer support to people in need.  Make check payable to  St. James Rector Discretionary Fund.

The Organist – $150 for ceremony; additional $25 fee per rehearsal with instrumentalist or singer. Make check payable directly to the Organist, Matt Siess.


The Photographer – Our in-house photographer is available or you may provide your own.  Please ask the priest for rates and services.


Others – Fees for soloists and instrumentalists are arranged on an individual basis by the couple.  The same is true of honoraria for clergy not on the staff of St. James.

Additional Information

Parking for Guests – St. James has limited guest parking. The couple is suggested to contact the Police Department of Amesbury for information regarding reserved spaces on the street for limousines or family cars.  The sexton will also be available to assist with parking needs.