Here Comes the Bride. Is Your Church Ready?

Hosting a wedding at your church is a joyous occasion—and it’s also a lot of work. Amid the excitement, keep in mind the safety and well-being of the newlyweds, their guests, and the church building. Taking some simple precautions can help make the day of the wedding both happy and safe for all.

Have a Church Representative on Hand

Just because the bride and groom are renting your church for their wedding day doesn’t mean they’re entitled to the keys. Always have a church representative present while guests are using the building. The person’s responsibilities may include:

  • Opening the building
  • Keeping the reception celebration under control
  • Managing emergencies
  • Extinguishing all candles
  • Locking up after everyone has left

Having a church representative in the building also reduces the likelihood of theft. The representative can secure areas of the building containing expensive equipment or valuables and make sure that party guests are staying out of rooms the church has designated as off-limits.

Create a Contract for Weddings, Receptions

It’s important to use a building use agreement for any event, but when your church building is being used for a wedding, it can be even more important. Here are three reasons why you’ll want a formal agreement:

  1. It outlines expectations. If you want red punch to stay out of the sanctuary, or would prefer that alcohol not be served in your church, this is where to state those restrictions. You must provide clear rules for the wedding party to follow. If the rules aren’t stated, the party can’t be held responsible for them.
  2. It limits liability. Although the church is ultimately responsible for anything that happens within the building, a building use agreement can limit the liability your church would assume in case of an accident or injury. If an injured person sues the church, and you don’t have a written agreement, your legal position won’t be as strong.
  3. It helps fund repairs. Whether it’s minor damage, like spilled fruit punch, or something major, like rowdy groomsmen lifting the groom into the air—and through the ceiling tiles—property damage is always a significant possibility during wedding receptions. Make sure that your contract makes the wedding party responsible for any property damage, including items rented for the occasion, such as coffeemakers or candelabras.

Any agreement you create should be reviewed and approved by a local attorney before using it, since laws vary by state.

Beware of Liquor Liability

Although your church can allow liquor to be served at a wedding reception, it is not advisable to do so. If the bartender accidently serves someone who is already intoxicated, the church could be sued—especially if the intoxicated person is involved in a car accident. There could also be problems if a minor is served. If you allow alcohol to be furnished at receptions, check with a local attorney to determine your responsibilities.

Prevent Trips and Slips

A big part of keeping your church safe for a wedding is getting rid of tripping hazards. When you fill your church with a group of people unfamiliar with the building’s layout, wearing long dresses and high-heeled shoes, it’s no wonder that there are many trips and slips at weddings. Some ways to make your church safer are to:

  • Prevent extension cords from being used in walkways
  • Mark all changes in elevation, such as steps or ramps
  • Install handrails on stairways with three steps or more
  • Repair uneven or broken steps
  • Replace worn or torn carpeting
  • Use non-slip floor treatments
  • Avoid throw rugs at the base or top of stairs

If you have any questions about the safety of your building, please contact your insurance agent for suggestions.

Be Cautious with Candles

No traditional wedding is complete without candles, but entire churches have burned down because wedding parties have forgotten to extinguish them.

Follow these rules to keep your church safe from fires:

  • Use sturdy candleholders that aren’t likely to tip over.
  • Keep candles away from decorations and other combustible materials.
  • Ask a church representative to verify that all candles are blown out before leaving the building.

Watch Out for White Lights

If strands of twinkling white lights will be used to give the sanctuary or reception area a festive glow, it is important that they also meet safety regulations. You may want your church’s representative to inspect the area beforehand to make sure outlets aren’t overloaded and that extension cords don’t become a tripping hazard.

Help Ensure an Enjoyable Event

Providing a safe place for the newlyweds and their guests to gather can help ensure a joyous wedding day for all. Plus, you’re likely to get your church back without needing any expensive clean-up or repairs.

When the church bells peal and the newlyweds pull away from the church, there should be smiles on everyone’s faces. By keeping wedding risks in mind beforehand, you can help everyone to go home happy.

Want more church safety tips? Our Church Security page offers more risk management ideas.