Getting Married at Sidney

College Chapel

Congratulations on the decision to get married! The College is always delighted to host the weddings of members of the Sidney community. These notes are intended to guide you through the process of getting married in the College Chapel.

Can I get married at Sidney?

In order to be married at Sidney, you have to have a demonstrably strong connection to the College. This will normally mean that you are or have been a student, staff-member or Fellow of the College (even some years ago), or that you have worshipped regularly in the College Chapel. There are a variety of other cases which might constitute a 'demonstrably strong' connection, and these are judged on a case by case basis. The Pastoral Dean, Revd Paul Brice ( will be able to offer advice on each particular set of circumstances.

The only form of marriage ceremony which takes place in the College is the Church of England marriage service, conducted in Chapel. You do not have to be a regular churchgoer to take part in this service, and many of the couples married here are not. At least one of the couple, however, must be baptised. Until relatively recently, it was not possible for divorcees to be remarried in the College. This position has now changed (although there remain some circumstances where it may be impossible) and the Pastoral Dean is very happy to work with couples where one or both parties are divorced. Useful guidance concerning this can be found in the Church of England's document 'Marriage in Church after Divorce', available through the Church of England website.

If you decide, for whatever reason, that the Church of England marriage service is not an appropriate form for your wedding, it may still be possible to hold some form of celebration in Chapel after a civil wedding elsewhere. The Pastoral Dean will happily explore this option with couples.

We're not really that religious ... is that OK?

Many, perhaps most, of the couples who get married at Sidney (and in most parish churches) ask exactly this question! The answer is 'Yes'. There is no requirement of regular church attendance, and no questionnaire about belief to be completed, before you can be married here. On the other hand, the Marriage Service is an act of Christian worship, and you will be making promises in the sight and name of God. The months before your wedding, in conversation with each other and perhaps with the Pastoral Dean, are a good time to figure out what that means for you. You may find that while you remain not-that-religious, something truly profound and holy happens to you kneeling in the Chapel...

Can I have my reception here too?

Of course! The College is delighted to host wedding receptions, even if you have chosen to have the actual ceremony elsewhere. The Hall, Knox-Shaw Room, Old Library and Mong Hall are all available, and the college gardens provide some beautiful backdrops for wedding photos. Of course, the college's hospitality services are in high demand, and therefore it is essential to speak to our Conference and Events Manager, Mrs Marianne Oyler ( as soon as possible in order to secure a date. Marianne will help you through the process of planning this crucial element of the day.

College Chapel Altar

How personal can we make the service?

In recent years we have had everything from full Nuptial Masses with choirs and incense through to bands playing with drums and guitars. Whether it is through floral decoration in Chapel, your own choice of readings and hymns and music, or through designing your own order of service, you can make the wedding feel truly personal. However, this flexibility is built around the core of the Church of England marriage service - not only is this a tried and tested formula for a service at once truly joyful and utterly serious, but we must use it for your marriage to be legal!

Sometimes, couples are very keen for a priest or minister whom they know to officiate at their marriage. This is no problem at all, although legally speaking a Church of England priest must perform certain elements of the ceremony. The Pastoral Dean is always happy for ministers of other traditions to do as much in the service as is legally possible - which is a great deal.

What about music?

Music is frequently a vital part of many couples' hopes for their big day. Our talented Organ Scholars will be available to help plan what will work, and to perform at your service. It is also entirely possible for you to bring singers or other performers to take part in the celebration. The Organ Scholar's fee is £80 plus travel expenses.

When can I get married at Sidney?

In normal circumstances, weddings in College are only possible outside of term. During the vacations, it is possible to be married on any day of the week. It is advisable to book well in advance (ie. at least six months), especially if you would also like to hold the reception in College.

What are the legalities?

All weddings that take place in the College Chapel do so by special permission of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The obtaining of this permission, or Special Licence, circumvents the normal process of calling of marriage banns. The Pastoral Dean will guide you through the process of applying for an Archbishop's Licence. The process takes the following stages:

  • Approximately six months before the wedding, the Pastoral Dean gives you an Application Form. You complete Part I, and return it to the Pastoral Dean with a cheque for £220 made payable to 'The Faculty Office' (this fee will rise from April 2011). The form asks for basic details about the couple and their link to the College.
  • The Pastoral Dean completes Part II, and returns the form to the Archbishop's Office.
  • The Archbishop's Office sends you an Affidavit, to be sworn before the Pastoral Dean. This Affidavit confirms the truth of all the details given in the Application. There is a £5 charge at this stage, the money going straight to Chapel charity collections.
  • The Pastoral Dean sends the completed Affidavit to the Archbishop's Office.
  • You hear no more. A couple of weeks before the wedding, the Pastoral Dean receives the Licence, which he will give to you on the wedding day.

The process sounds complicated and perhaps un-nerving, but it works smoothly and we have never had an application refused or lost.

A second legal requirement is that we record your marriage in the parish registers of the local parish church. So that we can do this, you must write requesting the loan of their registers, giving your names and the date and time at which you wish to be married. Our local parish church is St. Andrew the Great, and you write to:

The Administrator
St. Andrew the Great
St. Andrew's Street

A cheque for £10 must be enclosed, made payable to 'Ely Diocesan Board of Finance'.

St. Andrew the Great is a busy parish church with its own weddings, and we are one of four colleges which use their registers in this way. It is entirely possible that your wedding may clash with another wedding happening in the parish. Don't panic! As long as the registers are completed by the evening of your marriage, all is well. The Colleges have a well-developed system for making sure the books get where they need to be in good time.

Before the Wedding

There is a lot of planning and preparation to do! The usual pattern at Sidney is that the Pastoral Dean and the couple will meet about three times before the wedding (four, counting the rehearsal on the night before). These meetings deal with practicalities and detail (who is producing the order of service? What hymns would you like?) but they are also, crucially, a chance for priest and couple to get to know each other and to talk about some of the big issues surrounding marriage. The meetings normally take place six months, three months, and one month before the wedding. In cases where another priest will be officiating at the marriage, most of the vital conversations will take place with that priest - although the Pastoral Dean remains responsible for making sure the legalities have been sorted out.

How much will it all cost?

The following costs are fixed:

  • £220 for the Archbishop's Licence
  • £5 for the swearing of the Affidavit
  • £100 plus travel expenses for the College Organ Scholar.

There is no charge for the Pastoral Dean's time, or for the use of the College Chapel. However, couples are encouraged to make a donation towards Chapel funds, and a Gift-Aid form is available for this purpose. It is worth remembering that if you were being married in a local parish church, there would be a fixed charge of £392.00 for 2014.

Details of charges for the reception and any other services provided by College are available from the Conference Office.

But what about...?

Almost certainly, you have a question which isn't addressed by these notes. The Pastoral Dean welcomes all enquiries from couples considering a wedding at Sidney. Contact the Pastoral Dean, Revd Paul Brice (, Tel. +44 1223 3 38837)

Why not take a virtual tour of the College Chapel to see what it looks like?