Nate Robinson, pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church in Woodstock, stands inside the church sanctuary recently. Robinson claims couples of faith tend to trend to wedding venues outside the sanctuary doors compared to years ago.

WOODSTOCK – One of the important things couples have to deal with when planning a wedding is where they should have their ceremony.

According to a 2018 Sound Vision article, 80% of all weddings in the United States are held in churches or synagogues. The question is why are the other 20% not doing ceremonies in churches?

Pastor Nate Robinson, of the Emanuel Lutheran Church in Woodstock, said that he thinks it's due to couples wanting to do ceremonies in more familiar areas. He said that 1 of every 5 weddings he officiates is done at Emanuel Lutheran Church.

“The most recent ceremony I officiated was at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church here in town because they wanted the picturesque scenery in the background as part of their location,” he said.

Robinson said that he has noticed that couples are putting areas they value, like where a couple met or had their first date, over getting married in churches.

“I recently saw where a minister officiated a wedding somewhere because the place was significant to the couple and, to me, that tends to be the prevailing thought of where people are getting married. It’s a place that matters to them.”

Robinson said that he still does pre-marital counseling sessions with couples, even if they don’t go to his church. He said that’s one of the conditions of him officiating a wedding.

“Within those [sessions], we look and talk about how our family history informs our relationship, so I have them talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their parents’ relationships,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that he also talks to the couples about their religious upbringing, if any. He said he makes it clear to the couples before the sessions that they will include how the couple integrates faith together.

“Faith is always at the forefront of that first session,” he said. “It’s a ‘what brings you here?’ kind of thing.”

A question that has become more common is how do couples from different faiths handle marriage. In a Pew Research Center survey in 2015, 39% of all couples who were married since 2010 had a spouse in a different religious group.

While he hasn’t had to deal with people from different faiths getting married, Robinson said he has had people who have religious backgrounds getting married to people who don’t.

“The female grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition and the gentleman wasn’t raised in a church and didn’t have faith,” he said. “In that conversation, what we tried to figure out was what was it that they valued.”

Robinson said that the woman wanted the child to be educated in the Roman Catholic tradition. He said the man was fine with it as long as the future child had a choice whether to continue practicing the religion.

“That tends to be the biggest thing I notice when I see couples of different faith backgrounds and traditions,” Robinson said.

He said that he wouldn’t rule out officiating a wedding with couples of different faiths, but he would need to talk to the couple first.

“It would be helpful if I had some relationship with one that attended church and I had a conversation with their fiancee,” he said. “If it were somebody I didn’t know, I would still explore pre-marital counseling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll officiate the wedding.”

Robinson said there is no cost to a member of Emanuel Lutheran Church to hold a wedding ceremony or reception at the church. He said there is a $50 fee for those who use the church for a ceremony.

Robinson said the church does accept donations.

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