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St Ursula's Church in Berne one of the English-speaking chaplaincies in the Swiss Archdeaconry of the Anglican/Episcopalian Diocese in Europe (Church of England). We cover the city of Berne and the surrounding area, which includes the cantons of Berne, Fribourg, Solothurn and Neuchâtel and even a small part of France.
We want to have our wedding in Switzerland. What do we do next?
If you want the wedding in our area, please complete a booking form and return it to the Church Office, either by email or post (address St Ursula's Church, Jubiläumsplatz 2, Bern 3005, Switzerland).
For weddings in other parts of Switzerland, please contact one of the other Anglican chaplaincies in the Swiss Archdeaconry.
Note: All applications must be made by the couple concerned. The chaplaincies in the Diocese do not accept applications made through agencies or other third parties.
What about banns and other legal stuff?
Swiss marriage law is different from that in England and banns do not exist here.
Only civil weddings are recognized in Switzerland, that is to say you have to have a civil ceremony at a Registry Office (Zivilstandsamt/Office de l'État Civil). Most people regard the religious ceremony as their 'wedding day', and see the Registry Office only as a necessary civil preliminary. You will need to book the Civil Ceremony at a local registry office. A directory of offices in the Canton of Berne can be found here. You should also check beforehand what the cantonal residence requirements are. The civil formalities are conducted in the local language.
It is of course possible to have the civil ceremony in England or some other country, and then come to Switzerland for the 'church wedding'.
The religious celebration must take place after the civil ceremony. It is normally held later on the same day but it can be at a later date if required.
What sort of service can we have?
When you have returned the form and the date and time of the wedding has been confirmed, please contact the chaplain (that's what we call the vicar, priest or minister here) to arrange a meeting. We will discuss the details of the service and any other questions you might have.
Marriage is an important step and so we will also schedule a longer meeting to talk about the Christian understanding of marriage and the vows you will be making.
Because you will have already had a civil ceremony, you will be already legally married when you arrive at church. The service in church is therefore a 'blessing of a civil marriage'. We normally use the service from Common Worship, the official Church of England modern-language prayer book. The service is basically the same as a normal wedding service with some minor changes.
We would like to have Communion as part of the service
Wonderful. It is our custom to invite members in good standing of other Christian churches to receive Communion with us.
But we're not Church of England
So long as at least one of you has been baptized (christened) in a Christian Church (it doesn't have to be Church of England) and you both sincerely desire God's blessing on your marriage, we are happy to conduct the service for you.
Some of our family don't speak English
Kein Problem! We can include parts of the service in German or French (or even both).
We want to get married in the mountains (or by Lake Thun)
That's OK too. We can conduct a wedding in another church, with the permission of the parish concerned. Contact the church, and ask permission to have a visiting minister. They will tell you what to do. You will need to make your own arrangements for flowers, music etc at the church and pay for them directly.
There are English Churches at Wengen, Interlaken and Zermatt that can be used for weddings (details from the Intercontinental Church Society). Weddings at these churches are usually taken by a seasonal chaplain, when there is one in residence.
We don't conduct services in hotels, cable-cars or on mountain tops, though.
We don't live in Switzerland
So long as you have a good reason for getting married here (e.g. a family connection; you fell in love on the ski-slopes), we're happy to help.
If you are not going to be in Switzerland until just before the wedding, we can probably sort out most of the details by email. You will also need to arrange to attend a marriage preparation session at your local church (of any denomination) and give details of this to the chaplain here.
One of us is divorced
The Church understands marriage to be a lifelong commitment. But we also know that we can all make mistakes and sometimes we need to make a fresh start. Permission from the Bishop is required for a service when one or both parties has been divorced. The chaplain will discuss this with you if applicable.
My uncle is a Methodist minister. Can he take part in the service?
Yes. Clergy from other churches are welcome to take part, such as leading prayers or giving the address. Only clergy of the Church of England, or a church in communion with it, can actually conduct the marriage service in an Anglican church, however.
Where can we have the reception?
We have a hall with kitchen that you can hire for your reception. Please enquire about this from the Church Office.
What will it cost?
Information about our fees and charges is available here.