ELKHART — Couples whose bank accounts have been holding them back from saying “I do” are in luck.
For the first time, a pair of pastors at Trinity United Methodist Church in Elkhart are offering free weddings on Valentine’s Day. The church is waiving regular fees for non-members who want to the get married there Feb. 14.
“It’s a romantic day, a day when couples sometimes think about getting married,” senior associate pastor Karen Bray said. “We really wanted to express how highly we value the covenant of marriage and help those couples who may not be able to afford a church wedding on their own.”
When: 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 7
Where: McNaughton Pavilion, 701 Arcade Ave., Elkhart
Tickets: $15 for singles and $25 for couples. Tickets will be available at the door and in advance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Elkhart City Parks and Recreation Office, 201 S. Second St.
More details: Dress is semi-formal. Bring an appetizer to share. Water and drinks will be provided.
Couples have three locations to choose from — the chapel and the sanctuary at the church’s main campus at 2715 E. Jackson Blvd. or the sanctuary at Servant’s Heart Community Church at 400 W. Mishawaka Road.
“We believe in marriage,” lead pastor Mark Dicken said. “We believe strong marriages create strong families. In turn, this creates strong neighborhoods and communities. If couples are delaying marriage because weddings can be so expensive, we want to help remove that concern and help make Valentine’s Day 2014 truly memorable for them.”
The wedding ceremonies are scheduled first-come, first-served. As of Wednesday morning, Jan. 22, no couples had signed up to tie the knot.
Couples must have a valid marriage license issued before the wedding. The pastors will not solemnize weddings or similar services for same-sex couples because of their affiliation with the United Methodist Church, Bray said.
Couples will be required to participate in group premarital preparation sessions on Sunday afternoons Feb. 2 and Feb. 9. There, the pastors will cover topics like finances, relationship expectations, children, personality differences and communication styles at the Christian counseling sessions.
The wedding services will use recorded music selected by church staff and the officiating pastor. The church will provide simple floral decorations, but couples can supply a unity candle or other simple decorations.
The deadline to schedule a free wedding at the church is Feb. 1. Church staff can be contacted at 294-7602.
Bray, who has been a United Methodist pastor for 13 years, is excited about performing multiple wedding ceremonies on one special day.
“I think it’s going to be a very joyful day,” she said. “It’s going to be a real blessing for me to do that.”
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.