General Information for Weddings
Thank you for considering Block Island’s Harbor Church for your wedding celebration. We would be honored to help you as you plan your special day. We do recommend you contact us as soon as possible to ascertain the availability of the church and the pastor.
Harbor Church understands it is good stewardship of our building and our location to allow as many people as possible to use it. We are open to weddings by nonresidents who want a “destination wedding” as well as to islanders who want to formalize their vows. In our view, a wedding is not merely a social occasion with a thin overlay of religion but a service of worship which is one of the holiest and happiest moments of your life. Our pastor is happy to work with all Christians to plan a Christian service that fits your own style and traditions, and he also works to plan interfaith services for couples from two different traditions.
Block Island: Forty years ago a first-time visitor termed Block Island “a nearby faraway place” and while many more ferries run and airplanes fly than did in the 1970’s it remains a place very much removed, where time is just a little slower and the worst traffic jams last but a few minutes. Block Island is a destination, a wedding here is an event and does require extra planning but the memories will last a lifetime.
For general information the 2017 Block Island Times Wedding Guide can be downloaded from the Times’ site: https://issuu.com/blockisland/docs/biw_2017-final
About Us: Our church is located on a hill overlooking the Old Harbor (hence, our informal but widely used name; our legal name is First Baptist Church of Block Island). The view from our front porch north is of the island and its sweeping east beach and the mainland beyond; to the east it is open to the horizon. We are within easy walking distance of the ferries and many of the larger hotels. While the roots of the church go back to the faith of the original English settlers in 1661, the congregation was formally “gathered” in 1765. The current sanctuary, the sixth home of the church, was built in 1952 as an addition to an elegant 1880’s hotel.
Officiants: Normally, the minister officiating at a wedding will be our pastor, the Rev. Steve Hollaway. He is an American Baptist minister and a graduate of both Princeton University and Princeton Seminary. A library of his sermons is available on the church web site. Should you have a clergy friend you would like to officiate at your wedding, we would prefer that the visiting minister co-officiate with Rev. Hollaway so that the church maintains some influence over the ceremony. If there are special circumstances, an outside minister may officiate alone. We are a Baptist church but we welcome all officiants who are ordained ministers of a Christian denomination and can include elements from your tradition.
Should you wish Rev. Hollaway to officiate at another location please contact him directly at (401) 536-4609. We would recommend for your own peace of mind if you wish an open air ceremony to consider reserving the church sanctuary as a back-up location. The skies have an extraordinary way of clearing just in time for weddings but having a back-up eases the worry.
Premarital Counseling: Rev. Hollaway would like to have one meeting with the bride and groom prior to the wedding and can be available for more if desired. He makes every effort to accommodate schedules of couples coming from the mainland. Generally these sessions take place in the Pastor’s study at the church and include discussing with you your spiritual journey and the Christian ideal of marriage as well as planning the specifics of the ceremony.
Weather Considerations: We would like to guarantee sunny skies and calm seas but we are on island at the edge of the North Atlantic where weather is a big part of everyday life. We – the entire community as well as our church – have a great deal of experience adapting to whatever may come and we have a good track record of making weddings work but please remember bad weather can impact yours’ and your guests’ travel as well as transport of any related services and goods you plan to “import.”
The Church Building: The sanctuary will seat 100 – 120 comfortably. There is a balcony which will seat an additional 40 persons and an extra row of folding chairs may also be used. We have handled weddings with as many as twelve attendants – to both the bride and groom. It takes some maneuvering but people on Block Island enjoy rising to the challenge of accomplishing the impossible.
When the sanctuary was added, the builders were careful to keep the floor even with the first floor of the old hotel so all the public spaces are on the same level as the church; the access/egress door which opens to Fellowship Hall is wheelchair accessible. The use of the Ladies’ Parlor Room is available for the bridal party. The runner from the Parlor door to the beginning of the center aisle is approximately twelve (12) feet. The center aisle is thirty and one-half (30 ½) feet long.
Fellowship Hall and the kitchen are available for modest catered receptions. Fellowship Hall can seat about 80 for a sit-down dinner or 100 for a stand-up reception with serving tables. The kitchen is not available for cooking but can be utilized as a staging area for caterers; there is an outside entrance to the kitchen. Beyond a champagne toast no alcoholic beverages may be served; no tobacco of any kind may be used inside the church. We ask that you respect our building and leave it in good order.
Music: Choice of music and musicians is left to the wedding couple.You may bring your own or use local talent. We have excellent and experienced resident musicians, of all whom are familiar with the church and have performed there in various capacities. Fees are set by individual musicians. Contact the church office for names and numbers. The sanctuary houses a grand piano and an excellent organ which are treasured by our congregation, so we request they be handled with great care.
Flowers: The church sanctuary is relatively small and we suggest you plan your flowers accordingly; you want your guests to remember the event, not just the floral arrangements! We are always grateful when the bride leaves some flowers for the congregation to enjoy at Sunday worship; please let us know of your intentions in advance so we can plan accordingly.
Photographs: We have no particular restrictions on photography but we would ask you to urge your guests to put down their cameras/phones and fully share with you this special moment in your lives. We do request you discuss the specifics of how and where your photographer will work with your officiant prior to the ceremony.
Rhode Island State License: Information concerning the necessary RI marriage license may be obtained from the Office of the Town Clerk, at the New Shoreham Town Hall (401) 466-3200, or go to Town Clerk Services at http://new-shoreham.com/clerk.cfm. A number of weddings take place on Block Island every year and the Town Clerk’s office is adept at assisting couples long distance. Generally, Rev. Hollaway signs the license and turns it in at Town Hall for you.
Harbor Church Wedding Fees: A schedule of fees is available upon request. There is a simple reservation for and we do require a deposit of $100 to hold your wedding date.
Contact Information: The office phone number is (410) 466-5940. The office is currently Tuesdays and Fridays but you may leave a message and we will return your call. You may also contact us by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, fax (401) 305-2796 or by US mail at PO Box D-2, Block Island, RI 02807.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have.