Imagine being married in a beautiful English Gothic-style church built in 1892 for our religiously progressive congregation. Steeped in history, filled with spiritual energy and glowing colors, it’s the perfect setting for your wedding ceremony. We have been proud to welcome same-sex couples to our church for commitment ceremonies for decades, and we joyously welcome same-sex couples to be married here.
Couples come to the First Unitarian Society to be married for many reasons:
- We joyfully marry people of the same sex.
- We will perform ceremonies for couples of different faith traditions.
- Membership in our church is not required in order to be married here.
- We are more open and flexible about the design of the ceremony.
- Unitarian Universalist ministers often are willing to officiate in parks, private homes, and other venues.
- We do not stigmatize couples who were previously married.
Renting the Church
All arrangements for use of church space must be made through the Director of Administration, Jean Johnson. You may contact her by emailing Jean Johnson or calling her at 414-273-5257 ext. 203. You may make an appointment to view our facilities when you contact Jean.
We cannot put your wedding on our church calendar until you have:
- secured the services of a Unitarian Universalist minister
- set a wedding date and time
- paid your $50 non-refundable deposit (please see “Fees” below).
- completed the rental application
- Securing Your Minister: It is the policy of the Board of Trustees of the First Unitarian Society that all weddings conducted at the First Unitarian Church be performed by a Unitarian Universalist minister in fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. Because of their time constraints, our ministers are generally only available to perform wedding ceremonies for couples who are already pledging members of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee. However, other ministers in the area are often available to perform weddings here at First Church. Please email Jean Johnson for names and phone numbers of Unitarian Universalist ministers to contact. We will not be able to confirm the date for your wedding until a Unitarian Universalist minister has been retained, your wedding time has been finalized and your deposit has been paid.
- Scheduling Your Wedding and Rehearsal: Contact Office Assistant Tracy Smith smith[at]uumilwaukee[dot]org to check availability for your possible wedding ceremony dates. Note that on Saturdays, ceremonies are scheduled no later than 3:30 p.m. We normally block out an hour before and after the ceremony time for each wedding. Rehearsal time may be scheduled anytime up to six weeks before your wedding day. Rehearsal time is included in the rental fees (though not necessarily in the ministerial fee).
- Fees: A non-refundable deposit of $50 is due to book your wedding date. Please make church fee checks payable to The First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee. The sanctuary rental is $450. This fee includes church representative’s fee, rehearsal time, a dressing area and the sanctuary for the wedding. The deposit, as previously mentioned, is due at the time the wedding is scheduled; the $450 sanctuary rental fee is due no later than two weeks before the wedding.
- Rental Application: Please complete the Rental Application and send it with the $50 non-refundable deposit to:
First Unitarian Society
1342 N. Astor St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Pledging members are offered use of the facilities at a special rate; members should contact the Director of Administration about the rate. Non-members should expect to pay all applicable non-member fees even if they elect to join First Unitarian Society between the time of their initial contact with the church and the wedding itself. We regret the need for this policy, but in the past some parties have abused our membership practices in order to circumvent the fee schedule.
The preceding fees are for the use of First Unitarian Church facilities for your wedding ceremony. You will, of course, incur other expenses for your wedding. The information below is provided as examples of other costs you may expect to pay:
Clergy: You will need to discuss ministerial fees and payment with the Unitarian Univer-salist minister who is performing the ceremony. A fee of around $400 is common and usually includes the wedding and consultation session (once or twice for an hour or two). The rehearsal fee is often $50. The check for clergy services should be written to the minister performing the wedding.
Musicians: You will need to make separate arrangements with any musicians you wish to hire for your ceremony. If you would like piano music, you may contact either of the First Unitarian Society’s Music Directors: Alissa Rhode at 414-218-9373 and Jack Forbes Wilson at 414-964-5832. If you would like organ music, you may contact our Choral Director, Tristan Strelitzer, at tstrelitzer[at]gmail[dot]com or 262-442-3508 who may be able to play organ and/or piano for your ceremony. Please note that musicians usually do not participate in the wedding party rehearsal. Musician fees will vary based upon the nature of your request, however a fee of $250 is typical for a basic ceremony. Your check should be written directly to the musician(s) involved in your wedding.
Piano: Our wonderful 1917 Steinway B Grand piano is available for your use. If you would like to have it freshly tuned a few days before your ceremony, contact our piano tuner Linda Marten at lcgmarten[at]yahoo[dot]com or 414-258-8480 well in advance of your wedding. You will pay Linda’s customary fee directly to her.
Other costs: You will need to make any arrangements you might desire for flowers, printed programs, candles, etc., none of which are provided by the church.
Air Conditioning: The church is not air conditioned.
Aisles and pews: The church has double aisles (but no center aisle), each approximately 50 feet long and 4½ feet wide. (Usually the bride enters through the north sanctuary door and proceeds down the north aisle.) There are 14 rows of pews (diagram).
Candles: You may use candles as part of your ceremony or for decoration (although the church does not provide them), but please use only drip-less candles. If you use regular candles, you may be charged for any costs the church incurs for cleaning the wax from our wood and carpeting. The church has two free standing candelabras for seven candles each which are available for weddings. The candelabras use standard 10”-12” tapers, provided by the couple. There is no charge for using them, but please let the church know you want to use them so the custodian can get the candelabras out of storage.
Capacity: The First Unitarian Church, including the balcony, holds approximately 250 people.
Changing rooms: There is a spacious carpeted room downstairs which may be used as a changing area (typically for the bridal party) at no extra cost. The groomsmen gather in the handsome Stevenson Parlor.
Directions: Please find directions and a map here.
Flowers: The church has no regulations concerning flowers, but please do not throw rose petals, confetti, etc.
Handicap accessibility: All main floor areas of the First Unitarian Church are handicap accessible.
Ministerial consultation: As a non-creedal church, Unitarian Universalists have no firmly set wedding ceremony which you are obliged to use. Rather, ministers work with you to develop a wedding ceremony that will be meaningful to you and that will express your beliefs and values.
Consultation and fees for ministers may vary. As an example, this is how one local minister consults with couples: The minister asks to meet with couples once or twice for an hour or two each time. The meeting(s) will be to get acquainted and to plan the actual ceremony. The total cost for consultation, travel to the church and wedding is $400. Rehearsal fee is $50. A payment of $100 is requested at the second meeting with the remainder due on the day of the wedding.
Music: Both the grand piano and church organ are available for weddings. If you hire an organist other than Tristan Strelitzer (mentioned above), it is essential that he or she consult with Music Director Alissa Rhode about the organ. Some couples prefer to use recorded music, and that’s fine if your minister concurs, but you will have to bring in a sound system since the church does not have one available for that purpose.
Parking: The church does not have a parking lot. “Where to Find Parking“ gives an indication of available parking spaces in the neighborhood.
Photography: The church has no regulations concerning photographers and videotaping of events. However, please check with your minister for his or her preferences.
Programs: The church does not provide printed programs for weddings.
Rice: While there are no regulations against throwing rice outside of the church, we would prefer that people throw bird seed, since rice can harm birds. Please refrain from throwing rice, flower petals, confetti, etc. inside the church.
Sanctuary set-up: Very little of the sanctuary arrangement can be changed: the pews cannot be moved; the pulpit cannot be moved; and although the grand piano’s position can be shifted, it cannot be moved out of the sanctuary. This diagram will give you an idea of the sanctuary layout.
To summarize the above, here are the steps you need to follow to rent the First Unitarian Church for your wedding:
- Check on church availability.
- Secure a UU minister.
- Submit your rental application and $50 deposit to reserve your date.
- Book rehearsal time.
- Pay your rental fee balance any time up to 2 weeks before the wedding date.
- Enjoy planning!