June 2010 Letter

I’d Love to Get Married in Church, but…

I’ve heard those words quite a few times over the last year or so, and I’ve been able to give many couples some happy news.  The stumbling blocks they thought were standing between them and being able to celebrate their wedding in Church turn out to be myths, or misconceptions, or things that were true in the past but have now been changed.  So I thought that as the wedding season is upon us, and people’s thoughts may be turning in that direction, this would be a good time to make things clearer.

 

“But… it’s too expensive.”

            This is a myth I can very easily dispel.  The basic charge for a Church wedding is laid down by law at only £260 for the service itself in 2010, including all the legal registration and the meetings with the vicar beforehand to plan things.  In addition it will cost £22 or £34 for each church where the banns are read (depending on whether the couple live in the same or different parishes), and £20/£30 local fee for the person who gets the church ready and clears up afterwards.  In addition to that, some of our historic churches where maintenance costs are particularly high do charge an extra local fee towards all the costs of keeping those churches open.

On top of those basic costs, it is up to you to decide.  Do you want an organist to play?  A choir to sing?  The bells to ring?  The church decked with flowers?  It is entirely for you to decide.  People have a mental image of a church wedding as being a big fancy affair, but it can just as easily be just the bride and groom making their vows before God and a small group of family and friends to witness.  I can say from my own experience that some of the most moving weddings I have celebrated have been the simplest ones; either because bride and groom had to count their pennies carefully or because they just didn’t want the fuss of a ‘big’ wedding.  However far you decide you want to push the boat out,  your choice to make your wedding a spiritual as well as social celebration will make it truly memorable.  And even if you decide to go for all the trimmings, it still won’t break the bank. 

 

“But… I’ve moved away from where I grew up and I don’t know my local church at all.”

            This is an area where the law has been changed very recently to recognise the fact that people still feel attached to a particular church even when they have moved away.  From October last year, you now have the right to marry in churches where you don’t currently live but have what the law calls a ‘qualifying connection’.  So if you lived somewhere as a child for at least 6 months, or if your parents live there, or your parents or grandparents were married there, or you were baptised or confirmed there, or you or your parents habitually attend that church, you can be married there even if you don’t live in the parish.  And if none of these reasons apply in your case, there are other ways – just talk to the vicar and she will go through it with you and work out the best route to take.

 

“But… I’m previously divorced.  Surely the Church won’t marry us?”

            This is another area where things have changed.  Vicars are now free to follow their own consciences on the marriage of divorced people.  My own view is that our God is a God of forgiveness and new beginnings, and that whatever has gone wrong in the past, there is always a way forward.  So please don’t let the fact that one or both of you are divorced put you off from asking about a Church wedding.

 

“But… we are living together already – we even have kids – won’t the vicar be disapproving?”

            Contrary to popular belief, many vicars live in the real world just like everyone else!  What is important is the decision you have made together to commit yourselves to a lifelong faithful union in the sight of God.  It is even possible to combine a Church wedding with the baptism of one or more of your children, if you would like to do this, or  you can include them in the service in other meaningful ways.

 

“But… we don’t want a long engagement; don’t we have to book a year ahead?’

            Not at all; so long as we have enough notice to call the banns three times at a Sunday service, which means from 3 to 6 weeks notice depending on the church.  And if there are special reasons why things need to be done more quickly then a Bishop’s licence can be obtained in an even shorter time.

 

“But…”  No more buts!  I hope this has given you food for thought, and that if there are any other questions you would like to ask, you will contact me about it.  It isn’t possible to cover everything in one short article, so no doubt there are things I have missed out. 

 

Rev’d. Karen Spray                 01392 877400                        church@revdkaren.org.uk


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