Comments: General Synod - July 2011 - more on the agenda

This was reported on 'You and Yours' at lunchtime Friday on BBC Radio 4. The guest from a bridal magazine agreed that the total average cost of a wedding is now around £16,000 and the increase in church fees (much of which is previous separate items rolled up into an overall fee) was infinitesimal compared to the other costs.

And why is £100 for a choir seen as exorbitant? A choir of ten adults would get £10 each for more than an hour's attendance (by the time they have arrived, changed, waited for the bride, sung and changed back) plus their travelling time and costs. Not counting any preparation and rehearsal time they might have. It's just not worth doing and why should they for someone who wants to use the church as a pretty backdrop for the wedding video.

I used to warn the brides that if they were late I would stop playing and the congregation would sit in silence until she arrived, after one too many very late arrival.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 25 June 2011 at 8:01pm BST

Our idea was to make the church fees a percentage of the overall cost of the wedding.

Some ideas are doomed to failure....

Posted by Kennedy at Saturday, 25 June 2011 at 10:22pm BST

The important thing about this is that the fee is to be paid to the PCC and Diocesan Board of Finance and not the Incumbent (who then has it docked from his stipend if s/he hasn't signed a deed of assignment).This saves some hassle and ,more important, prevents add ons in particular churches for "use of church" or "Use of clerk/verger" or "heating". The increase in fees will mean a gain for some churches but a loss for others..and so create a level playing field.And still, all things considered, a pretty cheap one.

Posted by Perry Butler at Sunday, 26 June 2011 at 9:40am BST

As priest in charge of a church where we have always scrupulously stuck to the statutory fee, plus £25 for a verger, and adding a small amount for heating in the winter months, the new wedding fee will represent a huge hike for us. At the moment the basic charge before organ, choir etc. is £312.50, so it will be a big leap up to £425.
I am very concerned about the fact that this will come in in Jan 2012. We already have six weddings booked for next year - couples often book well over a year in advance. I always warn them that the fees go up a bit in Jan each year and that the fee is that payable at the time of the wedding not at the time of booking - couples are quite happy with this, since it has never gone up by more than about £10. There is no way I am going to be charging those who have already booked (and in some cases paid), an extra sum of over £100 for their wedding, though - it seems to me to be blatantly unfair and unreasonable. I don't have a problem charging new bookings the new rate, but the Synod needs to give at least a year's notice of this fee increase, so that it doesn't hit those who have already booked.

Posted by Anne at Monday, 27 June 2011 at 8:12am BST

Escalating wedding fees for impoverished young couples? No wonder the term 'mutual society' has become painfully stale...

Posted by A J Barford at Monday, 27 June 2011 at 10:44am BST

A friend of mine used to like to terrify brides and grooms by telling them that the church expected a tithe of the amount that they were spending on everything else. He wasn't serious, but perhaps it did help to put things in perspective for them.

Posted by Old Father William at Tuesday, 28 June 2011 at 12:58am BST

"the church expected a tithe" - OFW

What? Like the extortionate parish share?

Posted by A J Barford at Wednesday, 29 June 2011 at 7:45am BST

There is a myth abroad that all weddings cost thousands .That just is not true. I know many couples who are struggling especially in areas like the NE.

Even the best hotel in Hexham offers a 'package' with rooms, registrar, ceremony, flowers, sit down meal for 30 and disco for 100 for £2,500. A lovely wedding dress can be bought from a small local shop for £325

A church wedding , plus cars and reception let alone with choir and bells, becomes far too expensive.

No wonder more and more people seek a cheap friendly hotel package. To get married abroad in somewhere like Rhodes is even cheaper

The idea that the congregation supports the Church and so when 'they' come they must pay through the nose is appalling.The Church is NOT a club.We exist to serve all people and we are failing.Marriage is a'gift of God' in creation and not a rite for the 'inner club'

I am totally opposed to this proposed increase in fees.

Perhaps instead we should offer a 'cheap church package, with welcome and warmth of various kinds and use of church premises for receptions!It might actually be good for marriage in England

Posted by Jean Mary Mayland at Wednesday, 29 June 2011 at 1:13pm BST

"What? Like the extortionate parish share?"

Would you have the same small group of pensioners on a fixed income in a pretty village church subsidise the weddings for well off couples who then go to have their reception at venues that charge £2000 hire before a single drink has been served, as well as fund the parish share?

I suppose parishes could set up a hardship fund or have some arrangment whereby the don't pass on the full costs of weddings to hard up couples. That doesn't mean that the average wedding couple can't contribute a more realistic amount.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 29 June 2011 at 1:17pm BST

When my husband was a Parish Priest conducting at least 70 weddings a year( fees to Diocese) he regarded it as a great pastoral opportunity and did so with care. Now weddings seem to be regarded as 'money making concerns'. The Church is thought of as a club and 'they from outside' must pay through the nose for its services.This is appalling.The church exists to serve all those in its care( William Temple) and marriage is a 'gift of God in creation'.
It is myth that all people spend tens of thousands on their wedding. I know many struggling couples - especially in the NE.
Even the best hotel in Hexham offers care , rooms, registrar, ceremony, flowers, sit down meal for 30 and disco for 100 for £2,500. At the small local shop one can buy a lovely wedding dress for less than £400

Maybe the church would do better to offer a cheap package too with church premises for the reception!

I strongly oppose this proposed increase in fees

Posted by Jean Mary Mayland at Wednesday, 29 June 2011 at 5:29pm BST

Apologies, I just read the paper again properly and realised I hadn't appreciated the total increase for Weddings.
It is certainly an exorbitant sum!

Wouldn't it make more sense for individual churches to be able to set their own fees within a prescribed range?
That should take into account their location, their average wedding couple's ability to pay etc.

I stand by what I wrote earlier, most of wedding couples spend an absolute fortune on their reception and the church is by far the smallest element in it.
But every church ought to be able to take its own unique position into account.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 29 June 2011 at 10:58pm BST


I feel that parishes should host weddings entirely free of charge. After all, if the flower ladies decorate churches so lovingly without charging a penny, why can't ministers, vergers, organists and choristers? If wealthier couples wish to make a voluntary donation to parish funds, then so be it.

Posted by A J Barford at Thursday, 30 June 2011 at 9:21am BST

A Barford

You could, of course, try to persuade all these people that they somehow have a moral obligation to provide even more of their time free of charge, on summer Saturdays not of their own choosing.
But you can certainly not just assume that they would be willing to do that.
Choristers need to replace their robes every now and then, choirs need music, they pay for a music license, bell ringers pay to have the bells maintained in good order, our organist travels for miles to get to our church. Why should the church absorb all those costs as a matter of course?
The flower ladies don’t come into it, our wedding couples employ their own professional florists.

The real problem is that churches need money for upkeep. Our lovely, old, small village church is an absolute financial drain. Our congregation, in line with many villages, is small, largely elderly, most of fixed income.
You have no idea what a constant struggle it is to keep this building going.
Our wedding couples are one of our few precious external "assets".
Most are not from our parish, they spend 6 months with us, get married in style and then return to the big town.

Why should these people get completely free use of the church and of everyone's services, when a small group of largely elderly pensioners has to think up ever more ways of conjuring up the money to keep that church going? Our services are free, all our volunteer groups are free, our study groups are free, our children’s groups are free, the marriage preparation session are free. It’s not as if we were fleecing people left, right and centre.

A warm welcome, yes. But a completely free ride at the expense of everyone else?
This is not about sharing the faith, after all, although that can and does happen in the 6 months preparation time. It is primarily about a pretty church as a lovely setting for a wedding, a special service laid on only for the couple and their friends and family on a day there would not normally be services in church, and a beautiful country house nearby for a sumptuous reception with fireworks at the end that cost a multiple of even the proposed new fees for a church wedding.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 30 June 2011 at 12:32pm BST

"assets" - Erika

I know, I was a PCC treasurer once upon a time.

Posted by A J Barford at Thursday, 30 June 2011 at 3:46pm BST

One might hope that a wedding where at least one of the couple was an active church member would be offered for a lot less than the commercial rate - which should only be offered to 'passing trade'. Perhaps each couple could be assessed on their ability to pay - in proportion to what they intend to spend on the rest of the wedding arrangements.

Is a wedding no longer seen as a pastoral opportunity, where a couple's preparation might be taken seriously, and with a view to the encouragement of a living relationship to the church which is providing the ceremony?

While one recognises the need to contribute towards the upkeep of the church that provides an appropriate setting for the nuptials, couples could be reminded of the reciprocal obligation to the local faith community providing the setting.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 30 June 2011 at 4:43pm BST

Fr Ron
Absolutely! That's why I said earlier that I would like it if churches had discretion to charge within a range of fees.

And of course the couple's preparation is being taken seriously. The priest spends hours talking to them, they become a member of our congregation for 6 months, every church group is open to them.
The question is whether pastoral preparation also requires the laying on of a full service on a special day of the couple's choosing that requires the attendance of all bell ringers, all choir members, at least one churchwarden and the priest.

But, no, of all the wedding couples we had, and we have many every year, only one still comes some years later. Most, you see, live in the nearby town. They're not usually churchgoers and they have searched the surrounding villages for a nice church combined withe a nice reception venue.

They attend for 6 months, they become part of our community. But after that, they no longer make the effort and the 60 minute round trip to come to church on a Sunday. If they've really found an interest in faith, they'll develop that in a church near them. One that is far less picturesque and maybe one that has a much higher proportion of employed members who can afford to keep it better than we can afford to keep ours.

And don't the old pensioners who struggle to keep this church going deserve pastoral care and some kind of support?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 30 June 2011 at 8:14pm BST

This hypocrisy is why I refuse to be on the electoral role of any parish, Erika

Posted by A J Barford at Friday, 1 July 2011 at 3:33am BST

Now it's my turn to be cryptic:

Maybe you could, please, explain what you're actually talking about?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 July 2011 at 7:58am BST


...the fact that you are precluded from marriage vows at the church because of who you are, whereas these fly-by-night couples can.

It stinks.

Posted by A J Barford at Friday, 1 July 2011 at 10:06am BST

Ah yes, that hypocrisy! I'm with you on that!

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 1 July 2011 at 12:08pm BST

The easy way to avoid all this is to have a Church Tax as levied in other Countries, so that 'The Parish Church', part of our heritage, is actually financed by 'The Parish' rather than the few who attend it. Then we need have no fees at all - they would simply be included within the tax. (But try and get the C of E to listen to such a proposal!)

Posted by Andrew at Saturday, 9 July 2011 at 8:17am BST
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