Why do people equate a “church wedding” with lots of expense?

I was talking to someone who got married recently. She is a church-going Christian. Her wedding was a simple wedding in a registry office. They asked to have no presents, and friends present paid for their own meal afterwards at a restaurant. My question is: why do many people not think or realise this is possible in a church? I checked our diocesan website of about 150 churches: only three parishes and the cathedral mention that they do weddings!

I was talking to a priest yesterday and soon in his parish there will, in fact, be a simple wedding, with afternoon tea following in the parish hall. Why are more people not made aware of this option? The local newspaper regularly has a lift-out feature brochure about weddings – at most only one of our parishes will feature in an advertisement, and I have never seen an article explaining that you can have a simple, wonderful, meaningful wedding service at a church.

Churches, parishes, are expensive to run. If you are going to have an expensive wedding and you want to have the service in church it is appropriate that you give a donation to that church. Churches will regularly have a suggested list of donations. Including a donation to the priest. The 2,000 year tradition of the church, however, is that you cannot charge for a sacramental action such as a marriage. The money donated to the priest is placed in the parish’s Discretionary Account usually administered by the priest. I have known of the priest discretely paying for a struggling couple’s wedding rings from the Discretionary Account.

I have known of regulars at a Sunday morning service to get married during the regular Sunday morning service with the refreshments following being extra special to celebrate the wedding. The Christian community celebrates a baptism in its midst Sunday mornings – why not a marriage?

If you can afford to have an expensive wedding, and that’s what you really want – great. If you want a simple wedding, and would rather save the money towards a house deposit etc. or cannot afford an expensive wedding, or do not want to have an expensive wedding on principle – the Christian community should be supportive of you and encouraging you. As far as I know there is no correlation between the expense of the wedding and the “success” of the marriage.

Your church or parish needs to

  • Have a simple brochure explaining the Christian understanding of marriage and what your community can provide in terms of preparation, service options, and follow-up
  • Have this same information online and easy to find on your community website
  • Have this same information in an abbreviated form on your diocesan website or its equivalent in your denomination
  • Regularly advertise in suburban papers with a summary of this information, and regularly write articles about this in those papers – those papers are always hungry for attractive articles. Provide photos and news of such a recent wedding (with the couple’s permission of course)
  • Regularly advertise in the larger newspapers, in magazines, providing interesting articles.
  • Feature on Radio and Television. Get interviewed if you cannot afford advertising. They, too, are constantly seeking interesting stories. Club together with other communities to pay for a television spot. A diocese is large enough to feature regularly.

What do you think about this? What do you or your community do? Any other stories or ideas?

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