14 February 2007
The Church of England this week sparked a national debate about the cost of weddings and the need to invest in the long-term relationship rather than just the big day. Now it is taking to the road to continue the discussion at wedding shows across the country.
More than 700 people posted comments on the BBC website in two days following the launch of a new book from the Church of England that advises couples and churches on ways of making weddings more environmentally-friendly, and how to save money on the costs of the event. Making the Most of Weddings offers engaged couples - and the churches that play a major part in their wedding day - a sense of the options open to them, aimed at helping keep the focus on the wedding as a public commitment to their relationship with each other, and with God.
In the latest move, the Church is inviting people who plan to ‘pop the question’ this Saint Valentine’s Day - or couples taking the opportunity to set the date for their wedding - to come along to discuss the suggestions at a new exhibition stand touring the National Wedding Shows, being held at the Birmingham NEC from 16-18 February and at London Olympia from 23 – 25 February.
The debate over the spiralling cost of weddings will also be raised in a new ‘blog’ - hosted on www.newlyweds-uk.com - to be launched at the National Wedding Show in Birmingham this week. ‘Virtual vicar’, the Revd Jan Harney from Greater Manchester, will answer questions online about church weddings and married life, from queries about what the vicar might ask when approached by a couple enquiring about getting married, through to what hymns and readings to select for the service, or whether or not the vicar should be invited to the reception.
The move follows research released in January undertaken among couples planning a church wedding, where more than half of respondents said that the vicar who would be officiating at the service was an ‘important’ or ‘very important’ factor in their choice of a church wedding. Organisers of the Church of England exhibition hope that couples will be comfortable with an online ‘virtual’ presence and that this might help bridge the gap for those reluctant to contact their local vicar straight away.
The blog forms one part of the exhibition space created especially for these events, which include the following elements:
- The shell of the stand has been designed as a ‘wraparound’ church to give the impression of walking into a chapel, with the images taken from Chapel of St John the Evangelist in York Minster
- A 32” flat screen TV with a rolling presentation using words from the Bible and marriage vows to inspire and encourage couples by demonstrating the beauty and diversity of the material available within the Christian tradition
- Material suggesting some of the hymns and readings that couples could choose for their wedding service will be on-hand.
The Revd Jan Harney is looking forward to officially beginning her blog: “Marriage is a foundation block for society and everything that the Church can do to help strengthen couples as they enter into this commitment should be encouraged. I hope that, by posting advice and reflections on church weddings, we will encourage those who know that they would like to say their vows in church and make a public affirmation of their faith, but for whatever reason are reluctant to approach the Church. We welcome these couples with open arms.”
The Revd Roger Morris, the Diocese of Coventry’s adviser on church growth, adds: “Church and weddings go together like coffee and cream - and it's a myth that you have to be a regular churchgoer to marry in church. We want to make our welcome for couples loud and clear, and that's why we’re flying the flag for the Church at the National Wedding Show”.