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Church Weddings Handbook published – growing the Church, numerically and spiritually, through weddings

churchweddinghandbook

The Church Weddings Handbook: The Seven Pastoral Moments That Matter has been published nationally - taking all of the knowledge acquired by the successful Archbishops' Council Weddings Project to the 44 Church of England dioceses for the first time; and emphasising how, from the start, the project aimed to see a "measurable difference" as a "church growth project".

Telling the full story of the Weddings Project, which trained over 3,500 vicars in 33 dioceses, and then equipped the Church with a miscellany of never-before devised resources, used to great effect, the Church Weddings Handbook is a permanent reminder of how to make the most of a couple's big day. It preserves five years of learning that is of use to those unable to attend the project's roadshows and those who did and want to retain what they learned. Seven sections outline the seven key opportunities the Church has to build relationships with marrying couples over the two-and-a-half year period between engagement and first anniversary: The First Call, The First Meeting, Space to Think, Reading the Banns, The Big Day, The Warm Glow, First Anniversary.

In his preface, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, refers to the project as "dynamite" and says: "Gillian Oliver and her team have been on tour conducting roadshows to share the findings of the project throughout the Dioceses of the Church of England. Clergy who have been to these have felt affirmed, challenged, informed, and inspired to go out and put these ideas into practice.…This book makes me profoundly hopeful."

The Ven John Barton, who contributed to the Weddings Project, points out in his foreword that there is huge potential to build on the successful approach set out in the book: "The Church of England could be conducting more than double the number of weddings than the 22 per cent we currently achieve."

The Handbook includes information on everything the Weddings Project learned from extensive research by Henley Centre Headlight Vision among marrying couples nationally and in the pilot areas of Bradford and Oxford who did and did not choose a church wedding; from attending 46 weddings; and from listening to feedback from vicars. It reveals how: 

  • the number of Church of England weddings increased by four per cent in 2010
  • 53 per cent think church weddings 'feel more proper'
  • Only one per cent of couples are closed to further contact from the Church after the wedding
  • If couples feel free to choose elements of the service distinctly personal to them, they are more than three times more likely to want to 'stick' with church after the wedding
  • 80 per cent of first contact for weddings enquiries is from the bride
  • couples want to meet their marrying vicar as quickly as possible
  • weddings in the project's two pilot areas, Oxford and Bradford, increased by 10 per cent and 50 per cent respectively

There are many tips on how to build relationship and aftercare with the couple including:

  • inviting them to hear banns read
  • encouraging guests to take away a prayer card and pray for the couple
  • send feedback to their vicar 30 days after the wedding
  • sending an invitation to a service on the first anniversary (often a Sunday)

In addition, the book offers a simple guide to marriage law and the Marriage Measure, explains wedding fees, provides simple checklists, and a run through of newly available resources, including the popular website www.yourchurchwedding.org.

Published by Church House Publishing, the Church Weddings Handbook: The Seven Pastoral Moments that Matter by Gillian Oliver is available in paperback (ISBN 978 0 7151 4278 5, £12.99) from http://www.chpublishing.co.uk/product.asp?id=2398029 and from all good booksellers. A Kindle e-book is also available.