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Weddings made in cyberspace – innovative website for planning church weddings is an online hit

Watch a new videocast in which the Bishop of Wakefield,
the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, talks about the success
of the online wedding planner

An innovative way of planning a church wedding by web has been a surprise hit with couples. What began life as a pilot less than two years ago with a change in the law initiated by the Church - the Marriage Measure - is now at the heart of one-third of Church of England weddings, statistics suggest.

Experiencing rapid growth, the website draws a third of a million visitors a year (27,000 unique visitors a month) and over the past 21 months since launch in October 2008 has been used to plan more than 28,000 of about 90,000 Church of England weddings taking place during that period.

Couples who have a vague recollection of songs they learned to love at school or Sunday school can listen online, view the lyrics, make their choices, choose their Bible readings, before printing out a complete personalised order of service to take to their vicar as a first draft discussion starter. It even adds their names into the vows, so they can see exactly the promises they will be making.

Hymns are the site's biggest draw, so the online planner is being refreshed this summer with additional wedding favourites like Jerusalem; Lead Us, Heavenly Father, Lead Us; O Worship the King; and Tell Out My Soul.

The current top five of most popular hymns* is:

1. Give Me Joy in My Heart

2. Amazing Grace

3. We Pledge to One Another

4. Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

5. Jerusalem 

The three most popular readings are:

1. 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13

2. Song of Solomon, Chapter 2, verses 10-13

3. Song of Solomon, Chapter 8, verses 6-7

Sung in churches, used by various organisations, and having been selected by the England Commonwealth Games team for their 'victory anthem', the hymn Jerusalem is liked by many but not all.

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, said: "The runaway success of the planner shows the popularity of liturgy and hymns and what can happen when planning a service is made user friendly. These hymns, all firmly fixed in our hymn books, are much loved and have a rightful place in Church of England worship and in the online ceremony planner."

A factsheet by the Revd Peter Moger, National Worship Development Officer, called Singing Jerusalem at Weddings, has also been released, as a guide for clergy. It highlights various ways to build on the hymn's enduring popularity with churchgoers, various organisations and sports fans to "make a marriage special" and "forge a positive and lasting relationship with wedding couples".

The website is part of a concerted effort by the Church of England's Weddings Project to promote marriage in church, which includes resources and useful advice for parishes and vicars on how to make wedding couples and guests welcome in church; and Church of England stands at national wedding shows demonstrating the online ceremony planner.

Tamar Kasriel, research adviser to the Weddings Project, and founder of the consumer trends consultancy Futureal, said: "When people choose a church wedding, in general they want something fairly traditional. So for today's bride and groom, hymns still have definite appeal. But when they feel free to choose music and readings, so their wedding reflects their personal story and style, that elevates their experience altogether. More than that, busy people who are planning a wedding will want anything that helps them plan."

* Stats analysed between the dates 28th June 2010 and 12th July 2010

Daily Digest