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Wedding fees; audit needed?

19 October 2011

by Maggie Durran

I know of an enquirer who was given misleading information over the fees for a wedding. Is it, or should it be, required that information on wedding fees is displayed in the church?

I AM not a lawyer. When I was a vicar, churches re­ceived annual updates informing us of the legal fees relating to weddings, banns, and register searches. These specific fees were paid to the church, but then passed on to the diocese.

Although I was under no obliga­tion, I posted the information above the vestry desk so that I could quote the correct amount to enquirers. The legal fees, however, are by no means the only things involved with wed­dings. Churches do not normally add a charge for the use of the building (with its heating and lighting costs), but I know of some that do.

Then there are locally agreed fees for bell-ringers, organist, choir, and any other additions to the basic business of the marriage. The fees for each of these services are set by the bell-ringers, organists, and choir members themselves. A church may offer the church flower-arrangers at low cost. It soon adds up.

The church costs are usually a mere smidgeon, however, compared with what the happy couple are about to pay for frocks, cakes, hair-dos, champagne, and hotel receptions.

Because of the many variables — from organist to organist, or from bell-ringer to bell-ringer — a church may not wish to post a notice; and, anyway, would anyone spot it on those crowded church noticeboards? It should suffice that the person who deals with couples’ enquiries knows what the various current rates are, and can give either a fair estimate on first enquiry or a clearer breakdown when needed.

We do not have the resources (that is, people’s time) to have everything in most of our churches in an order that will suit everyone, irritating though that may be to the most orderly among us and our visitors.

On another issue to which people have responded: with a financial turnover of between £100,000 and £250,000, churches are required to have their accounts independently examined, and, with a turnover of more than £250,000, a professional audit is required.

These higher levels of turnover also require a fuller form of financial reporting in the accounts, and in­formation on this is available from your diocese or Church House Bookshop.

I have heard from another source that no one, either in the diocese or in the Charity Commission, reviews your accounts when they are sub­mitted annually — they simply accept that they have been properly ex­amined/audited; so churches need to ensure that the accounts are in the appropriate format and properly examined. Although the treasurer and chair play a particular part in this task, all PCC members are responsible for the finances and the accounts.

If you fund-raise for church re­pairs or programmes, your accounts will be checked by those to whom you apply, and the wrong accounting practice means an automatic refusal of a grant.

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