THREE lucky couples are being given the chance of a church wedding and reception for the all-inclusive fee of “one grand” (£1000).
The offer has been made by the Vicar of St John the Baptist, Hartford, in Cheshire, the Revd Michael Smith, who wants to encourage more people to marry in church at a time when many cannot afford it.
He has put together a team of volunteers from the parish who are prepared to help out with all the usual elements of a big wedding, on three dates this year. The £1000 fee covers everything from statutory charges to a 30-place, two-course wedding breakfast by outside caterers.
The “Grand Wedding” package also includes extras, such as a photographer and a flower-arranger, someone to do dress alterations, and someone to bake a two-tier cake.
And for one lucky pair there will be the added bonus of a bishop to conduct the ceremony. The Suffragan Bishop of Birkenhead, in Chester diocese, the Rt Revd Keith Sinclair, has offered his services on one of the days. “I thought it would be nice to offer a ‘free bishop’,” Mr Smith said. “He was very keen to get involved. We wanted to be able to properly celebrate what is God’s gift to all, and that no one should be denied simply because of cost.
“The idea came to me a couple of years back, when we had two weddings cancelled in fairly short order because they thought the church fees were too high. Instead, they had the wedding ceremony at the reception venue, which was provided more or less free. It was also around the time the General Synod introduced a massive hike in wedding fees.
“The combination of these two really made me think that the Church’s approach was unhelpful, particularly as we face a long-term trend of reducing numbers of people who choose to get married in church, while the Church seems intent on putting the fees up all the time. It didn’t sit well with me, or with those couples struggling to pay for a wedding. The latest research I have seen puts the average cost at around £30,000.
“My strapline is: ‘All you have to do is bring your own clothes, and we’ll do the rest.’ It has taken us a while to get the idea off the ground, but now we have put together a team of volunteers within the parish community who share that vision with me.”
One couple have already been in touch this week. “They were very keen,” Mr Smith said. “I know other parishes are watching with interest. It might be one of those things that no one takes up; but, if it does work, then it is certainly a model for others to follow. If we get our three couples, and it works well, I would certainly offer it in future.
“If having a church wedding is truly important to you and your faith, but the cost is putting you off getting married, come and talk to me.”