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Church Commissioners

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

The hon. Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Weddings

2. What steps the Church Commissioners are taking to increase the number of weddings performed by the Church of England. (55122)

The Church of England’s weddings project is a package of training and resources now being used in two thirds of Church of England dioceses and is designed to encourage and promote the local parish church as a choice for weddings. It follows recent changes introduced by the Church to broaden the choice of church venues available for couples wishing to marry.

We have strong Government support for marriage and 90% of young people say that they want to get married, yet the number of marriages has halved since 1972 and it is at its lowest since 1895. As this is a serious issue of social justice, will my hon. Friend write to me, placing a copy in the Library, describing examples of where parishes have increased the number of weddings, with good preparation and after care, and will he encourage the archbishops to ensure that there is more of the same?

I assure my hon. Friend that the archbishops, bishops and indeed all the Church of England believe strongly in marriage and want to encourage couples to consider getting married in church. There is now a website, www.yourchurchwedding.org, which offers information on how prospective couples can get married in a church and provides a ceremony planner for them to design their own service. Every church wants to welcome couples who wish to get married in church, and I am certainly happy to write to him as requested.

Last week in Westminster Hall there was a very clear debate on families, in which the issue of marriages came up in particular. I have been approached about the matter of price and fees. Will the hon. Gentleman give some indication of whether the Church would be prepared to consider lower fees, because as we all know, the price for marriages is becoming exorbitant?

The hon. Gentleman missed the chance only the other day to consider in Committee the occasional fees for the Church of England. He will find that the fee paid to the church for conducting a marriage is actually very modest in comparison with the overall costs. We are very keen to ensure that no one should feel in any way deterred from getting married in church as a result of the fees that are payable.