UK

Church refuses to give blessing to home weddings as leaders say move will make ceremony undignified

Church refuses to give its blessing to home weddings because leaders say move will make the ceremony less dignified

  • Proposals to allow weddings at home, on cruise ships or on a British beach condemned by Church of England
  • Religious leaders said it would lead to over-commercialised ceremonies 
  • Law Commission reform proposes that weddings would no longer be confined to churches, register offices or approved premises such as hotels 

Radical proposals to allow weddings at home, on cruise ships or on a British beach have been condemned by the Church of England.

Religious leaders said it would lead to over-commercialised and undignified ceremonies.

Church opposition will pile pressure on ministers to kill off the reform when plans are presented to officials later this year. 

Under the shake-up by the Law Commission, weddings would no longer be confined to churches, register offices or ‘approved premises’ such as hotels.

Under the shake-up by the Law Commission, weddings would no longer be confined to churches, register offices or ‘approved premises’ such as hotels (file photo)

Instead state-recognised ‘officiants’ could marry couples in a setting of their choice, such as outdoors or in private homes. Couples could also take their vows in a different form. 

Mark Sheard, of the CofE’s mission and public affairs council, said that ‘commercialisation of the wedding ceremony was undesirable’.

He added it would ‘support a deregulated market’, in documents released to a meeting of the Church’s parliament, the General Synod.

Backers of the law change have said it would make weddings more accessible and less expensive.

The Church of England has seen its own share of the wedding market decline to record lows in recent years. Pictured: The Church of All Saints in Selworthy, Somerset (file photo)

The Church of England has seen its own share of the wedding market decline to record lows in recent years. Pictured: The Church of All Saints in Selworthy, Somerset (file photo)

The Church also complained that weddings should not be held in private and said the plans for appointing religious officiants were ‘inadequate’.

The Church of England has seen its own share of the wedding market decline to record lows in recent years. In 2017, the last year for which figures are available, just over 40,000 weddings were celebrated in the Church of England and its sister Church in Wales, less than a third of the numbers in 1987.

Church objections to marriage law reform failed to stop David Cameron introducing same-sex marriage in 2013. Boris Johnson rode roughshod over Christian protests when he passed the new divorce-on-demand law on marriage breakups last year.

Tony Blair’s government considered similar wedding law reforms in the 2000s but quietly dropped the idea after meeting legal difficulties.

Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation think tank called on the Church to drop its opposition to wedding law reform.

‘The inflated costs and expectations surrounding weddings have become a serious barrier to marriage among the lower and middle income families for whom marriage provides most stability,’ he said.

‘Whether religious or secular, marriage represents the optimum way for couples to achieve the reliable love they seek. It is precisely the deregulation of weddings that makes these proposals so welcome.

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