Welcoming marriage

Grooms are more conscious of the serious commitment of marriage than many people might think, while their fiancées are focused on making the wedding day itself a special occasion, according to research included in a new book released today by Church House Publishing, the Church of England’s official publishers.

The findings are included in Welcoming Marriage, a practical guide to how recent changes to marriage law have opened up new opportunities for churches to offer the warmest possible welcome to couples thinking of getting married.

“When the sidespeople ask ‘bride or groom’s side?’ they could be highlighting more of a difference than they realise. Couples agree that the primary reason to have a wedding is to get married to the person you love but beyond that men and women view the wedding day differently,” says the Rev Lynda Barley, the Church of England’s Head of Research and Statistics.

“Grooms tend to let their fiancée make most of the decisions about the day itself, perhaps partly because brides are more likely to see their wedding day as a ‘completing’ of their relationship, while the men are more likely to focus on the event as a major sign of commitment,” continues Lynda, who writes a chapter for the book summarising research aiming to equip clergy with a better understanding of how couples today approach their wedding day and the marriage beyond it.

“That is not to say that the men are ‘commitment-phobic’, but rather they seem to be very aware of the significance of what they are planning to undertake than their fiancées, and want to be properly prepared to make those promises,” adds Lynda.

The research also suggests that marriage is still considered to be the event that most indicates people have entered a serious relationship - rated as such by 42 per cent of adults. More than half - 53 per cent of adults - consider a church wedding to be more ‘proper’ than one taking place elsewhere, and the research even showed that younger people are more likely to hold this view.

Welcoming Marriage by Canon Stephen Lake, Sub-Dean of St Albans Cathedral, arrives on shelves in time for the post-Valentine’s Day rush in wedding enquiries. The book draws on research into the ‘wedding market’ and real-life case studies to suggest how clergy and those involved in church wedding administration can help make couples feel as at home as possible – from the initial enquiry, through to detailed commentary on the service itself, the rest of the wedding day and beyond.

In the book, Stephen Lake suggests preparing professional printed material to promote the parish policy on weddings and the choices available to couples;
basing marriage preparation sessions on the rich content of the marriage service itself; ensuring that any extra fees – such as those payable for choir, bells etc – are transparent and that a single invoice is prepared in advance of the wedding;
giving a ‘change of address’ card to the couple, so that the church can keep in touch when they move; sending the couple a card on their wedding anniversary.

Welcoming the book, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Reading, comments: “Good news for the many couples who still feel church is the right place for marriage: the Church of England’s new Marriage Measure makes it a whole lot easier. Good news for the clergy and all those involved in taking weddings and preparing couples for married life: Stephen Lake’s excellent little book makes their job a whole lot easier, too.”

The book complements the Church’s dedicated website, which provides practical advice on things to consider when planning a church wedding, suggesting ‘seven steps for a heavenly wedding’. Also included are a selection of special hymns and readings from the Bible, suitable for wedding services. This facility allows couples to produce a draft printout of their Order of Service, which they can then use as a discussion starter when they first meet their vicar.

On the web: www.yourchurchwedding.org