Monday, September 03, 2007

Church Weddings

Some very interesting research, signposted from Start the Week on current attitudes to marriage and committed relationships, and their reasons for wanting to be married, and for wanting, or not wanting, a church wedding.

The full document is at

and if you've time, it's a very interesting read, especially the breakdown of the research into what reasons carry most weight in people's minds, and the differing reasons for marriage given by men and women.

In the final part of the document, the researchers identify 3 distinct groups of people who might want a church wedding:

1. couples who need most help and need to be given permission: who want a 'traditional wedding', are favourable to the church, but think that somehow they need to earn the right to be married in church because they aren't regulars or because their family arrangements don't match church teaching. They need the church to give them permission, without diminishing their sense of reverence for God or for what they are doing.

2. the 'don't want to get too involved' couple, who see their relationship as transactional, and don't want to engage with the church beyond getting the ceremony done. (In my limited experience, there seem to be less of these in Yeovil than in Darlington, but my research sample is smaller than the 1000 or so in the survey!)

3. a group which values flexibility and the chance to personalise. They relate well to the church, but are less interested in being 'conventional'.

The reports concludes that the church needs to communicate in different ways to each sort of couple. 1 and 3 will value more personal time with the minister, 3's will be put off by communication portraying the church as more traditional, 2's will be put off by the opposite.

There is an issue for me here about how far you meet people's expectations. We might think that no 2's have most right to have their expectations challenged, but the Church of England is particularly caught here, as they all have the 'right' to be married in the CofE (remarriage is also possible, but under conditions).

The other caution is not to categorise people too easily. Most of the couples I've married this year have a bit of 1 and 3, and many have come to church regularly, or come along to marriage preparation, far more than I would have expected. Maybe that reflects living in a more fluid community, rather than one where community and clan relationships are more settled and strong - in somewhere more rootless, people welcome the opportunity to meet with others and to feel like part of a community as they prepare for marriage.

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