Last weeks announcement on joint weddings & baptisms (summary of media coverage here - in the main fairly positive) is one of the fruits of The Weddings Project, a piece of research aimed at finding out what people think of church weddings, and how they rate their experiences.
There's more on Paul Bayes' Start the Week site, which summarises the project thus:
This Archbishops' Council initiative aims to increase the number of church weddings and to find ways of encouraging more people to stay in touch with the Christian community after participating in or attending a wedding. The third aim is to increase in the public mind the sense that the church of England is an enthusiastic believer in marriage (about 15 million adults in today's England either don't believe this or don't know).
From a research seminar earlier this year, here are some of the other findings:
- the number of weddings done in Anglican churches has dropped by 2/3 since 1970. 65% of weddings are now civil weddings. 11% are done abroad
- The vast majority of people think marriage is important to society (86% of marrieds, 64% of unmarrieds)
- Marriage is still seen as the best indicator of a committed relationship, ahead of having children together, moving in together, and a joint mortgage
- for men, their main reasons for getting married were to be 'more committed' and to 'complete the relationship', though 17% cited peer pressure. Women cited completing the relationship, and starting a family, though 12% just wanted 'to have a wedding'!
- the main reason for a church wedding is to have a 'proper wedding' (is this people trying to say something about God but not having the words?), and various other spiritual factors are important too.
- many feel nervous in approaching the church, and talk of "the fear the church instills in those who approach it", and that the vicar will "do an ofsted inspection on your life"
- over 90% are positive about their first contact with the vicar, and nearly 100% are happy with the wedding day itself. 78% found their vicar 'inspiring', and more than this rate the vicars words 'very appropriate'. We seem to be doing a good job. One researcher noted "these are the kind of figures Stalin used to get!"
it's also clear that many couples expect the church to keep in touch with them, something we're a bit mixed with. How we do this is another question!
Plenty to chew on, and I look forward to seeing what else the project uncovers.