Only last month, the CofE was celebrating the rise in church weddings, on the back of the Weddings Project and the relaxation of rules on where people could get married. We seemed to be getting something right. The CofE has an excellent weddings website, and is starting to identify and spread good practice on how to help couples through the marriage process.
It's lasted less than a month. Yesterday General Synod voted through an increase in wedding fees of 40%, (and of funeral fees by 50%) to £402 from the start of 2013. This was rejected back in July, but adopted this time round. The explanation is that the new fees level include various 'extras' that used to be charged for separately, or in an uneven pattern across parishes. This includes lighting and administration. It costs in use of buildings and clergy time.
Thinking Anglicans has the background papers for the debate. It may make sense financially, but the message that it sends is the exact opposite of the welcome extended by the Weddings project.
Even the idea that it will lead to a rise in income is questionable. If it reduces the number of weddings, we lose both the fees, and the cash collection from the service.
On Monday I met with a couple who wanted to be married in 2013. They asked what the fees were likely to be, and foolishly (?) I replied that there was likely to be a slight increase, but nothing drastic. Now I have to explain to them why the bill has gone up by over £100. It's me, and thousands of other vicars like me, who have to explain this to couples in our parishes. It's not a job I look forward to, and I feel that General Synod has placed me and my colleagues in a very difficult position. But if someone can explain it better to me, then that would help.
PS there are some good things in the measure, such as the abolition of any funeral fee where a child is involved. That makes sense on every level.