Devon Church Weddings Project Aims to Encourage More Couples to Marry in Church
A Church of England project to encourage more couples to choose a church wedding has been launched by the Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Rev’d Jackie Searle, at the Wedding Extravaganza show in Exeter.
Devon Church Weddings will showcase the county’s 600 Anglican churches, many of which are Grade 1 listed and in beautiful coastal or rural locations.
It will also work with churches to ensure that prospective wedding couples receive a warm welcome and are supported through the wedding process.
Bishop Jackie said “People may not necessarily think that they can get married in a church.
“We’re wanting to say. Yes you can. We have got so many beautiful buildings, lovely holy places in which you can come to make your vows before God and be blessed.”
The number of church weddings nationally has fallen to an historic low, with fewer than one in four people now choosing a religious ceremony.
Kennedy Purdy got married during lockdown in Clyst St Mary Church, near Exeter, she said “It’s the village I grew up in and it is a really beautiful old church.
“We decided to get married in a church because, since I was a little girl, that’s how I pictured getting married, walking down the aisle etc.
“The feeling that you get marrying in a church is hard to grasp in any other venue.”
Rev’d Sue Davies-Fletcher, is a priest in Westward Ho! and was one of the team of clergy at the wedding fair chatting to couples and giving out information packs.
She said “My hope as a parish priest is that I might be able to help couples to make their wedding the day they have always dreamed of, blending ancient tradition and modern experience to reflect their story.
“It is about encouraging couples not to be afraid to ask the church what they can do and show that a church is so much more than simply a venue.”
There is a new Devon Church Weddings website and Instagram account – which means couples will be able to search online for churches and ask questions easily.
In Devon, there were around 977 Church of England weddings and 63 blessings in 2018 and around 800 weddings and 50 blessings in 2019.
There was a sharp drop in 2020, due to coronavirus legislation preventing or restricting weddings for much of the year.
The Archdeacon of Exeter, the Venerable Andrew Beane, said couples who had married in 2020 might like to now consider a church blessing: “Wedding blessings do not involve any legal paperwork and can be organised by contacting one of our splendid churches.”
Devon Church Weddings has faced some criticism for promoting church weddings when same sex couples are still not able to marry in church.
The Church of England’s is currently considering questions around same sex marriage, gender, identity and relationships, through its Living in Love and Faith process.
Bishop Jackie, who is the Diocese of Exeter advocate for Living in Love and Faith said “I would say to same sex couples that the Church of England is in a process of decision-making at the moment.
“We are trying to listen to God and one another and what people around are saying, but I also recognise how painful it must be for people who would like to have their relationship blessed in church and can’t do so.”
The Church of England leadership is due to make decisions around Living in Love and Faith in late 2022 or early 2023.