Reality check?

The wedding went well today – the wrinkles were all ironed out before the bride arrived, and everyone seemed to have a good time.  The wedding photographer took advantage of some sunshine afterwards, and took photos in the glade, so I was around for longer than usual afterwards, while people wandered in and out of church.  I had a number of interesting conversations, but one particularly struck me.
“This place still looks the same” said the lady.
“You know it?”
“Yes, we got married here five years ago”
“Oh that was well before me or the current vicar arrived.  Is it nice to come back?”
“Not really.  We had to come every week for six months to get to know the vicar, and then on the day he was ill, so someone else did our wedding.  Waste of time.”
She was half way out of the door by this time, and unless she comes back as a guest at another Occasional Office, I suspect I shan’t meet her again.

People who go to church regularly tend to think in terms of community and relationships.  Knowing and caring for others is very important to them, and clergy mostly think along similar lines.  This is, I think, a good thing.

But people who want a wedding are often much more consumer minded.  They have choice which they exercise about what kind of wedding to have, where to have it, who to invite, what kind of reception, how to co-ordinate the bridesmaid’s dresses with the flowers, the invitations, the order of service, the menus, the cravats.  With the current rules on marriage in church, most have a number of churches where they are entitled to be married, so they are likely to pick one that isn’t necessarily in the parish where they live.  And they chose the church on the basis of what it looks like in the photographs.  Really.  So in our parish, we don’t try to do extensive amounts of “wedding preparation” or wedding classes.  You may think we should – please comment below!  And we currently insist on attendance on Sundays if the couple has no other connection with us – in which case we ask them to come twice a month for six months before we will take a wedding booking.  The idea is that they form a “worshipping connection” with the church community.  But connection is generally not what couples want.  They just want a wedding ceremony and some good photos.  

So, we tend not to worry too much about the connections with the community, because we can’t force them to happen.  I was slightly uneasy about this, but suspect that the lady I spoke to today may have offered a reality check.  All thoughts welcome….


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