By Vibecke Gudmundsen
Fewer couples get married in the Kirk because of the cost of church weddings, a Church of Scotland minister has said.
The number of weddings conducted in the Church of Scotland has suffered a strong decline over the last years, falling 11,4% from 2001 to the end of 2007, according to the General Register of Scotland. However, the increase in number on civil marriages shows that people are still getting married, just not in the Kirk.
“We cannot discount the fact of the sheer cost of a traditional church wedding as an explanation for the decline”, said Reverend Angus Morrison, convener of the Convener of the Church of Scotland Mission and Discipleship Council.
The cost of a traditional church wedding today can vary from £200 to £1000, but for most churches the cost is typically around £400. The price includes the use of the church, marriage service and certificate, a publication of banns of marriage, an organist and a church officer. However, if you want flowers and decoration, a choir and bells you have to pay up to an additional £300. The charge does not include a video license, which is required by the government if you are recording the ceremony, which is a further £100.
Civil weddings up
However, Reverend Morrison underlined that there are many other possible explanations for the downfall in weddings in the Kirk.
“There are factors such as couples waiting till they are older before marrying, cohabitation as a trend influenced by the increase in divorce as there seems to be evidence the children of divorced or separated parents are more likely to cohabit. And of course there is the increasing use of civil ceremonies for marriage”, he said.
“I wonder too if the increasingly common offer by hotels of all-in wedding packages encourages the use of civil ceremonies.”
51,8% of the Scottish population who got married the last year used civil ceremonies, which is up 13% from 2001. That year the number of both weddings in the Kirk and civil ceremonies was 38%, but the two has since then gone in separate directions.
Weddings within other denominations such as the Roman Catholic Church and so-called “other religions” seem to reflect the same situation, but only to a certain extent over the last five years. The figures went down a small period, but are now back to their starting point on 6,5% and 15,9%, respectively.
Not active Kirk members
Reverend Derek Browning, minister of Morningside Parish of the Church of Scotland, said there are signs that the reasons why people want to get married in the Church are changing.
“I have many more requests from couples who are simply looking for somewhere ‘nice’ to get married, than from people who are active members of the church”, he said.
His parish has an average of four weddings every year, but only one out of the four couples are actively involved and committed to the Church.
“A large percentage of the couples I marry have moved away from their family home but still have a strong family connection to the church.”
Because a parish system is still operated in Scotland couples cannot get married in whichever church they wish. The three factors that decide in which church you can wed are; the couple, one or both, are active members of the church; or the couple has a strong, live family connections with the church; or the couple live within the geographical area of the parish.
“If they don’t fall into any of the three categories I direct them to their parish minister. Everyone in Scotland will live in someone’s parish.”
However, Reverend Browning stands strong on that every couple shall be treated the same way, no matter agenda.
“All couples that I marry are encouraged to attend a course on what it means to be a Christian. Many come into church membership, though this is not required for marriage, and it is a good way for them to get to know me and the church”, he said.
To see figures on marriages in Scotland click here.