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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 September, 2003, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Marketing push for church weddings
church wedding
Church weddings have declined in popularity
The Church of England is planning a promotional campaign aimed at reversing a sharp decline in church weddings.

The campaign gets under way in Birmingham on Friday, when the Church will open its first ever stand at the National Wedding Show, the UK's biggest trade fair for wedding-related businesses.

Church weddings have fallen off steeply since the mid-1990s, when legal restrictions on the type of venue eligible for a marriage licence were swept away.

The change prompted thousands of couples to get married in exotic locations such as stately homes and tropical beaches instead.

The CoE is now attempting to entice some of its errant flock back into the fold, although it is pointedly not setting its hopes too high.

"It's difficult to say how much interest we will get from the show" says a CoE spokesperson.

"But I'd be a fool if I thought this would reverse a trend."

Glamour

The CoE's promotional material at the Wedding Show will emphasise the lifelong support it offers married couples.

It will also draw attention to the traditional aesthetic appeal of getting married in church.

The Church will be competing head to head with holiday firms offering wedding packages in glamorous holiday destinations, including one - Manchester-based Simply Exclusive Travel - promoting underwater ceremonies off the coast of Mauritius.

The Church stresses that its interest in promoting its marriage services is not financial, and says it decided to take part in the Wedding Show at the organisers' invitation.

"Weddings are not a huge revenue earner," says the spokeswoman.

"We see the marriage ceremony not as a marketing opportunity, but as a service."

Cash crunch

But there is little doubt that any increase in the cash-strapped Church's income would be warmly welcome.

The CoE's finances, squeezed by falling church attendances and investment losses in the recent financial market slump, are not as healthy as they once were.

Earlier this year, the institution launched a radical financial review in an effort to put itself on a firmer footing.

Weddings and funerals combined generate about 25m in revenues for the Church every year. This is a small fraction of the Church's estimated 825m running costs in 2001, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Weddings cost a basic fee of between 170 and 250, the spokeswoman said, although an extra fee is levied for additional services such as a choir.


SEE ALSO:
Bible inspires church cash drive
25 Aug 03  |  Oxfordshire


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