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Saturday, 4 August, 2001, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Wedding banns 'may be scrapped'
Holy Bible
Banns traditionally announce a forthcoming wedding
The ancient tradition of reading marriage banns may be abandoned to encourage more young people to have church weddings, it has emerged.

Church leaders are also considering ending the requirement that the bride or groom should live in the parish where they marry.

The reading of banns, currently a legal requirement for a church wedding, may be replaced by a "pastoral welcome" where the congregation is asked to pray for the couple.

Church of England spokesman the Reverend William Beaver said some clergy believe the 800-year-old tradition is outdated, as few people live in the same parish for most of their lives.

We recognise that there has been a dramatic increase in social mobility

Reverend William Beaver
A review group appointed by the General Synod is expected to announce the proposals on banns, which are currently read in church announcing a wedding on the on three Sundays that precede it.

Mr Beaver said the proposals were an attempt by the Church to "move with the times".

"We recognise that there has been a dramatic increase in social mobility among young people which makes the banns less relevant."

But he said marriage banns may be kept as an option rather than ended completely.

"Whilst we want to move with the times we don't want get rid of something that is very important to many people.

"The banns are a public recognition that the most crucial ceremony in two people's lives is about to occur."

He added that it made sense to give couples more choice over where they can get married.

"Many people want to marry in the chapel at the university where they met, or in the town or village they grew up in," he said. "It is foolish to deny such a reasonable request."

Fewer people have chosen to get married in church in recent years, with only a quarter of the 250,000 marriages held each year taking place in a Church of England or Church of Wales ceremony.

The review group is expected to put forward its proposals by the end of the year.

But the final decision on whether to end the legal requirement on marriage bans will rest with the government.

The BBC's Robert Pigott
"It will give couples a wider choice as to where to hold their wedding"
See also:

07 Mar 01 | Education
Schools to promote marriage?
16 May 01 | Education
Educating couples about marriage
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