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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Lies before the church wedding
Wedding ring
The Anglican church is considering relaxing current rules.

The Church of England is considering relaxing rules that say the bride or groom must live or worship in a parish to use its church.

Any such change would allow couples to get married in the church of their choice.

Until now many British couples have been denied this option.

Debby Cooper is one of many people who resort to telling "white lies" about where they live in order to have a church wedding.

Mrs Cooper, 27, an assistant marketing manager from Ash Vale, Surrey, got married to her husband, Simon, six years ago.

She told BBC News Online: "We wanted to get married at the little church within my parents' parish - it is very picturesque.

"But neither of us are religious. We didn't go to church before the ceremony and have never been since."

The couple managed to wed in St Chad church, in Hopwas, Staffordshire, because Mrs Cooper told the vicar that she still had a room at her parents' house.

But, in reality, she had not lived there for three years.

Forward thinking

"I think he was a very forward thinking vicar - he was brilliant. He must have known that I didn't live there because I was always in Basingstoke, where I worked at the time, when he called," she said.

"We had a lovely wedding, in a very nice setting. I don't think it would have been the same if we had it elsewhere."

Mrs Cooper believes the rules should be changed to provide more flexibility regarding church weddings.

She said: "It is mad that they do not allow more choice already. It has to be a good idea to allow couples to marry where they want.

"Churches moan that attendance is dropping, but this would be a good way to encourage people to come to church. It would be a positive move."

Mrs Cooper also suggested that any money raised from holding weddings should be shared to ensure that popular churches did not flourish at the expense of others.

Your comments

I'm getting married in August in my parish church which happens to be one of the considered 'picturesque' and as a result there are a number of out of parish marriages that take place there whereby couples turn up a few Sundays beforehand to show willing and never return. I regularly worship at my church most Sundays but I do get very frustrated at people who get married in a church despite the fact that they have never been in one and are never likely to set foot in one again, that I think is hypocritical! Being married in a church should be about asking for God's blessing and not having nice photos!
Anon, Surrey

Help! Present legislation protects small "pretty" churches from wedding overload. It's great to be able to welcome people who have a real connection with a place, and I do everything I can to make it possible for such folk to marry in the churches under my care. But a lot of small pretty churches don't now have a vicar of their own, and rely on part-time, unpaid ministers. How much can reasonably be expected of such volunteer clergy? I jump for joy when a couple want to acknowledge their relationship before God, but sometimes, sadly, it is just another exercise in conspicuous consumption. It's hard to help a couple have a real celebration when they live miles away and you've only met them twice. To the gent who thinks it's about money - the church fee level is derisory (ie shamefully undervalued) in relation to the incredible amounts charged/spent on other parts of a wedding package.
Kevin Davies (Revd), South Oxfordshire, UK

I used to go to Church regularly as a child with my mother in Staffordshire. Although I am not a regular now, mainly due to the fact that I live in Leeds and also that I have not found anywhere I would prefer to go, if I were ever to get married I would hope that I could return to my old parish church which I attended weekly for numerous years, and also where I was confirmed. Although I was brought up as a Christian, I find that there are so many regular Church-goers that are very hypocritical, and use this regularity of attendance as a tool to appear 'Holier than thou'. Shall we count how many of those regular Church-goers are still married? I'm sure it would be an interesting result.
Charlotte Hitchen, Leeds, West Yorkshire UK

If you want to get married in a specific church you should make the effort
Robin Gill, Egham, Surrey
My wife and I got married last month in a church in Cumbria, which is near her parents' home, but neither of us attended church there, or lived in the parish. Although the rules are strict if you want to get married in a specific church you should make the effort. In reality all we needed to do was rent a cottage in the parish for a week over Easter, in which time we organised our wedding.
Robin Gill, Egham, Surrey

Yes, it is even more difficult if you reside in this country but were not born here. In the end we decided to go home to Australia to get married where we have: more choice on the type of service, the church we worship at is recognised legally so we could have a proper religious service with a registrar from our own church rather than be forced to have a civil service and finally not worry about attending particular denomination marriage classes when we have both been baptised and are practicing Christians in a non-denominational church.
Penny, Leeds

Less red tape and more pink bows has to be a good thing!
Rev. Oliver Marler, Bristol

Surely another motive here is nice churches can make money whilst other churches suffer? Additionally if people take up such an offer in large numbers will the busy churches employ extra staff in order to fulfil the actual work of the church, i.e. ministering to the poor and needy? Or will the focus be on making money? Seem to have a thought about someone turning tables over when God's house was used as a marketplace.
Ken, Wales

The parish boundary runs along the garden fence
JDB, London
My fiancée wants to get married in the church nearest her parents' home and where she was baptised. However, the parish boundary runs along the garden fence and they are the wrong side of it, so we have to apply for a special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury. I would have thought a bit more discretion could be given to churches without having to take three years to pass an Act of Parliament!
JDB, London

When my husband and I married in 2000, we wanted to get married in a church in his hometown in the North-East of Scotland. Due to our jobs, we both had been living in England for about 4 years. So when we approached the local minister, we were refused permission to marry in the Church there because we were not part of the regular congregation and have not been seen to be contributing to the church's welfare. I felt this was such a hypocritical and un-Christian attitude that it put me off marrying in a Church in Britain all together. Instead, we approached a retired pastor who was happy to marry us in the hotel we were holding our reception. I feel the Churches of England and Scotland have to wake up and move with the times.
The Christian Church is universal, it is not an exclusive club that people have to pay a membership fee to join. I think if Jesus were alive today, he would be ashamed at the way our Churches are run and how doors are closed to people who would otherwise have wanted to join the religion or come back to it. I have not lost faith in my religion but I have lost faith in the churches who represent my religion.
Brenda Lyall, Bedford, UK

I have just got married out of my parish, my wife and I attended church twice a month for 6 months, and I personally have no problem with this. The only reason we married out of parish is are local C of E is a brick building next to the fire station.
Alan Hatwell, Leicester

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29 Feb 04 |  Staffordshire
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12 Feb 03 |  England

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