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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 July 2007, 19:59 GMT 20:59 UK
Church relaxes rules on marriage
Wedding cake
Fewer couples are opting for a religious ceremony
Couples are to have greater choice over where to marry under new proposals announced by the Church of England.

The Church's leaders are set to change their legislation to allow couples to tie the knot in any church where they have a "qualifying connection".

But they stopped short of granting permission for couples to get married in any church they wish.

They feared creating such a wide right would result in couples choosing the "prettiest" churches.

'Considerable burden'

Geoffrey Tattersall QC, from the Diocese of Manchester, said there was a risk such a right would lead to "an undesirable concentration of marriages in attractive places or close to popular reception venues".

"This could place considerable burdens on the clergy or would lead to marriages in churches with which there was no connection and with no real opportunity for proper marriage preparation," he added.

At present, couples can only marry in a church in a parish where one of them is resident or on the parish electoral roll unless they have a special licence granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This is not so they can choose the prettiest church but so they can choose a church that has meaning for them
CofE spokesman

Under the proposals, if someone has been baptised or was prepared for confirmation in a parish they will be able to marry there.

They could also choose a church in a parish where one of them has been resident or has attended worship for at least six months.

The new rules would also allow a couple to choose a parish on the grounds that a parent is resident or a parent or grandparent was married in the parish.

'Easier'

The draft measure was unanimously approved at the meeting of the Church of England's General Synod, at the University of York, on Saturday.

And it now passes to a further stage within the Church for the drafting of the legislation.

A CofE spokesman said people had become far more "mobile" over the past 50 years.

He said: "This is about saying we have got to take this into account, and saying let us make it easier for them, not so they can choose the prettiest church but so they can choose a church that has meaning for them."

The move comes after new figures released last month revealed that for the first time, fewer marriages were held in churches and other religious institutions.

According to the Office of National Statistics report, 84,400 religious ceremonies were held in 2005 compared to 88,710 in "approved premises" such as stately homes and hotels.

The remainder of the 244,710 marriages in 2005 total took place in a register office.




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