Page last updated at 15:03 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 16:03 UK

Church marriage rules to be eased

A couple getting married
Some fear the changes will create "wedding tourism"

Plans to make it easier for couples to get married in the Anglican church of their choice are expected to be approved by a parliamentary committee.

The changes mean people will be able to get married anywhere they have lived for six months, or where their parents or grandparents were married.

Currently couples can get married in an Anglican church only if they attend it regularly or live within the parish.

Some villages fear the changes will attract too many couples.

Half of all first-time marriages took place in an Anglican church in 1981, but that fell to fewer than a third in 2001.

It is believed the proportion of people choosing a Church of England wedding has declined partly because of the current tight restrictions.

The Bishop of Croydon, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, supports the change because many people move away from where they grew up.

If they've just come here because it's pretty, that undermines the church, undermines rural life
Paul Moorcraft

He said: "Because there's greater mobility, the need to belong somewhere, to have deep roots somewhere, has become more important for people.

"What we're trying to do is to say, 'Let's be realistic and flexible,' - in order to be more welcoming if you like - to celebrate the fact that people want to get married.

"But it's still not a consumer commodity that you can simply purchase and say, 'I like that place and money will buy it'."

The Church's governing body, the general synod, has already backed the change in the rules.

It said couples who want to marry in an Anglican church should be able to choose where they would like the service to take place.

Those who proclaim themselves to be atheists and have a church wedding are hypocrites
Steve, Reading

Because the Church of England is the official state church, the amendments have to be approved by the Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee which is expected to published its report next week.

The measures then have to go through both Houses of Parliament and receive Royal Assent before becoming law.

Churchgoer Paul Moorcraft, from Shere in Surrey, is among those concerned that churches in some famously pretty villages will be overrun and that the changes would create "wedding tourism".

"People are committed to this village, they're committed to this church and if they've just come here because it's pretty, that undermines the church, undermines rural life, and this village in particular," he said.

The changes are expected to take effect in the autumn.


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