It was with some trepidation that I rolled up in my car to Bluewater recently to help man a Church of England stand at the (extremely large and glitzy) Bluewater Wedding Fair. Talking to strangers at a display stand doesn’t phase me, I used to do that for a living at one point. The trepidation was whether I, as a Vicar in my clerical collar, would be welcome. To read the newspapers at the moment is to be told a story that the world has moved on, that the church is being slow to get with the times, that Christians aren’t welcome. I didn’t know what I would find and I didn’t know how people would react to being asked if they would like a church wedding and so I was ‘trepid’ (yep, it’s a word).
I needn’t have worried. At Bluewater and also at Beltring Hop Farm, in the last month I’ve helped staff the Church of England stands and talked to lots of couples who were genuinely interested in a church wedding. They were delighted to see us there, ready and able to help, and delighted to hear they could get married in church.
What did strike me, though, is how many people think they wouldn’t be allowed to have a church wedding. I was shocked as to how many myths there are in wider society about church weddings. It was genuinely a pleasure to blow away those myths and confirm for couples that yes, they could have the church wedding they had wanted but thought wasn’t available to them. What fabulous good news to be able to share.
So just in case anyone that reads this is also labouring under the belief that they can’t have a church wedding, let me blow away some myths for you now. If you aren’t getting married yourself but you happen to be talking to someone who says something like this, correct them and tell them to contact their local Vicar to find out more!
- You don’t have to be christened to get married in church.
- You don’t have to have attended regularly to get married in church.
- If you think its hypocritical to get married in church because you don’t worship there, just remember that the Church of England is the established church. In other words, you have a legal right to get married in the parish church of the place where you live. We are here for everyone, not just those who come on a Sunday.
- If you have been married before, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get married a second time in church. Vicars can choose to conduct such marriages if they wish. While all circumstances are different, I try to find a way forward if we can. It’s been my pleasure to marry several divorcees since I’ve been in West Malling & Offham and it’s been a privilege to help give them a second chance at happiness.
- If you used to live here, but don’t live here anymore, you can still get married here.
- If you were christened here, or your mum and dad got married here, or your grandparents got married here, then you can get married here; regardless of where you now live.
- A church wedding doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s actually cheaper for a basic wedding in church than in a civil ceremony.
By the time you read this article, our next Marriage Preparation Course will have begun as we spend some time with a number of couples who plan to marry at West Malling or Offham either this year or next. It’s a fabulous honour and privilege that I get to work with such couples as part of my role here and I hope to continue to do that for many years to come.
So if you are thinking of walking down the aisle or you know someone who is, please let me know. I’d love to help.