Brent register office, the first to win a government charter mark for its customer friendly services, is hoping to bring private sector finance into what has been a commercial free zone. The move comes after a pounds 10,000 study in the borough, partly funded by the Cabinet office, on introducing sponsorship to the services.
People wanting to get married generally would go to the registrar to book the service, which can cost pounds 39.50, but would have to trail around separately to arrange flowers, cars, a photographer, the cake and a reception venue. Brent's director of registration services, Mark Rimmer, is all in favour of the new approach.
'At the moment, they have to chase their tail making sure all these things are done. This idea would allow us to go into partnership with local firms, who could perhaps sponsor a phone hotline service from the registrar's office.' This arrangement would enable couples to call a florist, car hire company or photographer direct, rather like calling a mini-cab on a direct line from a supermarket.
Another option is for a one-stop shop inside the register office at Brent town hall, giving advice on planning weddings and suggesting possible businesses to provide a service.
Mr Rimmer is also considering having brochures on planning weddings which could be sponsored by local companies or contain paid advertisments. Vending machines selling last minute items - confetti, film and disposable cameras - might be installed in the waiting room as well.
The plans will need a change in regulations by the Registrar General. Advertising is not allowed at present in case some registrars, who may be solicitors, use the opportunity to promote their own services.
Brent's move comes as Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth attempts to change the law about venues for marriage ceremonies. At the moment, weddings can only be held in churches or register offices. If successful, his Bill, currently in the Lords, would allow them to take place in other specified buildings, such as castles or perhaps Wembley Stadium if it were granted a licence as a wedding venue. The Bill, which would allow couples to marry anywhere in England and Wales without having to live in the area first, could become law by April.
Brent is one of the few register offices in England to allow couples to customise their ceremonies by including music or poems of their choice.
Eighty per cent of weddings in Brent are conducted in register offices, which is partly because of its high ethnic minority population. Mr Rimmer said he hoped the changes would not necessarily mean fewer people chose to marry in church, although it might increase the competition.
'I would hope if people are getting married in church it is for reasons other than it being an attractive venue.
'But if you can get married in a nice stately home and have the option of words which are more meaningful for you, we may well end up having even more people coming to us.'Reuse content