Church weddings going out of style

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The Independent Online

Religious Affairs Correspondent

There are many parishes in England where church weddings hardly ever take place. Inner-city depravity is not the only possible reason.

The Church of Holy Innocents, in Fallowfield, Manchester, had only four weddings last year, but the priest in charge, Rev Bill Raines, says that this is because the large, transient, student population prefer to get married at home.

Other churches, he says, tend to be avoided just because they are ugly; another category sees few marriages because they serve inner-city estates full of single parents.

The Bishop of Liverpool, Right Rev David Sheppard, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that he had an inner-city parish in his diocese where only one couple was married last year.

He declined to identify it, but his press officer, Rev Paul Dawson, said that in his own previous parish, in Warrington, there had been just two weddings a year, because it served a new housing development to which people moved only after they had children. This was a prosperous parish, though. "You're looking at two BMWs up the drive," he said.

For the last 10 years, about one-third of all marriages in England have been conducted in Anglican churches and about half are conducted in register offices.

As the total number of marriages has declined, from 323,000 in 1982 to 295,000 in 1992 - the last year for which Church of England figures are available - so has the number of Church of England weddings fallen, from about 110,000 to about 97,000.

However, there are clearly other distorting factors.

Pretty country churches will perhaps have more weddings than regular churchgoers, and fashionable London churches, where a marriage makes a social statement, are also over-subscribed.