Churches in England and Scotland are taking part in wedding fairs in campaigns to encourage couples to get married and to do so by marching down the aisle rather than into a secular registry office – reports Martin Revis for Ecumenical News International.
The (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland's Shawlands Kirk in Glasgow hosted its own wedding fair on Saturday 10 March 2007. Resident minister, the Rev Stephen Blakey, said he invited almost 30 businesses, including caterers, photographers and musicians to exhibit in the church.
Mr Blakey said an important aim of the fair is to encourage young people to consider marriage as a way of life and to consider marrying in the Church.
"Helping to create a wonderful wedding day is important, but we also provide support and guidance before and after the big day," declared Blakey.
He continued: "Marriage is a lifelong journey. We hope our wedding fair will be good for all those involved - the young couples planning their wedding, the exhibitors who are looking for business, and our church."
Down south, the Church of England, was a newcomer this year to the National Wedding Show in London at the end of February. Those attending said its stand made a contrasting spiritual and modest note among a multitude of stands promoting goods and services from wedding dresses to honeymoon destinations.
Visitors to a simulated chapel in London's vast Olympia exhibition hall were offered a presentation explaining hymns and readings available within Christian tradition. They could also consider advice offered on a wedding blog (www.newlyweds-uk.com) where virtual vicar, the Rev Jan Harney, answers questions online.
Copies of a new guide, Making the Most of Weddings, published by the Church of England, suggests ways in which the big day might be made greener and less expensive. A recent trade survey found the average wedding cost £20,000.
The Rev Andrew Body, the author, a country vicar and former marriage guidance counsellor, who designed the volume principally for officiating clergy, told ENI he believes some people succumb to commercial and peer pressure to spend more than they can afford.
Among the environmentally friendly and economical ideas put forward are, buying wedding dresses from charity shops, using rings handed down through the family, arranging wedding lists to take account of fairly traded goods and suggesting that guests bring a bottle to the reception.
"I do think that a start is being made with people designing their own invitations and table decorations, which can look very warm and friendly," he said. "Increasingly, people are asking about how their wedding can save the natural world and be a blessing not only to them, but to God's world."
Making the Most of Weddings - A Practical Guide for Churches - is published by Church House Publishing.
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]