Fees charged by the Church of England for weddings are being described as “economically unjust”.
A vicar in the Diocese of Blackburn, Rev Dr Tom Woolford has tabled a motion at the current meeting of the Church’s General Synod in York, saying the “high level of fees effectively acts like a poll tax, disproportionately deterring poorer couples from marrying in church. Changing the level of fees is therefore a matter of economic justice.”
The motion, being put forward for a debate on Tuesday calls on the Archbishops’ Council to amend the rules, ‘so that the fees relating to marriages are set at nil or at a minimal amount in order to demonstrate the Church’s commitment to marriage and pastoral care.’
The current fee for a marriage service in a Church is £505. £276 of this is payable to the Parochial Church Council (PCC) of the church in which the service takes place and the remaining £229 is payable to the Diocesan Board of Finance.
In 2019 income across the Church from parochial fees totalled just over £59 million.
In a paper submitted to Synod, the Church of England’s Secretary General William Nye wrote : “It is suggested that a wholescale elimination or reduction of the fee would be a poorly targeted intervention as many couples can afford to pay the fee which represents a small proportion of the overall cost of their wedding. The income lost from setting the fee to nil or a nominal amount reduces the resource available to fund ministry, including in the poorest areas – at a time when many dioceses and PCCs are facing deficits.
“The incumbent/priest in charge also has a right, after consulting the churchwardens of the parish, to waive any fee payable to the PCC ‘in a particular case’. The Archbishops’ Council’s advice is that the power to waive fees should only be exercised in cases of clear financial hardship.”
In 2019 in England and Wales, there were just over 31,000 C of E weddings – a fall of 50 per cent in 20 years.