I am generally of the opinion that marriage is a Good Thing, as it is a clear step towards the construction of a strong family unit, which is good for society as a whole. My view is shared by most mainline religions and is espoused by most governments, some of which provide fiscal incentives. [In the UK, there is a small benefit for low income couples, but richer people are likely to be fiscally penalized for being married – go figure.] It has been a while since I last considered matters of marriage and weddings for myself – I wrote about it at the time. But I have been contemplating the matter, as some family weddings are scheduled for 2017 …
There are many aspects of the process of getting married that vary from one country to another. And in most cases there are many oddities in the process. There are anomalies associated with some of the bigger issues – like gay marriage and polygamy. I feel that most of this could be sorted out by more careful attention to the constitutional separation of church and state [in the UK and US, for example]. However, I think that I will save a discussion of this matter for another day. Today, I am interested in the location at which a marriage may take place.
In some countries the location, where a marriage ceremony may take place, is highly regulated; in others, there is much flexibility. In the UK, it is quite restricted and there are, broadly, 3 options:
- Church [or similar place of worship] – For religious people, this is the obvious option.
- Registry Office [local government facility] – For non-religious people, this is the default choice.
- Hotel etc. – Many locations have obtained a [quite expensive] license to become a “designated place” for the execution of a marriage ceremony and it can be quite a lucrative business.
For many years, only the first two options were available; the third option arose in the 1990s.
To me, the odd thing is that the place for the ceremony needs to be very specific for the marriage to be legal. Of course, a licensed registrar needs to be on hand as well, but I would have thought that their presence alone would be enough and any location should be OK. But that is not the way it is.
The choice of location appears to be simple enough, except that many couples, who are not regular attenders to a church, feel that a beautiful church would be the ideal setting for their ceremony. Some vicars and priests are quite flexible and will conduct a marriage for anyone who makes the request [and pays the money], but others are more hardcore and require some religious observance on the part of the couple. Although I can see the attraction of a church as a venue – many churches are very historic, dating back centuries, and are in lovely settings – I can see the hardcore clerics’ point of view somewhat.
I believe a great opportunity is being missed. Nowadays, many churches are used for secular activities – musical performances, childcare facilities, etc. This is great, because it means that the wonderful buildings get some more use and the church makes much-needed income. So, why not rent out the buildings for secular marriage ceremonies? They already hold a suitable license, so no problem there. It is commonly claimed that churches need more income, particularly to upkeep the fabric of the buildings. This would be a way to make quite a lot of money. To me, it is a solution where everyone wins and nobody loses. What is the downside?