The £1,000 wed­ding

Vicar’s re­mark­able of­fer as it’s re­vealed churches host just one mar­riage a year

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Rus­sell Jenk­ins

FROM beach huts to foot­ball sta­di­ums, there are few places where you can’t get mar­ried th­ese days – which might ex­plain why some churches strug­gle to host more than a sin­gle wed­ding a year.

But one vicar is fight­ing back with a bar­gain deal that any cou­ple would strug­gle to turn down.

While the av­er­age wed­ding costs an eye-wa­ter­ing £30,000-plus, the Rev­erend Mike Smith has come up with a pack­age for just £1,000 – in­clud­ing the cer­e­mony, flow­ers, cake, and food and drink for 30 guests.

The ‘ grand wed­ding’, as he has dubbed it, was an­nounced last week and al­ready two cou­ples have snapped up the of­fer.

The Right Rev­erend Keith Sin­clair, Bishop of Birken­head, has vol­un­teered to con­duct the first ser­vice at St John’s Church in Hart­ford, Cheshire, in June.

Mr Smith said: ‘We be­lieve that life­long mar­riage be­tween a man and a woman is God’s good gift to all, and that no one should be de­nied sim­ply be­cause of the cost.

‘In our grand wed­ding, you have to pro­vide your own clothes but we’ll do the rest and give you a great day. We have done it by putting to­gether a team of vol­un­teers. The thing to re­mem­ber is this is not a bud­get wed­ding – it is a grand wed­ding.’

The £1,000 buys in­vi­ta­tions and orders of ser­vice, the church gar­landed with blooms, a glam­orous bou­quet, a full wed­ding ser­vice com­plete with or­gan­ist and verger, a re­cep­tion for 30 guests in the modern church cen­tre with wine and two- course meal, a two- tier wed­ding cake, and pho­tos of the big day. The church will waive its nor­mal charges but £250 of the bill will be eaten up by non-ne­go­tiable dioce­san fees.

Any al­ter­ations to a wed­ding dress also come as part of the deal, thanks to an ex­pert seam­stress who is a mem­ber of the con­gre­ga­tion.

Re­cep­tion­ist Larissa Dominy, 23, and store man­ager Cal­lum Franchetti, 25, will be hav­ing their £1,000 wed­ding at St John’s in Septem­ber. Ms Dominy said: ‘It is just too good to be true. Without this we would not be able to af­ford to get mar­ried for quite a few years. We don’t have sav­ings or any fam­ily money to fall back on.’

The bride-to-be is now scour­ing char­ity shops for a suitable wed­ding gown.

Re­cent fig­ures show that some Church of Eng­land par­ishes are likely to host only one wed­ding each year. Fu­ner­als out­num­ber wed­dings by five to one. In the mid-1980s there were more than 120,000 wed­dings in churches – last year the fig­ure had de­clined to just 38,000.

PER­FECT MATCH: The Rev Mike Smith with Larissa Dominy and her fi­ance Cal­lum Franchetti

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