/ Money

Will price hikes make church weddings and funerals elitist?

Church wedding

The Church of England has decided to increase the cost of funeral and wedding services by a massive 50% and 40% respectively. But will this just price out the poorest and make church services elitist?

Recently there’s been a glimmer of good news filtering through the press that the UK consumer price index (CPI) is beginning to fall from its 5.2% peak in September last year, reducing the squeeze on household budgets.

So it was startling to read recently that the Church of England had agreed to increase the cost of weddings and funerals from the beginning of next year by such large amounts.

Changes from January 2013

From next January, the cost of a church wedding will increase from £296 to £415 and the cost of a funeral service from £102 to £160. The new pricing structure seeks to standardise costs across the country including elements previously charged as ‘extras’, such as administration and cleaning.

To me, this sounds like it will be fairer to consumers, especially because, according to the General Synod, this means that in a number of churches the new fee may in fact be lower than what is currently charged after adding all those extras.

Part of the principle of the new fees is also that they should be affordable, with a right to waive fees in cases of clear hardship. Although there’s concern that choosing when to waive fees would put the clergy in a difficult position in assessing who meets the criteria.

A mixed reception

Although the price increases received overwhelming agreement among Synod members, with the majority feeling the increases were justified, some have spoken against it.

The Rev Canon Simon Killwick, a vicar in Moss Side, Manchester, says it’s hard to justify these increases during times of financial austerity. He’s been arguing that through increasing these costs, the Church of England is making it difficult for the poor to access these services, particularly when you could have a simple service at a registry office for around £100.

In an increasingly secular society it seems the Church of England may be shooting itself in the foot by implementing these price hikes. Do you feel they are fair, or will they price some out of church services? Are these prices coming too soon at a time when people are still feeling the effects of the recession?

Sophie Gilbert says:
29 February 2012

I know many people who have got married in church simply because it is traditional, and others who have buried people in church simply because it is traditional, not because any of them believe in god. If people like that are priced out of using churches just for show, I have no problem with that. I only hope that true believers who are poor will indeed benefit from these waivers you mention. (As a matter of interest I’m a third generation atheist, got married at the registry office, and the people I have lost have all been cremated without ceremony other than a moment of quiet private reflection from those they left behind.)

Rebecca says:
1 March 2012

I believe a church will always look after it’s members and the waivers will happen. I had a church wedding at no charge. The church provided it for free. I am a member of that church.
People who want the traditional trimmings and pretty building should expect a reasonable charge if they aren’t a member. After all, you’d pay for a hotel or castle or beach wedding too. I think the proposed charges are reasonable.

Incidentally, we have had free church funerals too for our family (not completely free funerals – there are costs involved there other than the church).

Dr Shumi says:
1 March 2012

Rebecca I do not agree with you. Everyone could believe in god even though he/she is not a member or he/she is not going in church. I will tell you one poor story about membership. I met people who had become members of some church for only one reason. This church has the best primary school in the area where they live, and they have to go in church every Sunday, sign some paper there, kids are playing for one or two hours and afterwards they go home with hope that their kids one day will go in that school.

Rebecca says:
1 March 2012

Dr Shumi,
You have made some fair points. However, I don’t see the relevance to wedding or funeral charges.

Bob S says:
2 March 2012

I hope these price increases will have the desired effect i.e. to deter people from the old superstitions.

Graham the vicar says:
3 March 2012

A comment on wedding fees: At present many churches add a lot of additional charges onto the basic fee. Under the new rules that won’t happen. Our beautiful medieval church will still offer weddings with professional organist, magnificent flowers, 2 days of preparation course delivered by professionals, a personalised ceremony, heating if needed and use of a spectacular building that cost us £50,000 in repairs last year alone, all for around £600. Try getting that anywhere else!
And if a couple can genuinely not afford what is typically half the cost of the photographer, then I have a fund to allow me to waive the fees, which I did twice last year.
Funeral fees are another issue. I personally am not happy about it but it will still be around half to a quarter what you will pay for a humanist in our area. And I reckon that, done properly, it takes me about 12 hours of work to arrange, conduct and follow-up a funeral. If it’s held in church you get the building for free. All in all it’s not bad value.

Ron says:
5 March 2012

The church services I have attended recently, sadly all funerals, have left me with feelings ranging from embarrassment to anger. Wrong names, wrong dates and a sense of ” going through the motions”, this is far below what I would expect from a religious service.

Andrew says:
11 April 2012

Hi Everyone. the reason why i think the charge for weddings and funerals is dear is to pay for the vicars and priests. all the vicars where i live have nice house. Nice cars. and probably a descent salary. Now dont get me wrong they do a great job in teaching the gospel. But did jesus ask for a house, or a donkey (cars wasnt around 2000 years ago) or a salary to spread the word of god. No he did it for love. Now im not catholic but what gives the pope the right to live as a 12th century king. I am a christian but no i dont go to church. But where in the bible does it say you have to go to church. Did jesus preach in a church No. He did it were ever he wanted. And thats were i worship wherever i like. When i get married i will pay the church fees but i dont the money being spent on wages or new cars. i want the money to be givin to a couple of charitys. and if they refuse to marry me and my girlfriend. One day i hope people come to their sences and realise that money is evil. and how ruins many people lifes in fact some people struggle through life because of the cost of living. So ask yourselfs. Money bring happines for few but brings a lot more misery to the many.