The average cost of a wedding in the UK is somewhere between £17,000 and £24,000. Estimates differ depending on the source, but they all settle somewhere close to the £20,000 mark. For most people this will seem an extremely daunting figure. So what role is there for local churches in supporting couples with the financial aspect of getting married?
Wedding costs can be a strain and a burden. Unsurprisingly, the number of people who take out credit to pay for their wedding is high. For under 25s, every two of out three couples are likely to be using credit. The average amount borrowed to pay for weddings is £3,800.
It’s evident that many couples will be unable to afford their own wedding outright. Meanwhile, money problems are one of the main reasons for marriage break-up. The Church already offers support and guidance to couples in their relationship, through the form of marriage preparation. It seems obvious then that the Church, an institution offering hope and freedom, plays it part in supporting couples financially too. One way of doing this may be by promoting credit unions.
Credit unions are ethical financial institutions that seek to serve their communities, reduce financial exclusion, and offer products that are primarily about serving the customer. With their attractive low interest rates and ethical ethos, credit unions seem an obvious port of call for those requiring credit to afford their wedding. Credit unions also provide a range of flexible saving options that could be ideal for couples, not just for their wedding savings, but for married life too. Only 1.6 million people in Britain, however, are members of credit unions. Awareness is low, and churches can play their part increasing their familiarity.
The Dioceses of Lichfield and Rochester have come up with a great new resource that helps churches to support marrying couples financially and promote use of credit unions. They have agreed a scheme with their local credit unions, that any couple marrying in a church can become members for free. Couples can claim their free membership with specially-made vouchers, part of a leaflet the Dioceses have produced and clergy can give away. The leaflet also offers guidance on the importance of saving and top tips on cutting costs for a wedding.
For churches not in the Dioceses of Lichfield or Rochester, it is worth getting in contact with local credit unions to find out what promotional literature they can supply and offer. There are plenty of other ways to help couples too. Ideas include talking about money in marriage preparation sessions, compiling a list of low-cost suppliers to give away to prospective couples, or even offering discount rates in printing and other services from the church itself.
Money is an intrinsic part of our world and our individual lives, and it is important that the Church doesn’t shy away from that. Jesus talks about money three times as much as anything else! Supporting couples getting married with their finances could be one of the most helpful things you could do for them, and promoting use of credit unions provide one opportunity to do just that.
Tom Newbold is the Church Credit Champions Network Co-ordinator at the Centre for Theology and Community