Friday, 5 January 2018

Get Me to the Church on Time

The Telegraph tells us, "Church Imposes £100 Fine for Brides Who Arrive late to Their Own Weddings."

Which begs all sorts of questions. Such as - if the groom is late, why do they get away with it? And what about a bride who arrives late at somebody else's wedding?

I've never agreed with the Church of England's socialist approach to charging for weddings. It's always struck me that churches in poorer areas should be able to charge what they like to conduct weddings, as a form of mission. Rather than the current, paternalist approach, of a book of rules with exceptions for people in particular need. The Church of England weddings site is, after all, pretty close to suggesting that Mr and the future Mrs Cratchit practice a consumptive cough before their wedding interview. But then, if you're the PCC of some well-heeled church next to a nice country pile in Bedfordshire,  why not be allowed to charge properly for the full Elizabeth Bennett experience?

That would allow Canon John Corbyn - who clearly has an expensive taste in red sweaters and stripey clerical shirts - to include his £100 deposit for prompt attendance in the Bill of Materials. In fact, he could charge by the minute - with a taxi meter in the chancel running from the official start time. Then you might see some rapid processions down the aisle, as bride and groom try to save a few quid.

Or you could come to a pre-arrangement as to lateness: 50 quid for a fashionably-late fifteen minutes, through to a couple of hundred for the sort of lateness where the bridegroom is phoning the local maternity ward and trying to describe the wedding dress to the receptionist, or dashing to the airport.
Mary was so late, the church had been made redundant

A vicar I know used a sliding scale of standing down the church officers. 10 minutes and the bellringers went home. 20 and it was the organist. Presumably half an hour late, and she'd throw out the congregation, and it was just her, the happy couple and the wardens for witnesses.

Given the vanishingly small chance of my ever being a bride, I think I'm going to get my chance in the end. I'm going to put it in my will - I want to be 15 minutes late for my funeral. And if the minister tries to charge extra, I'm gonna haunt them.

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.


  1. The worst I ever had was nearly half an hour late and she only lived round the corner from the church!

  2. It got past 20 minutes and I was running out of suitable background music to play, so I decided that at the end of the next piece I was going to stop playing and start telling jokes. Fortunately, she arrived just in time...

  3. I knew one colleague who told couples that in the service at the "If anyone knows any reason....."bit, he would stop and wait for an answer for as long as the bride was late.He said after he started saying that, brides were never more than 10 minutes late.
    My usual pre service comment is "If you love him, turn up on time. If you don't love him, don't turn up at all - but do tell me first!"

  4. We don't charge, and no one ever arrives more than a few minutes late....

    The latest bride I ever knew of was one whose bridal car was involved in a crash en route to the church, and one of her parents ahd to be whicked away to hospital. The marriage continued, but the bride and groom missed the reception in order to vist the injured parent. Always as well to check why folk are late, methinks.

  5. Am I correct in believing that if you are British and live in England (don't know about rest of UK) you are ENTITLED to a CofE wedding,as you are a member of a CofE parish whether you will or no, even if you are an Anabaptist or Christadelphian or adherent of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? If so, must make the pre-wedding conferences (if the CofE does them) quite interesting?

    1. You are entitled to a C of E wedding in your own or your partner's home parish, or where you worship, or where you have a "qualifying connection", eg where you were baptised. Even if both partners are atheists, Muslims or tree-frog worshippers.

  6. Golly! I once knew a cradle-Catholic atheist so determined to reject religion that he kept badgering the Church to expunge the records of his baptism. I don't think he knew of the CofE position or he would probably have spontaneously combusted.

  7. I always told them they lost a hymn every five minutes late. That seemed to work.

  8. I can recall my own wedding, where the bride was to be transported by her father, who was notorious for driving at 20 miles an hour. With six miles to the venue, they were unfashionably late, only 2 minutes before the start time.

    Your have to appreciate that we both have Army Connections, where you are required to be at any parade, at least five minutes early, if not earlier, dependent upon the Sergeant Major. Given that I had once been the Brides Regimental Sergeant Major, she was determined not to be late, and it took some effort for her not to say Yes Sir, in response to the vows, rather than I do. Happy Days.

  9. I have found that a quiet suggestion that musicians, registered persons (we aren't CofE) etc have lives and therefore won't remain after too long a wait—this concentrates the mind. The lateness problem is rarely caused by the bride, but more often by the photographer(s).
    With respect, Archdruid, in all my 28 years of ministry, I have never known a groom to be late. A tad worse for wear, perhaps, once or twice, but never late.
    A colleague once had to wait two hours, because the bride's mother's outfit wasn't right. He was far more tolerant than I would have been,

  10. I particularly remember two weddings I played for, within a year of each other, which started 30 mins late in one case & over 40 in the other (by which point the entire congregation had gone outside to sit in the sunshine), both because there of issues with the bouquet. Some kind of penalty might have helped the brides make slightly more considerate choices in those cases.

    I've only ever known one late groom, and that was me - though I wasn't strictly late, as I arrived about 2 minutes before the ceremony. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my bride was already waiting outside the main door five minutes before that as she had such an abhorrence of being late. I'm very glad she was persuaded to wait until the clock struck...


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