The decline of religious weddings in Blackpool as couples favour alternatives

Princess Eugenie got married in a church last year, but religious weddings are not a favourite in the resort.
Princess Eugenie got married in a church last year, but religious weddings are not a favourite in the resort.
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Fewer couples are choosing to tie the knot in a church, synagogue or other religious venue in Blackpool, new figures reveal.

For the first time ever, across England and Wales, less than a quarter of marriages were religious ceremonies.

In Blackpool, there were 62 religious weddings in 2016, compared with 86 five years earlier, according to the latest Office for National Statistics data.

That’s a drop of 28 percent since 2011 and religious weddings in Blackpool are less popular than in the rest of the country.

In England, a quarter of marriages were held in religious venues, while in Blackpool the proportion was 11 percent.

These figures only include opposite-sex marriages.

Claire Smith, president of Stay Blackpool says the rise of hotel weddings in Blackpool has been ‘significant’ and put it down to people’s habits changing.

She said: “The benefit of having a hotel wedding is everything is in one place and. You don’t have to go to a church, then to a reception and then onto the hotel for example.

“Going to a wedding is an expensive job so people are changing their ways to make it more convenient for everyone.”

Ms Smith added that guests staying over after a wedding in Blackpool is also happening more often.

She added: “Rather than just a Saturday night function, people are treating it as a weekend event which of course is great for Blackpool.

“The resort has a fantastic choice for every style and every budget and I don’t think anywhere else in the country does quirky weddings like Blackpool.

“Places such as the Tower, the Pleasure Beach and even the dungeons offer a wider choice to couples to tie the knot.”

Rev Jim Williams, inset, of St Anne’s-on-the-Sea United Reformed Church also believes the fall in religious weddings is down to a great choice.

He said: “At one time the only two main places where you could get married were a church or a register office but now there is a vast choice for people.

“Although as a minister it does rub against me that the The Wedding Chapel in Blackpool has chapel in its name when it isn’t one. It makes you think if they are going to call themselves a Cathedral in the future.”

Rev Williams also believed religious weddings are all down to personal choice.

He said: “My own view is those who are very much involved with the church or who are seeking something are more than likely to have a religious wedding.” Across England and Wales, three in four religious weddings were Anglican, while a further 11 percent were Catholic. Non-Christian ceremonies only amounted to 4% of the total.

The Canon Sandra Millar, who heads the Church of England’s work on weddings, says many couples might think they have to be regular parishioners to get married in a church.

She said: “We want to reassure couples that they don’t have to be churchgoers to have a church wedding.

“They don’t need to be christened, and we welcome couples who already have children.

“We’re working hard to encourage couples to ‘just ask’ at a church about getting married and all the creative possibilities that there are for their service.”

In 2016, 639 couples got married in Blackpool , 14 percent more than in 2011.

Across England, the number of marriages has remained steady over the last five years, with 236,238 in 2016.

Kanak Ghosh, from the ONS, said: “Marriage rates remain at historical lows despite a small increase in the number of people who got married in 2016.

“Most couples are preferring to do so with a civil ceremony and for the first time ever, less than a quarter of everyone who married had a religious ceremony.

“Meanwhile, the age at which people are marrying continues to hit new highs as more and more over 50s get married.”

Of the weddings held in Blackpool, 8.3 percent were between same-sex couples – 27 between men and 26 between women.

That’s an 8 percent increase compared with 2015, the first year same-sex marriages were recorded.

The data does not include same-sex civil partnerships which were converted into a marriages.