Sacred rite takes secular turn: This is why church weddings aren't as popular as they used to be

When my son and daughter-in-law exchanged wedding vows two years ago, they did so in a church — but not their church.

They had a couple of reasons for this: For one, Brady and Mary grew up in different churches. They wanted to avoid choosing between either of them.

The second, more important consideration: They liked the distinctive look of the sanctuary they chose and the amenities, such as a large bridal room.

I was reminded of their experience as I read a fascinating trend piece in the Wichita Eagle this week on more couples foregoing church weddings altogether:

When Monique Pope was engaged, she had no doubt that the wedding ceremony would be in her Catholic parish.
“It was a beautiful ceremony,” said Pope, who married her husband Mike in October 2012. “When you walk into St. Anthony you’re just overcome by the beauty and the splendor of the church.”
Marrying in St. Anthony Roman Catholic Church in Wichita meant marrying in a church and a faith she had a close connection to, Pope said.
Yet Pope and her husband are among a decreasing number of American couples who have their wedding ceremony in a church.
Only 26 percent of couples had their wedding ceremony in a religious institution in 2016, according to data from The Knot’s 2016 Real Weddings Study. That’s down from 41 percent in 2009.
he Knot surveyed nearly 13,000 U.S. brides and grooms, finding that weddings in farms, barns and ranches had gone up, along with weddings in historic buildings and homes. Other popular venues are beach houses, public gardens, wineries and museums.

The byline on the piece belongs to Katherine Burgess, the Eagle's relatively new faith reporter. I don't know that we've mentioned her at GetReligion. If not, welcome to the Godbeat, Katherine!

It's an interesting piece that hits at major reasons behind the trend:

Increasingly, weddings are defined by the couple’s personality, Moore said. Brides want the ceremony to be in a beautiful location, whereas some more modern churches have plainer aesthetics, she said.
Another factor is that many churches now have Saturday evening services, making the sanctuary unavailable for Saturday evening weddings, Moore said.

And later:

The data also suggests that people, and millennials in particular, might be having less church weddings since they are less religious. According to Pew, the U.S. public in general is becoming less religious, but that millennials in particular are “much less likely than older Americans to pray or attend church regularly or to consider religion an important part of their lives.” 
The Rev. Dave Fulton, pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, thinks that change in whether people are religious has affected weddings. 
“I think it’s basically the sign of the culture, people are moving away from organized religion and churches,” Fulton said.

My only constructive criticism: I wish the story had delved a little more into whether religious groups consider wedding ceremonies as sacred rites — and if so, what this trend means for that. The piece makes a brief mention of the "Catholic Rite of Marriage" but does not provide any detail.

That criticism aside, I am pleased to recommend this timely feature from one of the newest additions to the religion beat.

Image via Pixabay

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