Thursday, December 6, 2012

the reception venue: more important than the church?

I had a phone call from a young woman the other day. She said she was from Dublin & wondered if the parish church was free for a wedding a few days after Christmas of next year & would I be available to take it?

To be honest, my heart sank. Most clergy take a few days off after Christmas to re-charge the batteries after all the extra stuff that has gone on during Advent and Christmas. For married clergy it is especially important - it is when they try to make it up a little to their families for having absent so much during this time. And weddings are a lot of work. Not something to be taken on lightly during one of the busiest seasons of the year.

Still, I didn't say no. I presumed there must be a good reason for her wanting the wedding to take place in the parish even though she wasn't a parishioner. Like for example, there was some family association with the parish. Or perhaps she had visited the church previously, fallen in love with it, & determined that this was the place she wanted to enter into the bonds of Holy Matrimony.

As it happened it was nothing like that. When I asked her why she was thinking of having it here, her response was:

'Oh, I've already booked a hotel near you for that day. They gave me a list of local churches & I'm phoning around.' She told me the name of the hotel. It was about thirty miles away. There are a lot of churches between my parish and the hotel. It sounded as if she must be pretty far down the list. 

As she was going on information provided by the hotel rather her local clergy or the diocesan office, it occurred to me ask her if she was, in fact, Church of Ireland. She was not. Nor was her fiance. She was actually looking for a Catholic church. I gave her the number of the local PP (who no doubt is very grateful to me for doing so!) and she rang off. 

I have to say I find it worrying that the venue for the reception took priority for this young woman over the place where the wedding would take place. But perhaps this is not surprising in the times we live in. And no doubt she had a good reason for booking that particular hotel. Times are tough in Ireland (even tougher after yesterday's budget) - perhaps this one offered competitive rates. 

But to book the hotel & then start phoning around churches, sight unseen, to my mind smacks of putting the cart before the horse. The wedding is the focus of the day surely? Which means that getting that organised is a bit more important that where people will go after. But maybe this woman will discover this if she has to go much further down the list helpfully provided by the hotel.

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