Here come the bride and owls
THE Church of England has set out radical plans to transform the way it conducts weddings.
A package of reforms will modernise the marriage service, offering couples the chance to replace traditional aspects with personalised touches of their own.
It will give the go-ahead for glitzy 'Posh-and-Becks-style' ceremonies in churches, with Mendelssohn's Wedding March replaced by music such as Here Come The Girls by Sugababes.
Unusual twists will be welcomed, such as the use of trained owls to carry the rings to the best man.
The reforms follow a four-year review by British senior clerics, which concluded that more couples would marry in church and continue as churchgoers if they had more control over their big day.
The review, called 'The Weddings Project', was ordered to reverse a decline in the number of church marriages, with fewer than one in four British weddings now taking place on Church of England premises.
Findings of the review have been set out in a new book, The Church Weddings Handbook, which offers guidance to vicars. The conclusions are endorsed by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who says in a foreword that the changes are "dynamite".
He adds that vicars have "lost touch" with how daunting a traditional ceremony can seem to couples.
Under church rules, vicars have wide-ranging powers to decide how weddings should be conducted. While some have been prepared to experiment, many have until now taken a traditional approach and been reluctant to allow couples to innovate.
The Rt Rev Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, says in the book that he would be "unfazed" by the trappings of a 'Posh-and-Becks-style' wedding, referring to the 1999 marriage of David and Victoria Beckham at Dublin's Luttrellstown Castle.
The footballer and the singer sat on golden thrones as they were married, with magazine photographers in attendance.