A CLERGYMAN is asking 'Where have all the weddings gone'?
The Rev David Herbert, vicar of St Andrew's, Tarvin and St Peter's, Duddon raises the question in his parish magazine.
He points out the website of Peck-forton Castle 'declares that it is the number one venue in Cheshire for weddings'.
'What a shame,' said Mr Herbert. 'I've got nothing against Peckforton Castle but for me it stands as a symbol of the privatisation of weddings and the profiting from them and the deprivation it brings to local communities.
'This isn't the outburst of someone who has seen the market share of church weddings slump in recent years but a comment from someone concerned about the status of relationships and the consequent loss of a sense of belonging.'
'Normally at this time of the year we are in the middle of the wedding season. This year the bells have been unusually silent on Saturdays as numbers of weddings taking place in local churches are tumbling.'
He refers to reports that one-in-four weddings now take place abroad, with 27% of those opting for a foreign wedding doing so to escape irritating relatives. Others say they want good weather and a decent holiday.
'What have we lost?' he said.
Mr Herbert believes well-wishers show that the happiness of the newly-weds is important and that choristers, bellringers, florists and others enjoy being involved. There is also the loss of tradition.
'What is missing is the sense that this new relationship is relevant to neighbours and the community,' said Mr Herbert.
He feels those who go to watch are making the point the wedding matters to them, the homes the couple will make are important and their children will matter to the children of well-wishers. People also want them to belong and to know they count. Peckforton Castle has been sold to a couple who married there six months previously. They are planning a £1m refurbishment.