Today’s Budget will outline plans for couples to be able to legally marry in a wider variety of venues. The fact that this is in the Budget serves as a healthy reminder that for much of British history the legal institution of marriage has been a lot about money and power. For a fair while women were seen as chattels (as they remain in some parts of our diverse world). My own employer (the Church of England) is the child of an upsurge in new theology and the very practical desire of a king to increase his security and power. All of this came together in a fight about marriage and the emergence of a state church.
In our material culture most do not marry for money, but marriage has money implications. At an average of £30,000 a time, marriage is a significant industry. Philip Hammond’s proposals, allowing for civil ceremonies to be held outside and so on, are a ‘sort of’ attempt at reducing those costs. As a cynic I suggest that they are a sop to the couples who simply want their event to be more unique and Instagrammable than their friends’. However, on paper, they open up the possibility of couples being able to marry without prohibitive venue costs.
Some may argue that in such a world, the church needs to hold and hold fast to a ‘traditional’ or ‘biblical’ view of marriage, with ceremonies in sacred spaces that mix joy and solemnity, character and covenant. I feel duty bound to remind us that in the Bible most marriages were political, polygamous or both and that most of the New Testament either modelled single life (Jesus) or encouraged it for the sake of the Gospel….