Lisdoonvarna priest, Fr Conor Cunningham, believes that hundreds of young people are putting off getting married because they cannot afford an extravagant wedding ceremony.
The North Clare priest has offered to open up his church for a number of recession-friendly wedding ceremonies which he hopes will attract cash strapped lovers to take the plunge.
These include “community weddings” which will take place as part of a traditional Sunday Mass ceremony and private micro-weddings, which involve just the bride, groom and their two witnesses.
Both of these alternative ceremonies are now being offered free of charge in the parish as a means of encouraging young couples to take a different approach to their wedding day.
“I have noticed, and other priest friends of mine too, that some couples are putting off their sacramental marriage because they think a wedding day has to be an expensive occasion. But it doesn’t have to be,” he said.
“If any couple in our parish wants to get married in Christ, money and the economic climate definitely should not be factors in their decision.
“Why not get married at any of our regular parish Sunday Masses with your friends, family and neighbours around you and supporting you in prayer? I think parishioners would be thrilled and privileged to be present.
“Or even in a quiet liturgy with Jesus, the priest and your two witnesses on any day that suits? I would be privileged to facilitate such weddings anytime, and it would be totally free of cost and pressure.”
Sunday marriages are prohibited in many diocese as the church authorities feel that priests, who could say up to five or six masses on any given Sunday, should not be put under the extra pressure to conduct weddings as well.
The idea of recession- friendly weddings has already proved popular in the parish. While no Sunday marriages have yet taken place, a number of couples have recently renewed their vows on a Sunday, as part of the regular Mass schedule.
Marriage rates in Ireland have fallen to their lowest level since 1998, with latest figures from the CSO also showing that the average age of couples has risen to 34.6 years for grooms and 32.5 for brides.