Kent

Kent council wedding fees among country's highest

Wedding couple
Image caption Couples can pay up to £850 for registrars in some English counties

Wedding fees charged by Kent's registrars are some of the most expensive in the country.

The local authority asks couples for £540 to attend a weekend ceremony at one of the county's private premises licensed for civil marriages.

This is more than double the rate charged by some other English councils for the equivalent service. In Rotherham the fee is just £230.

Kent County Council says it sets the charges to cover its own costs.

The county's size, which means higher registrar travel expenses, could be a reason Kent's fees are relatively high, the council added.

'Comprehensive service'

Giles Adey, the authority's head of registrations, said: "There are many elements to the cost of a ceremony. These include having a registrar and celebrant to conduct the ceremony and their time and expenses, as well as all the costs associated with working with couples to plan the details of their ceremony.

"Other costs cover staff training, the running of our offices, our booking software and website - all of which are necessary in order to offer a comprehensive registrations service."

The cost of a standard wedding at a register office in England is £40 - a figure set by government.

However, councils are free to set their own charge for registrars to officiate at civil weddings and churches.

Ashleigh Lawrence and John Millward are getting married at Winters Barns, in Canterbury, on a Saturday in June next year.

The couple, from Harbledown, Canterbury, have been sent a £557 bill by Kent County Council, whose charges are going up next year.

This comes on top of a £55 booking fee, the £67 statutory charge for each couple to give notice of marriage, and the actual fee to hire the venue, which is about £5,000.

Transport no excuse

Miss Lawrence, 23, said: "The council charge isn't a huge part of the overall bill but I've spoken to a few people who are getting married elsewhere in the country and they are paying much less.

"I can't believe it's more expensive because of the size of the county and travel costs. Our venue is less than three miles from Canterbury register office."

The mother of one believes Kent is more expensive because of the range of 200 venues on offer, which could be attracting London couples into the county.

Darren Noel, commercial director of wedding directory website hitched.co.uk, said: "Some counties, like Kent, are much more popular to get married in than others, so I suppose there's an element of supply and demand.

"If I was in charge at the council I would probably have my fees higher because people are more likely to pay it."

But the council, whose registrars deal with about 5,000 weddings a year, denies its fees are anything to do with high demand. Mr Adey added: "Kent's registration service is very well respected throughout the country due to the level of attention and detail we commit to our services.

"We are very proud this is reflected in the many compliments we receive from couples."

Cheshire East charges the most for its registrars' services, with a £600 fee on Saturdays, rising to £800 for special bank holidays like Christmas Day and Good Friday.

Church of England fees for religious weddings, including certificates and the publication of marriage banns, are set at about £260 - but individual churches can decide to charge more.

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