Last week’s piece on marriage and the cost of weddings has received plenty of interest, with a good number of people expressing similar views. In the article, I mentioned a charity by the name of Wedding Angels who support couples on low incomes who want to get married. Their website gives an intriguing taste of what they do and wanting to find out more, I asked one of its founders, Emma Jeffery if she could answer some questions and provide a bit more information, which she gladly agreed to do:
1. Where did the idea of the Wedding Angels come from?
Wedding Angels started through the founders Jane Sullivan & Emma Jeffery in early 2012. Jane started a project in Uganda called ‘Trade the Dress’ which encouraged UK women to take their wedding dresses out of the attic and donate them to a bride in Africa who would never be able to afford such a beautiful dress. The project was going well and Emma even donated her wedding dress to the cause, but Jane wanted to also start helping engaged couples in her own country. Emma had been involved in Events Management for a few years and had assisted in the organisation of various weddings and saw the struggles some couples have to meet the costs of getting married today and wanted to do something to help.
The Wedding Angels was formed to help people have their dream day on a low budget and give disadvantaged couples a strong, supported start to their marriage. Marriage was in our DNA from the beginning of time, with God providing a loving, supportive structure for building a family and flourishing at life. However it seems that even though many people want to start this journey together, there are hurdles that stand in their way. Wedding Angels is not just a charity, or a business, but a ministry. Jesus’ first miracle was to help people at their wedding; turning water into wine. He wanted the very best for the couple, and helped in the area that he could. That is our heart for the couples that we work with; offering generosity & compassion to show them Jesus’ love for them on the biggest day of their lives.
2. When a couple comes to you, how does the process work?
The Wedding Angels works mostly on word of mouth or referral. We meet couples often through church or other charity partners who have come across couples in need of our support. We meet with them, get to know them a little and find out what their budget is for the wedding. We then go away and review whether or not we take them on as a client (based on budget and their situation). Our official clients have access to our planning time for free as well as reduced supplier prices. If we do not feel they meet our criteria we still help out, acting in a more hands-off approach – providing low cost rentals and passing on our trusted suppliers’ contact information to them.
3. How have you gone about building relationships with churches and businesses?
When we take on a couple as clients we contact their chosen church (whether they are regular attendees or not), and meet with the leader to introduce ourselves and find out what marriage support they offer. We have relationships with some fantastic local partner churches in & around Manchester who are very supportive of our vision and of the couples we work with. We are looking to partner with more churches locally to raise awareness and financial support of our work as well as promoting marriage & connecting couples in to the community there. Most churches are really keen to help couples and want them to not only have a great day but go into marriage feeling prepared and supported. We’re seeing the churches take ownership of the couples that come through us & taking them under their wing. We want to encourage more churches to do this and to see weddings & marriage as an incredible way to reach out & love people.
We also work with local wedding suppliers and businesses who offer ‘blessing rates’ to our clients which are cost-only prices to help out couples to be able to get married who couldn’t afford to do so otherwise. We have secured relationships in areas such as catering, entertainment, venues, hair & beauty, photography, transportation and stationery. Our suppliers are amazing and the support they show our clients is incredible, so we try to honour them back by passing on their details to other couples who we are not directly working with, as well as giving them free advertising space at our wedding fayres & events.
4. Is your model transferable? Could many churches do something similar?
We are still at an early stage with the development of The Wedding Angels so we are not planning on replicating this in other areas at the moment. We are however wanting to develop resources as well as marriage courses in the future to encourage churches to really get behind couples and would love to see this initiative spread around the UK.
One of our couples had a beautiful wedding at the end of March, after planning on getting married last October and finding that they didn’t have enough money. They came to us with no expectations, thinking that it still probably wasn’t going to happen with their low budget, but during the conversation the bride’s face lit up as she realised we were here for her without charging for our time. We partnered with a wonderful church who supplied great marriage preparation as well as providing the catering for the couple on their big day. We were even able to go beyond what they were thinking they could afford, throwing in a few surprises on the day. On commenting on the day, the bride said ‘Thanks so much for everything. It just wouldn’t be possible without you’.
We don’t want to just provide a beautiful wedding day but to help a couple have firm foundations for marriage, and to be supported in that journey by the local church. Whilst our primary focus is to facilitate and prepare couples for the wedding day, we also recognise that marriage is a lifelong commitment and we focus on enabling access to marriage training and look for married couples who can mentor and support the couples we work with. We want to establish these ‘marriage mentors’ in all the churches we partner with, who will meet with the couple into their married lives – not just in the run up to the wedding.
Photos (c) Emma Jeffery