When Pastors Aren’t Angels: Becca Pountney on Wedding Industry Challenges

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. Today I’m talking with Becca Pountney, the UK’s number one wedding business marketing expert and host of the podcast Wedding Pros Who Are Ready to Grow.

Did you know that many wedding professionals have a negative perception of church weddings? From difficulty accessing church buildings and strict rules, to grumpy ministry staff and poor communication, it’s no wonder that wedding pros would prefer to steer clear of church weddings. But what if there’s a way to change this perception? Listen as Becca shares solutions to working with wedding professionals, and encourages church leaders to look at weddings as a way to serve those who might not otherwise come into a church.

  • Churches are still a place for weddings. // When Becca surveyed her audience about holding weddings in churches, the first response she got was that churches are still a place where people should get married. A couple may not attend church regularly or only go at Christmas, but many still want to get married in a church and are interested in Bible readings and even Christian songs. On the flip side, however, working with churches can be a huge challenge which turns people off to having a church wedding.
  • Shift your mindset. // It’s easy to think that couples from the community who want a church wedding only care about the pretty building or location, not what’s happening in the church. But Becca challenges church leaders to shift their mindset. Each year about 22% of weddings in the US happening in religious buildings; that’s over 300,000 weddings annually that could take place in a church. Think about how to use these opportunities to serve the community and demonstrate to people that the church is a welcoming place. Aim to be accommodating, whether it’s to wedding professionals, the bride and groom, or the guests. Many may never have come into a church before, so show them Jesus.
  • Communicate expectations. // When a wedding is held at hotels or other locations, the wedding professionals typically have had a lot of communication with the venue to make arrangements. But when working with a church, sometimes wedding pros are expected to show up the day of the wedding and figure everything out for themselves. Be sure to communicate expectations or restrictions ahead of time so that wedding pros can adapt as needed. Be ready to answer questions and have a point person available for phone calls.
  • Think about details. // Similarly to how you try to welcome and serve visitors during weekend church services, build a volunteer team that could serve during a wedding. Volunteers can help with parking, offer tea or coffee, welcome guests, provide directions to bathrooms, and much more. In addition, coordinate with the florists, photographers, musicians, etc. to get an understanding of what these people need.
  • Be clear about the rules. // Make sure the couple and the parties working with them know the restrictions you have in your church. Explain the reasons for your rules so everyone knows why they are in place. Offer people solutions rather than objections.
  • Get to know the couple. // When a couple who doesn’t attend your church approaches you about a having their wedding there, see it as the exciting opportunity that it is. Meet with them and get to know them. Ask questions about why they are interested in being married at the church. You can even offer a simple pre-marriage course such as the free one created by Alpha. If you are officiating the wedding, pray about how you can communicate the gospel during that time.
  • Spread the word. // If you are ready to open up your church to weddings in the community and use it as a ministry, network to find out who are the wedding pros in your area. Host an event to showcase what happens when people get married in your church. Visit local wedding shows and introduce yourself to people.

You can learn more about Becca Pountney at her website as well as read her most popular blog post on five great Bible readings to use at church weddings. Plus, learn more about Alpha’s free pre-marriage course.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. You know, every week we try to bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you. And today is no exception. I’m super excited to have my friend, Becca Pountney, with us. She is the UK’s number one wedding business marketing expert. She really helps them build a network of wedding industry contacts, and she provides all kinds of great advice around marketing strategy. And she has a bunch of business training. She’s been featured on places like BBC, Huffington Post, the Herald & Post, and now unSeminary – that just fits, just rolls off the tongue. Uh, she also has her own podcast called “Wedding Pros Who Are Ready to Grow”. Becca, welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Becca Pountney — Thanks for having me, Rich. It’s an absolute pleasure.

Rich Birch — Yeah, this is gonna be fun. Now, people might be saying, wait a second, this is a little different than a normal, uh, podcast, which is exactly right. But why don’t, before we get into what we’re talking about today, kind of give me a bit of your background. Tell us a little bit about, you know, your business, tell us about, you know, what you do, who you help, all that kind of stuff. Fill in that picture.

Becca Pountney — Yeah, absolutely. So my background’s actually in television and radio marketing. And I worked in that industry in live TV for a few years. And then I got married, and wanted to start a family. And I decided that the television and radio industry just wasn’t conducive to any of those things because I wanted to be there for my kids. I wanted to see my husband and the hours were crazy. So I jumped across, started a wedding videography business so that I could work it around my kids. And I started a networking group because I’m big on building relationships, building connections. So I set up a little group in my area to start networking with other wedding professionals, and inviting them along. And very quickly it became apparent that they were asking me a lot about sales and marketing because that was what my background was in, in the television and radio.

Becca Pountney — And I found that I could just spend a few minutes with people and really help elevate their business. And they said to me, it’s really different because most people keep secrets back. They don’t wanna share, they don’t wanna help us grow. And I was like, I don’t understand that. I want like a rising tide raises all ships. Let’s all help each other. And so that’s how it started, really. And I started very local, just helping people with their social media, helping them with their visibility. And over time it’s grown. I now have a wedding blog for couples, all about planning their wedding. I have wedding industry courses, my podcast membership, and, and it’s just my heart really to see people grow in their businesses and realize that they can do something that fits around their family, around their kids, and still be successful.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well, um, friends, Becca and I are in a coaching group with a guy by the name of Chris Ducker. He was on the podcast, actually about a year ago. Uh, and we got talking, uh, about our kind of shared background. And there’s this interesting kind of overlap between, uh, what we do in the church world trying to, uh, serve our communities, and what Becca does with her people in, you know, weddings. And so we just kind of stumbled on this thing and I was like, wait, I just learned something new. You know, they, they talk about the Jahari window, right? There’s that like you, it’s like a whole area of thing you did not know. And then all of a sudden, you know it. Now you see it everywhere. And, uh, and she shared with me this fact, that apparently, and I want you to kind of flesh this out for us, apparently folks in the wedding planning wedding kind of industry, they look at you and I, friends, church leaders, in non-favorable light. How about we say it that way? Tell, tell us about this. What, what this, this kind of shocked me. And then, and then I, as I thought about it more, I was like, oh, maybe it shouldn’t actually shock me. But I wanna talk about this today and we wanna ultimately move towards solutions. But, but tell me about it. What, when you’re talking to other wedding planning pros, people about your, uh, you know about working with church leaders, what do they say?

Becca Pountney — Okay, so this is something that’s really close to my heart because it breaks my heart every time I hear people speaking about the church. So I’m a Christian, I became a Christian at 18. Um, I love Jesus, and I go to church. And when I talk to people in my industry about their experience of church as a wedding professional, it’s incredibly negative, and often even they might not even realize I’m a Christian yet and they’re just talking openly about their experience. And they’ll say things like, I just hate having weddings at churches. I wish I never got booked for weddings at churches. And because of my interest in the area, I often dig a little bit deeper into that conversation and try and understand well why? Like, why are you so anti-church weddings? So after me and you got chatting, Rich, I posted in my group. So I have a group, um, of just under a thousand wedding professionals and I just posed the question, tell me what you think about church weddings.

Rich Birch — Oh, good.

Becca Pountney — To just get some insight.

Rich Birch — Oh yeah. This is good. Juicy insight. Yes, absolutely.

Becca Pountney — So here’s some juicy stuff because this is direct from the wedding professionals. So the first comment was interesting to me because the first person said, I think churches are a place where people should get married. So there’s obviously that kind of undertone that people still see church, and marriage, and weddings as the same thing, like traditional. So they’d say things like, oh, I don’t actually go to church, or I only go at Christmas, but I definitely wanted to get married in a church. So that was kind of insight one. Okay, people still link, you know, Christianity, church, together with weddings. Then came the hard-hitting stuff and I’m gonna share it as it is, and then we’re gonna gonna find the solutions afterwards.

Becca Pountney — So people had lots of complaints around the access to church buildings, not being able to park, not being able to get into the buildings. Photographers turning up last because they’ve been taking photos at the “getting ready” situation. They’ve turned up at the church, there’s nowhere for them to park, and then they’re late. Uh, we had people talking about the amount of rules surrounding church weddings. So they say as soon as they see church wedding, they see rules. So many rules, they can’t do this, they can’t do that. Whereas when they’re getting married in a hotel, there’s not so many rules. And they see church rules combined. Uh, grumpy Vicars, grumpy pastors was huge on the list. So, which again, it just, these things hurt my heart, like to hear it. Just, I’m like, no, this is not what we wanna hear. So turning up to weddings, people being rude to them, people saying, we don’t like you kind of people cuz you’re annoying when you’re taking photos of the wedding.

Becca Pountney — One awful story where the vicar made the photographer sit outside for the duration of the ceremony in the snow because he did not trust her not to take a photo during the ceremony.

Rich Birch — Oh my goodness.

Becca Pountney — And poor communication. So, so many sad negative things surrounding this. And I thought, okay, I can see this now. I can see why you are saying to me we don’t like church weddings because they’ve equated all of these negative things with being booked for a church wedding. And we know that that doesn’t need to be the experience, but that is what’s happening out there.

Rich Birch — Wow. Yeah, so that’s, so I love how you broke that down. Obviously the practical thing, the, um, rules, grumpy pastors, poor communication. Um, now it’s funny, this was the same experience I had when we talked where I was like, initially I was like, on behalf of all my dear listeners, I was like, defensive. I was like, no, that can’t be the case. But then I paused very quickly and I was like, oh no, I can see this, this, I can see why this happens. Like I can, I can see it from the, you know, the, the church side. You know, I think there, this can be one of those places where we intersect with people who don’t normally attend church. And although our, like our intentions might be good, what actually rolls out is not that, uh, not that helpful. Can we zero in on those last two grumpy pastors and poor communication, particularly. Cuz I feel like those man, we could, we could cover a lot of ground there. Talk us, talk to us about those, what, you know, what were the kinds of things people were experiencing, you know, in around those issues?

Becca Pountney — So one thing around poor communication is that when they turn up to a wedding at a hotel, at a registry office, often the suppliers have had a lot of contact with those places ahead of time. So maybe the venue people have reached out, they expect to see their insurance certificates, and they have conversations about the venue, how it works, all of those kind of things. It seems to be when they have a church wedding that they’re just expected to turn up on the day, and then find those things out for themselves. So there’s definitely a gap there where there’s just not that same level of expectation because wedding professionals, you know, they understand whatever building they’re in, in, whether it’s a listed building, whether it’s a hotel, whether it’s a church, there’s gonna be different restrictions, different things that are gonna come up, but they’re willing to adapt to if they can know that back and forth.

Becca Pountney — So I think that was one of the big things. The second one was a along the grumpy pastors scenario.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Becca Pountney — I think I understand it, right, because all of these people are coming in and I think it’s easy for us to have a mindset of, oh, these people are just coming here to get married in a church, and they don’t really care about what’s going on in the church; they just want the pretty building. And we’re kind of looking at that with the wrong head space. And so I think sometimes that can reflect because, you know, we know that couples can be demanding; they can have ridiculous expectations. They can want us to work and, they wanna do their rehearsal at a certain time of day and it doesn’t fit in with us. And so we can come to the, the table in a bit of a negative head space. And I hope what we get out of today, and what I wanna encourage people who are listening to is to, let’s stop thinking about the, the difficulties of these things, but let’s flip it around and realize this is an incredibly exciting opportunity. And we should be using these events, these weddings, these things are, are bringing people into our church for good and we should be excited about them.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it. Uh, you know, even that, and, and I, we are gonna get to some solutions here friends, so don’t worry, we’re not just gonna keep picking this scab. Uh, but you know, on the communication piece, that’s like one of those, uh, in lots of or or lots of the churches that are listening in on the weekends, they’re trying to do things to frame the experience for people who are not normally here. You know, we’re, we’re trying to figure out what we can do to ensure that people feel comfortable. But I can see where, man, if we just put a little bit of work into, even just putting together like a one or two page PDF that just kind of talked about, Hey, this is how, this is how our building works, here is where the bathrooms are. You know, here is the, you know, those kinds of things, man, that could go a long way.

Rich Birch — And, and you know, this is where, and this is what I love about you, you’re such a positive, you know, future-oriented, you wanna make things better person, which is great. But to me, I, I listen, listened to this and I thought, man, wouldn’t it be amazing if the people who are listening to this podcast got the reputation in their town—cuz it seems like this is like industry wide—wouldn’t it be amazing if they were the people that got the reputation in their town of being like, you know, I don’t really like all those other churches, but that one church man, they’re amazing. Like they’re, and and it became actually a referral source. It became like, Hey, I’m gonna actually point wedding pros are actually gonna point people towards, uh, your church. So maybe let’s pivot into solutions a little bit. What, what are some of the things… I’m gonna leverage the fact that you’re the pro. Help us understand what can we do better to serve wedding pros as they engage with our ministries?

Becca Pountney — Okay. So the first thing is we need to understand the size and the excitement of the opportunity and we need to be praying into that. So so I grabbed some statistics before this call because I just love having some numbers to understand the size of the opportunity. So in the media, you will hear all the time, church weddings are in decline. And that is true. The trend is that church weddings are going down, however, there’s still a lot of them happening. So here in the UK, 18% of weddings are happening in church buildings. Now in the UK that’s 39,945 church weddings happening a year.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Becca Pountney — Now, if we imagine for a second that on the conservative side, 50 guests are coming to that wedding, right? That’s just shy of 2 million people entering a church building…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Becca Pountney — …in a calendar year to come to a wedding. Now, if we look at the US, which is obviously a huge, hugely bigger market. So we know that 22% of weddings in the US happen in a religious building. So even if we say, okay, some of them might be other religions, let’s take 15% as coming into a church. That’s 345,000 church weddings in a year. Which means, again, a conservative estimate of 50 people coming into the building, that’s 17 million people coming to into a church building for a wedding every year. This is an incredibly…

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s huge.

Becca Pountney — …exciting opportunity and we need to be thinking like, we need to be praying that people wanna come into our church building, that they wanna have their weddings here, and how can we use that as an opportunity to show them Jesus, and to show them that we’re a welcoming place, that we’re a great place to be.

Becca Pountney — So that’s the first thing I think people to do…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Becca Pountney — …is just kinda understand how exciting this is. And it, it is exciting. When I got married myself way back in 2010, I knew it was one of the only opportunities I was really gonna have to invite all of my friends and family into a church building, to have them sit down, be there, because they, they love me and my now husband. But also listen to someone preaching, singing the songs, like doing all of the things. And I knew this is exciting. I need to make the most of this opportunity, and make sure everyone who comes to my wedding leaves feeling joyful and knowing that church is a good place.

Rich Birch — Yeah. I love that. That’s, that’s a massive, I would’ve, if you would’ve asked me what, you know, what is the numbers, I would’ve never guessed they were that high. I would’ve never guessed, man. But it’s true. And, and I think fifties shy, like that’s, that’s a low number,. You know, cuz I, you would know what, what’s the average wedding size, say in the UK? What is the average, you know, that people are having at a reception or whatever?

Becca Pountney — Yeah. Usually between 80 and 150 guests.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Becca Pountney — So 50 is on the conservative side.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s amazing. That’s incredible. And you know, there’s obviously, there’s probably two ways to look at this, or there’s prob probably more than two ways to look at this, but, you know, there are the, the bride and the groom, and like the, the wedding pro. And if there’s musicians, there’s like the people that are the closest, the tight group that you’re, that you’re gonna interact with as a church. But then there’s also just the guests in general. What, what do you think we could be doing from a solutions point of view to try to serve those groups, to try to turn around this, uh, negative perception that’s out there?

Becca Pountney — Okay, so the first thing is that we need to make sure we are welcoming and accommodating to everybody from day dot…So just as we would for your Christmas services, your Easter services, your Sunday services, like have people around welcoming people. Maybe you can offer a car park attendant that can help people park. Maybe you’ve got a representative from the church on the door, or offering to serve tea and coffee. Like be super welcoming because people are coming into your space and your building. And if we were going into a hotel, we would expect the reception staff, the bar staff, everyone to be on board with the wedding day. So it’s no different in a church. So that first moment that the bride and groom come through the doors, the pros come through the doors, and every single guest that’s coming to that wedding, they should have an incredible welcome. And they should feel part of that building.

Becca Pountney — So that’s my first thing. And then be really accommodating to people. So understanding that people don’t understand church, right? So we need to make sure that things are well signed, that there’s understanding of whether they can use the bathroom. Do they have to stand up for the songs? Like be really, really accommodating to people. Because it’s maybe the first time they’ve ever stepped foot in a church, and for many people it may be the first, and possibly last, time they come into your church building.

Rich Birch — I love that. So I love this idea of, you know, go out of our way to be more welcoming, um, you know, and even to, you know, find a volunteer group that could help with this, this or could be paid people or whatever. But if, uh, a team of people to help with these, you know, these things. I, yeah, that’s a, to me is a great opportunity. There for sure are people in all of our churches who love weddings. There for sure is that group of people that, um, would be willing to say, you know what, I, you know, it might end up being a dozen times if you’re a really busy location. It might be a dozen, it might be 20 times a year you’re giving up, uh, you know, a Saturday, part of a weekend to come and to help serve.

Rich Birch — It doesn’t necessarily need to be you, pastor or vicar, if I happen to be in the UK, um, you know, to, to serve there. But what a great way to get people, uh, engaged. Now, when you think about this, um, ac accommodation piece, drill into this a little bit more. What would you say some of the, uh, the tight spots where, you know, maybe photographers are pushing back or people are like, ah, what they just, they’re, they treat their building with too much, they’re too pristine, they’re too, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re just, they’re, they treat it too much with kid, kid gloves. What would be some of those things we should be thinking about where we could be more accommodating, going out of our way?

Becca Pountney — Yeah, so when it comes to working with the professionals who are coming into the building, first of all, speak to the couple and find out who they’re inviting along. So have they got a photographer? Have they got a videographer? Are they getting a florist involved? Like, find out all the information upfront. They’ll be able to tell you that information and get an understanding about what those people need. Do they need access to the building, or when are they coming in? All of those kind of things. So again, communication is key. We need to understand that first of all. Then I would recommend having some conversations with some of the key suppliers, or at least offering to have those conversations.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Becca Pountney — So, hey, you, you got a photographer? Like, here’s my, here’s the details of our pastor or our wedding team, or whoever it is. And, uh, we’d love to chat beforehand about the logistics, get in touch, let’s have a quick call, and we can talk these things through. So the, the photographer, the videographer, feels part of it already. They, they feel like, wow, these people really care. They wanna make the experience good for me. And then in that conversation we can identify some of these tight spots. So we mentioned at the beginning a very simple one is parking. So if you know your photographer or your videographer has gotta rush in last minute, they’ve gotta get the shots that under pressure, their stressed. Like, can we just reserve them a parking space? Can we stick a cone in a car park? Can we tell them ahead of time…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Becca Pountney — …this is the photographer’s parking space because they need to get there and then they need to make a quick getaway at the end as well. So it’s things like that, if we have these conversations and understand the requirements. Do we need, you know, is there gonna be a florist in our building for eight hours? Is there someone there that can bring them a cup of tea or have a chat with them or, you know, it’s the basic things. There’s so many opportunities.

Becca Pountney — And then the final thing as well on helping these pros is talking about expectations. So there may be some things around being in the church or things that you expect as a church that you wanna portray to these people. So explain to them, if, if you don’t want people taking photos during the service, make sure the couple and the photographer know that upfront and make accommodations for it. Explain to them how it works in your setup. But also, I would also challenge you as you’re listening to think, why do we have some of these rules in place and do we need them?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Becca Pountney — Like, are, are they actually rules we need, or have we just built rules upon rules upon rules because they’ve been in, in the, in the church rule book for forever.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s a great question. Like, I think, you know, I think there’s a lot of people who we wouldn’t, we don’t treat our buildings like they’re magical places. Like they’re, they’re a tool that God’s given us to use. Uh, but you know, sometimes these things, they take on an extra weight because it’s a, a religious building. It’s like, you know, I remember when I was in, uh, student ministry when I first started out in, in ministry, I didn’t know that there was a rule that you’re not supposed to have confetti at the church. This is like a thing, you know, weddings, no confetti. And so, um, we did a New Year’s Eve party and I had like a whole bunch of confetti and I knew it was gonna be a mess. I was like, listen, I know this thing’s gonna be a mess. And, uh, so I, and I, so I had planned for it. We’re gonna like get all this stuff cleaned. It’s gonna take a long time, but we’re gonna get cleaned.

Rich Birch — But man, I got like, my hand slapped big time, like, man, it was like you did the wrong thing. And you know, it takes on an extra weight. And I was like an employee of the church. I was like the youth pastor. Um, and I felt dumb about that. Like, I was like, oh, I, I can’t believe that. And it takes, it takes on an extra weight. I think we might forget that as church leaders, that when we’re criticizing or explaining a rule like that, there’s something about the fact that it’s a church building, it feels like, oh, that’s, it’s not just like I’m renting some hall where they said no confetti. It feels like, oh, now I’ve done something terrible because I did this in, uh, in the church. And so be conscious of that. And I think it’s okay to have those. Maybe talk us through, if you are, if you’re a church leader and you have a rule like that, like say no confetti, how do we have that conversation in a way and to not come across as a jerk, beyond being beyond saying, don’t be a jerk, but what, what can we do to try to explain that to people?

Becca Pountney — Okay. So let’s go with the confetti one, cuz that comes up a lot. So just explain your reasons behind it. So as a church, we don’t really like having confetti because it blows over the neighbors. It’s bad for the environment, whatever your reasons are. But then give them solutions. So say to them, you know, what’s worked well before is we have dried flowers and dried flower confetti’s better for the environment. It’s better for the, you know, when it blows over, it, it looks beautiful in the photos. We are more than happy for you to use that kind of confetti. If you want any recommendations, here’s someone that we’ve known that’s done it before.

Oh that’s good.

Give people solutions rather than objections. Or say to them, you know, we don’t wanna have confetti outside the front of the church building, however, you know, there’s this great green space just round the back. We’re more than happy for you to do it there. If you want us to show it, it looks great in photos. So just explain to people if there’s a rule, why the rule’s in place. And then try and find something to overcome it with.

Rich Birch — Yeah. I love that. So a anything else on the solution side? I would say kind of on the defensive, like responding to. And then I wanna ask you the proactive questions. So how, what can we do to actually try to, you know, leverage this opportunity?

Becca Pountney — So one more thing I wanna talk about when it comes to solutions is thinking about the couple itself. So we’ve talked about professionals, we’ve talked about people coming in to the church as a guest, but what about the couple? Because they’re the people that we’re gonna have the most interaction with, potentially as a church leader. So first of all, if someone approaches you about getting married in the church, try not to in like straight away judge them and think, oh, they just wanna use my building. Think, okay, there must be something that’s made them think they would like to get married in a church. And as I said at the beginning, people still equate church and marriage together. I think a really interesting thing is I have a wedding blog and we talk about everything to do with weddings. It’s not a Christian wedding blog, it is just a wedding blog in the UK. Do you know what my best performing blog post is? Every single month and every single year.

Rich Birch — No.

Becca Pountney — It is this: the five bible readings for your church wedding. Every month, every year. My best performing blog post on my wedding blog in the UK is five Bible readings for your church wedding. Again, that tells us something. People are interested in Christianity and church when it comes to their wedding date. So if you have a couple approach you, again, see it as an exciting opportunity. Meet with them, get to know them, talk to them, find out about their background, find out about why they’ve decided that your place would be a good place to get married. And then think about how you can work with them and build a relationship with them over time.

Becca Pountney — So I’ve known some churches who do great things with the marriage course. So they don’t make it a requirement for someone getting married in their church, but they suggest it. They say, we do this great course, you know, before you get married you can come, you can meet with a, an another couple in our church, you’ll get dinner, you can sit down, you go through this marriage course and it’s a great preparation for your wedding day. And I’ve had friends here in the UK who’ve, who’ve gone through that. They’re not church people, but they’ve got married in a church and they loved it because they had that experience that, you know, as church members, church leaders, we get used to hospitality. We get used to people cooking us meals and serving meals up in the church, but lots of people are not used to that. So if someone says…

Rich Birch — No, it’s so true.

Becca Pountney — …like, we’re gonna cook you a lovely dinner, we’re gonna help you with your marriage and we’re gonna talk you through this marriage course. Like that’s an exciting opportunity…

Rich Birch — It’s a huge deal.

Becca Pountney — …and they love, it. So…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Becca Pountney — So really think about that.

Rich Birch — Friends, if you’re looking for a resource on that. Uh, our friends at Alpha, they do it. They do, it’s called, they actually do two of them. One’s called the marriage course and then the other is they have one actually literally targeted, the pre-marriage course. Uh, the pre-marriage course is only five sessions long. It’s really easy. It’s free for you to do as a church. The videos are amazing. Um, they’ve, it’s a layup. It’s available in like a whole bunch of different languages. Like, it, it really is a layup for you if you’re looking to add that to your game. And again, you know, I know you know this, friends, but you know, this doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to do this. You could get a volunteer in your church to put this together, put together a small team and say, Hey, um, you know, we’re gonna offer this pre-marriage course.

Rich Birch — Um, is there, uh, so I love that five Bible readings. I, I, so first of all, that tees up exactly where I was going to next, which is how do we see this as a, as an opportunity, really rather than just being defensive and like, Hey, let’s make sure we get the right PDFs and, and get the cone out and all that. So we do the right stuff. What should we be… because I think there’s a, there’s a real opportunity here for us to reach out to our communities. Give us a sense of if you were to coach a church around how we could leverage this, maybe try to be more attractive to say, Hey, we’re looking for church or weddings to come to our church. What are some of the things we should be thinking about?

Becca Pountney — Okay. So in the wedding service itself, if you are giving a message in that service, you need to really think that through, and really pray it through as well. Like this for me is one of the biggest opportunities. So I talked about my own wedding, and one of the things that I thought was, this may be the only gospel message some of these people ever hear.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Becca Pountney — And so we actually booked an evangelist for our wedding to come and speak…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Becca Pountney — …who was a really great speaker. We spoke, we spoke to him about, you know, we want you to give a great message, we want you to give a clear message, but we want you to give a message that is really inclusive for people to hear, isn’t too long, is, is exciting for people to hear and he really like, he really gave a great message. And if you are getting the, the joy, the benefit, the privilege of, of speaking at someone’s wedding that you may not know very well. Like pray it through and really remember the opportunity that you’ve got. So that’s one thing. Definitely think about the message. Um, also, I just wanted to talk as well on, you know, these people coming into your church, remember they might not understand church. So there’s an opportunity with helping them through these Bible readings. Which Bible readings should they have and why, and what do they mean? And talk them through that process. Song choices is huge, right? We go to weddings and they have the same five songs at every wedding that they sang in assembly at school, because they don’t know any other church songs. But actually why don’t we share some songs with them?

Becca Pountney — I had a work colleague a few years ago get married and he was getting married in a church. He came to me, he said, Becca, we need some help with song choices. We’re thinking “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. Do you have anything else? And I’m like, please, let’s find something else. I’ve put them together a Spotify playlist of songs like “In Christ Alone” and “Amazing Grace” that they didn’t know. And they were like, wow, these songs are amazing. And they had “In Christ Alone” at their wedding while they signed the register. You know, these tiny little opportunities to just understand and talk people through are huge.

Becca Pountney — In terms of attracting people into your, into your church building, understanding that it’s a place where people can get married, like network, find out who the wedding professionals are in your area. Maybe invite them in, like have a little event where you showcase like a hotel would, like what happens that you getting married in our church. Talk to, talk to local vendors. Talk to local people and, and find out what’s going on in your area. Put information out there about getting married in a church. Write a blog post for a wedding blog about the opportunity of getting married in your church. Like do all of the things that you would do in any other area of church life, but with a focus on people getting married.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Like I see these wedding shows, so it’s been a while since I’ve been married. I see these like wedding shows. Like they’ll be at like the Holiday Inn on a weekend and they’ll be like, uh, is that the kind of thing like as a church leader, should I be going to that, maybe a chance to, you know, interact with some of the vendors there, even just pick up a bunch of business cards? What if I was trying to get our name out there or should I get a booth at that thing, or tell me about that.

Becca Pountney — I love wedding shows because it is an opportunity to be like hands-on in the wedding industry and talk to people. So you shouldn’t a hundred percent go and visit some of your local wedding shows. So just go around, talk to people, make friends, find out what’s going on in the area and talk some about your church. Because exactly as you said earlier, Rich, wouldn’t it be great if your church was the place where everyone’s like, you have to go get married there because it’s so welcoming, so friendly and so forward thinking. Getting a booth, I would love nothing more than to walk into the national wedding show here in the UK and see a church with a booth talking about the marriage course, talking about like giving advice on church weddings, talking to people about how to pick songs, how to pick bible readings, giving them advice and talking to them about it.

Becca Pountney — The other thing is, um, working with vendors on things like photo shoots. So one thing that wedding vendors have to do a lot is work together and create photo shoots. And just this last week actually someone in my members group said, does anyone know a church that where we could do a photo shoot? Do you think they would let us question mark? And so again, if you are a place that’s saying, look, hey…

Rich Birch — Yeah, come on in.

Becca Pountney — …our building empty on a Wednesday lunchtime, if you wanna come in, take some photos, you know, set up a wedding, like, please come on in. Use the building, we’d more than welcome that.

Rich Birch — Oh, that’s a great idea. I love that. Even being proactive with those other, you know, cuz there’d be people like florists and stuff like that, that are gonna try to show and they’re looking for a place. And this, you know, this actually reminds me of my own wedding. We, there was like this side room that if you were, if you just kind of walked into the place we got married, you would not know it was there. But it was like this beautiful spot. It’s got this like stained glass and all this really cool, and we got these really cool pictures in there. Uh, but you know, if the person who was hosting us hadn’t kind of gone outta their way and said, Hey, we also have this place over here. I don’t know, the photographer wouldn’t have known, they’d never done a a thing there. I wouldn’t have known, we wouldn’t have known. So even tried to proactively think like, oh, this is a great place, you know, if there’s places around your building, uh, you know, to, to do this.

Rich Birch — I also think this is one of those areas where frankly, uh, if you’ve got an older church building, um, you have a real advantage over some of us that do churches in like the big gray box, which is mostly the kind of churches I’ve led in. And so we typically, you know, it’s not like it doesn’t look that nice. It looks more like a, you know, a concert hall than it does, uh, you know, a church. But it’s a real opportunity for you to leverage that and say like, Hey, here’s, here’s a cool spot you could use. It does look traditional. It looks like the wedding in, uh, in, uh, you know, in the movies or whatever. Uh, that is so cool.

Rich Birch — Well, this has been a great conversation. Anything else you’d like to, to share? Anything else you want us kind of as we start to wrap up today’s episode?

Becca Pountney — I just wanna encourage you, if you’re listening to this, to just really pray through and think about this opportunity. Because it’s easy to dismiss these couples, but every single couple that’s approaching you about getting married has their own story and they’re worth spending some time with. So every time someone messages you about getting married in your church building, try and change your perspective and think, okay, God’s led these people to me. What are we gonna do with this?

Rich Birch — Yeah. That is so good, Becca, I really appreciate that. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for your, uh, your kind and gentle coaching today, Becca. You’re, you’re helping tons, thousands of church leaders do this better. So I really, really appreciate that. Where do we wanna send people online uh, if they wanna track with you, kind of see, you know, get to know you more, uh, get a sense of what you’re up to?

Becca Pountney — So you can go and check out my wedding blog, uk. If you wanna write a blog post about your church building and why people should come get married there, please do. I would more than welcome it. We know that that content does well on the blog. Or go and check me out

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it so much. This is good. Now, there might be people that are listening in, uh, who they may know people in the wedding industry. What are the kinds of people that, you know, they’re, there’s a lot of church leaders listening in that, that may, uh, that, that they should be pointing towards you? Like maybe they’ve got photographers or they’ve got people in their church. What, what are the kinds of people that, that kind of track with you?

Becca Pountney — Yes, please send people my way. Anyone who’s got a business in wedding floristry, cake making, stationary design, DJs, wedding venues, basically anyone that puts together the wedding day, please feel free to send them my way. And, um, yeah, I’d love to work with them and encourage them to understand why church weddings are not that bad after all.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well, thanks so much for being here, Becca. I appreciate your, uh, your leadership and your support. And, friends, uh, thank hopefully today’s been encouraging for you and you’ve given you some ideas to think about, uh, as we go to, as we move forward and try to serve the communities around us. So thanks a lot, Becca. Appreciate you being here today.

Becca Pountney — Thanks for having me.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.