The head of Perth's Anglican Church has dismissed civil marriage ceremonies as "sentimental fuzz" as new figures reveal more than 70 per cent of WA couples opt for civil celebrants over religious ministers to conduct their nuptials.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show just 27 per cent of weddings in WA were conducted by a religious official in 2010 - down more than 2 per cent on the previous year - while 78.2 per cent were overseen by a civil celebrant.
Anglican Archbishop of Perth Roger Herft said the statistics were a sign of the times but true commitment could only be forged in the house of God.
"When you seek marriage in church you are asking for a special type of blessing - you are saying you are not going to be able to do this alone," he said.
"In most churches, couples will be sent off to marriage preparation sessions where personality issues, economic issues and relational issues are looked at to ensure that the couple are really serious about building a foundation together.
"The vows that we make in a church are not sentimental free-for-alls, they are pretty heavy vows to have and to hold, for better, for worse till death us do part.
"This sort of commitment is only possible when you believe in a God that stands by you no matter what.
"For you to say 'this is what love means to me' - it's not some sentimental fuzz or urge, it's much more than that."
Religious weddings have been falling out of favour with WA couples since the 1980s, with the percentage of ceremonies conducted by ministers of religion dropping below 50 per cent for the first time in 1986.
Since then, the popularity of civil celebrants has continued to rise.
Catholic Archbishop Barry Hickey said the Church was now operating in a very secular society and therefore needed to "continually uphold its vision of marriage as a religious commitment". Although many people in today's society described themselves as having a religious affiliation, they were rarely involved in the life of the Church.
"On the positive side, those who choose to marry in a church are more likely to subscribe to the full vision of the Church about the dignity and sanctity of lifelong marriage," he said.
Civil celebrant of three years Maureen Meredith said weddings should reflect the couple getting married.Civil ceremonies had become more popular because of their flexibility and individuality. "I've married people in their backyards, on a yacht and even conducted a surprise wedding," she said.
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