WEDDING bells may have been rung a little less in recent years as the number of people getting married in Oxfordshire churches plummets.

Figures show that in 2017, 2,020 Anglican couples opted to go down the aisle for a traditional wedding service in a parish church; 240 fewer than in the year before.

The drop is revealed in Church of England statistics for the Oxford Diocese. However, they show civil services remaining the same, at 150, for the same period.

READ AGAIN: Oxford newlyweds launch city-wide scout hunt for their missing marriage certificate

The decline in church weddings has been put down to a number of factors, including having less time for church attendance, greater ceremony options away from a church and a decline in organised religion.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 1900, religious ceremonies accounted for 85 per cent of all marriages, but by 1980 this had fallen to 50 per cent.

Since 1992, civil marriages have increasingly outnumbered religious one. And last year it was reported that the number of Roman Catholic weddings had fallen by twothirds since 1990.

Among the couples who did opt for a church wedding was Darren and Emily Wilson, who married at Our Lady’s St Edmunds RC Church in Abingdon on May 12, 2018.

Mrs Wilson, 25, said: “We chose a church wedding for two reasons: it was the church my parents got married in, so it had sentimental value, and I couldn’t see myself getting married anywhere other than a church.

“As Darren isn’t religious, and it meant a lot to me and my family, he was happy for us to have our service there.

“I think there’s something special about church weddings and it wouldn’t have been the same holding our ceremony anywhere else.”

READ AGAIN: Oxford United fan celebrates win with U's themed wedding 

The pair agreed that having a church wedding was a big commitment for some couples, as they had to attend church regularly and gain permission from the clergy.

Mr Wilson said: “I think not many people are religious nowadays and it’s more of a family tradition. I’m not religious at all, so to me it didn’t matter where I got married.

“People value property over marriage, especially when a lot of people are having kids earlier. I believe it’s more family traditions which keep church marriages alive.”

The couple added that the option to wed in so many other places also meant a lot more people were less likely to marry in a church.

Less traditional places for weddings and civil ceremonies in Oxfordshire include the Ashmolean Museum, Italian restaurant La Fontana in East Hanney and Oxford’s Bodleian Library, hotels, country estates, town halls and restaurants.

A couple who wed at Oxford Emily and Darren Wilson married at Our Lady’s St Edmunds, Abingdon, in May 2018. Picture: Aimee Kirkham, Oxford-Photography Naomi Herring CIVIL SERVICES: Modern life and many more options are being blamed for 200 fewer Anglican ceremonies Register Office, but who did not want to be named, said church weddings involved many more guests. One said: “I’d guess many people who only want a simple ceremony would probably choose a registry office over church.

Proceedings have a more personal feel, with vows centred on individuals rather than religious devotion.”

READ AGAIN: Unexpected baby delivery makes wedding day extra special

The country’s longest-serving Anglican minister, and Vicar of All Saints Church in Headington, the Rev James Cocke, said attitudes to attending church continued to be disrupted by modern life.

He said many had no strong connection with their local church, due to family moves and a large student population.