Texas Church Encourages Couples to Marry with Free Mass Wedding Day

Frustrated that many of their congregants were living together but not legally married, a church in Argyle, Texas took it upon itself to get these people hitched.

As part of a mass wedding on Saturday, 21 couples were wed back-to-back in individual ceremonies all under the roof of Cross Timbers church.

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“We realize we have lots of folks living together that aren’t married,” Pastor Toby Slough told the local CBS affiliate. “And were really big here at Cross Timbers of simply not just saying don’t do that but let us help you get in position for God’s best.”

According to research from the Pew Institute, “barely half of Americans over the age of 18 are married,” and the “overall number of married couples has declined by more than 20 percentage points since 1960.”

The reasons for the decline in marriages in the U.S. is manifold, but most of the Argyle couples said they had postponed their weddings for financial reasons. Bill and Diane Melder said they were waiting until they were “debt-free,” so they could have a “new start.”

In the U.S., the average wedding costs approximately $27,021, and New York couples can expect to spend $65,824, according to surveys done by wedding websites The Knot and Wedding Channel.

Cross Timbers paid the expenses for all 21 couples, everything from marriage counseling to the license and even the photographer. Though the term “mass-wedding” doesn’t exactly bring to mind an intimate ceremony, each couple received individual attention and use of the sanctuary. Bill Melder said the process exceeded his expectations.

Mass weddings aren't a new trend: on Valentine's Day, hundreds of couples were married on the steps of the Bexar County Courthouse in San Antonio, Texas, and the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon became famous for marrying thousands of his followers en masse in what he called "blessing ceremonies." But it’s not every church that literally puts its money where its mouth is and pays for its congregants to be married.

One groom expressed his appreciation, telling the local affiliate, “This was a big help. We appreciate the church caring enough to help us. We love each other and we wanted to take that next step.”

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