• Alison Hodge
    ... a perennial question, what are the fees being charged for wedding ringing in your towers please?
  • Philip Pratt
    A lot of ringers and towers like to compare towers locally to them to determine whether they are charging the right fee, or not. Is this the right way to do it? Unless one tower makes a change to their fees, the fees will never be raised without someone stepping out of line.

    Is it not better for each church to do an assessment of the out-of-pocket expenses and reasonable rate of pay for the time, including traveling and waiting time for the skills provided, and base it around that?

    The following document gives a "national all-occupations hourly wage" (2019) of £13.21/hr, then if you require parking, public transport or driving your own vehicle (which HMRC deem £0.45/mile is a fair rate for the last eleven years) for someone to get to the church, including their time traveling. Most weddings ringing after only take about 1.5 - 2 hours out of someone's day.


    This then needs to incorporate the local situations and availability of ringers, some churches may struggle to get ringers, combined with how much should go into the tower bell fund. For a lot of churches, weddings are probably the main income for the tower.

    We need to bear in mind that for sole traders/self-employed with profits below £1000 a year, there is no requirement to register for self-assessment with HMRC, so non-registered ringers can be 'paid' for ringing without having to declare it - I'm sure there's a lot more to the HMRC rules too.

    The end result comes round to how much we and the wider society values bellringing, and it's not something I personally believe we should be under-valuing.

    Is £30 a rope 'after-only' a fair rate at today's prices plus one or two ropes worth to the tower fund? I know there are some places charging/paying more than that, but perhaps their local circumstances have higher expenses, or they value their time higher.
  • Simon Linford
    Maybe the Central Council should agree a standard rate with the CofE to be applied to all weddings to remove any uncertainty. I jest!
    Is there a recommended rate for organists though from the RCO? The organ is a bit different as in many places playing the organ is a paid job.
  • A J Barnfield
    From a personal point of view generally I don't ring for weddings as I can't be doing with all the hanging about. If I do ring I don't look to be paid as ringing is my hobby. However if I were to be paid offering me £20 is a bit of an insult; £200 or so might be closer to the mark.
    On the issue of the taxability of wedding income IIRC a few years back Steve Coleman contacted HMRC for clarification. Did he ever get a reply I wonder? Time to give him (and perhaps them) a nudge for an update?
    It looks like the page below is being maintained but from the dates in the right hand column much of the information is probably out of date. As always without routine information-gathering systems getting information in the first place is difficult and keeping it up to date almost impossible:

  • John Harrison
    in my experience the comparator has been the choir rather than the organist.
  • Nigel Goodship
    To answer the question, for the towers around the Lancaster Branch of the LACR it's £20 a rope. The bad news, for us, is that it's the local tradition to ring before and after, so that's not very much per hour. But as I see it, the amount is really just to recompense out of pocket expenses while we cheerfully indulge in our hobby and congratulate the happy couple in the traditional way. Or is it a fee for a skilled professional service?

    I do agree that each tower should just set its own fees as they deem appropriate and not just fit in with others in the area. Aren't cartels illegal anyway? :-)
  • Peter Sotheran
    I'm not sure that Simon's suggestion of a standard rate agreed with the CofE would work. I't wouldn't seem right to charge the same for a rural R&CC doubles band as it does for an eight, ten ot twelve bell band.

    We currently charge £100 for upto six bells and pay out £10 per rope for ringing after the service. The surplus goes into the tower/rope fund.
  • Simon Linford
    I also think it wouldn't work hence saying it was in jest! It is something that could quite easily have happened I think, maybe in the dim and distant past, if the Council had been asked by the Church to fix rates, but it's probably more likely to have been done on a Diocesan basis.
  • Alan C
    I think I was paid £15 for my first wedding, for which I felt I was over charging, so donated it to the tower :wink:

    It might be a case of a balance between asking for what the market will bear, and being charitable on a (hopefully) happy occasion. I've heard £20 a rope being mentioned as the going rate.
  • Beverley Sproats
    Here in Jersey it is £20 per rope and most weddings are in St. John's Church on a ring of 8. The fee goes into the Tower Fund except any juniors are paid £15 each.
  • Nick Cronin
    Whilst I don't mind ringing for somebody's wedding for £20, if I have nothing better to do, the money barely covers the cost of fuel and the National Minimum Wage of £10 per hour, or whatever it is.
    Ringing for a wedding totally destroys any chances of doing anything else with the day, especially when it is before and after AND the bride chooses to be 'fashionably' late.
    When we take a look at the money that the 'happy couple' are blowing on wedding dresses and bridal cars, which are never under £1,000 each and for the benefit of their special day, I think that we need to remember that they are asking 6 or more total strangers to give their skilled services on a, usually, Saturday afternoon when they could be enjoying family activities or a day or two away. Why pay over £1,000 for the car to take them to the wedding and to the reception with only one driver and expect a whole team of highly trained ringers to offer their services for a fraction of that cost?
    I have no idea what we should be paid, but compared to what they happily pay for other services I think that offering £20 for ringing before and after, as is often the case is an gross under-valuation to the band that have been asked to ring.
    This is one of those issues that does really need to have some serious thought put into it, maybe by the CCCBR, and some general guidelines of what is considered reasonable in terms of reimbursement for ringers' time and expense would be very helpful.
    To start the ball rolling how about a suggestion:-
    £50 to the tower funds plus
    £40 per rope
    If before and after ringing, add £30
    Ringing for 30 minutes before the SCHEDULED time of the service, then stop (whether the bride has arrived or not)
    Allow 30 minutes for the service (or whatever length of time the minister estimates) then ringing will recommence for 30 minutes. Then we go home.
    If that is all made clear to the couple before the event they will have no grounds to be put out if the ringing is not timed exactly as they want it and the ringers can plan THEIR day.
    I know that a big increase in what has been charged in most towers of late, but what does a set of ropes, or a rehang cost? What is the cost of living doing? How much have they just paid for an over-priced, tarted-up sponge cake?
  • Steven Hughes
    We offer a choice, either ringing out only for £250 or in and out for £300. If its out only then its £25 for the ringer, + £10 to 2 ringers to go and ring the bells up on the morning of the wedding + £50 into the tower fund. If its in and out then its £30 per ringer and +£60 into the tower fund.

    All couples are told that if ringing before the service then we will stop ringing at the scheduled start of the service. When ringing afterwards we will stop an hour after the scheduled start of the service. This is done with the full agreement of our clergy and PCC. Since this was started about 15 years ago it is very rare for us to have a bride which is more than a coupe of minutes late.
  • Simon Linford
    I visited a tower last night and they were comparing wedding money in the pub. I reported £20 as being fairly standard but this was more than they were charging.

    The more interesting discussion point however was how long to ring for. The ring for 15 minutes afterwards based on what they think the attendees expect/value - ringing as the couple emerge from the church, accompaniment as all other guests emerge, some ringing while they are milling around in churchyard, but then no need to accompany all of the photo taking with bells. The effect has worn off by then.

    They also said how one of their relatives had thought that change ringing was when the bells had gone wrong, and that only rounds was 'right'. That was an interesting one!
  • John Harrison
    maybe that's because the change ringing did go wrong, or wasn't as well struck as the rounds.
    We generally ring for 20 minutes. We used to look outside to see if the crowd was still there, but I don't recall anyone doing that lately.
  • DRJA Dewar
    Relating to Mr Linford's earlier musing upon how it works for organists, here is how I and others approach it.

    Frst, the ISM,RSCM,RCO provide standard contracts for the relationship between Incombent (in the CofE) and the principal musician. The Incumbent employs the Director of Music, Organist & Choirmaster, organist, or whichever title is used (depending on responsibilities), and the PCC has the responsibility to pay the agreed (in the contract with the Incumbent) remuneration.

    Secondly, according to Canon B20 of the CofE, the Incumbent must pay due attention and weight to points of musical matters raised by the church's principal musician.

    Thirdly, the contract provided contains clauses about 'incidental fees, etc.. Thus, for weddings a fee is agreed at the start of the contract, with periodical reviews, for the basic aspect of playing for a wedding, and interviewing the protagonists before the event. (This basic aspect includes playing the music, and guiding the choices for suitability of music, what is appropriate aesthetically and religiously, what can the instrument reasonably do.) If audio or video recordings are likely to be used, an additional fee will usually be charged - with the proviso that no recordings may be made without the agreement and the fee, and the player is entitled to refuse to allow such recordings. Any recordings of the player's performance are subject to the usual legal restraints. A video would normally attract a fee of 100% of the basic contract fee.

    Fourthly, the full fee(s) are payable to the resident organist, even if someone else is employed (with the resident organist's permission in advance) to perform.

    Fifthly, the impact of photographers overreaching themselves (both professional and amateur), and other disgraceful matters (CDs, etc.) have now led many musicians to refuse to play for weddings - or to play on a freelance basis for very few, provided the fee is high enough (i.e. considerably higher than the contract rates.)

    Sixthly, the contracts above, and the rates dependent on the type of church, the status (professional or amateur) of the musician, the need or otherwise to direct a choir, as well as the terms and conditions, are updated regularly.

    Seventhly, the contract element of weddings often includes a clause such as to allow the musician to leave after a wait for a bride of 10 mins after the agreed starting time. Many musicians may well have a schedule of weddings in different places to attend during a day.

    I guess the CCCBR is the relevant body to provide a pro forma contract for wedding ringers in churches, and is the only such body.

    The ISM/RSCM/RCO contracts for musicians are, in my experience, very helpful. Particularly in present times, when fees are being attacked from all sides, including those which might be expected to be aware of the need to make a living. (In the sense, that, being a church musician, or a ringer, requires considerable skill, talent, and experience, acquired at considerable cost and time - and this should be taken into account alongside the costs of being available if agreed, at the appropriate time.

    Finally, if my grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax is awry, above, I plead the fact of have cataract surgery yesterday p.m., and as yet somewhat blurred eyesight
  • Alison Everett
    An interesting thread. We've had this perennial chat on our local Association facebook group, the varied rate and the ringing before and after. No one size fits all is clear, like the ringers themselves. Regarding mileage expenses, perhaps I should another thread, if 45p per mile has been used by HMRC for 11 years is it due to increase and how does it compare with volunteering expenses policies? https://www.gov.uk/volunteering/pay-and-expenses#:~:text=Pay%20and%20expenses-,Pay%20and%20expenses,back%20more%20than%20you%20spent.
  • Peter Sotheran
    Picking up Alison's comment about mileage, the paltry 45p/mile allowed by HMRC is little more than half the actual cost of running a car. Take depreciation, insurance, a regular service, fuel, cost of one tyre per year and perhaps toss in an MOT test and divide the total by your annual mileage. In my case the answer is 84p/mile. One solution might be to double my mileage in order to reduce the pence-per-mile but since retirement and the recent Covid lockdowns, my annual mileage continues to reduce.
  • John Harrison
    the mileage rate is intended to be the marginal cost, is the cost of using the car for that journey rather than leaving it in the garage. It is not intended to cover the cost of owning the car.
  • Richard Munnings
    With the costs associated with weddings, would brides and grooms flinch if we charged £50 (even £100) a rope? Or would that then be too much for tax purposes?
  • Eileen Butler
    Here in Philly we charge $250 for weddings. This is whether we ring before, after or both and whether we are 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 ringers. This money goes into our "ringers bank account". If any of us have to pay for parking at our Center City tower, it would be reimbursed out of the fee collected. Easy, peasy!
  • Nick Cronin
    Too much for tax purposes?

    The current regulations regarding self-employment are, as I understand it in the case of one of my businesses, that if the income of the business is less than £1,000 per annum it does not need to be declared - which is why there is not any interest from HMRC in the fees paid to us for the odd occasions on which we receive them.

    I would be interested to hear a view from HMRC as to whether they would really want to know about it if we should exceed that income figure. Technically we would have to produce an annual income and expenditure figure which would show our only income as the wedding fees, etc. received. On the other side of the account we would have to declare ALL of the expensditure that we had incurred in the course of our bellringing: travel to our professional ringing (weddings, etc) and training (practice nights and guild/association meetings) at their allowed rate of 45p per mile, our professional affiliations (guild/association membership subs), the tower fund donations that we make at practice nights and so on.

    Whilst this may not take a tremendous lot of effort on our part, merely a cash book which we would add up at the end of each year, the fact that, almost inevitably, we would ALL be showing a loss on the books at the end of the year would mean that bell ringing could very easily reduce our personal taxation burden rather than increase it.

    Incidentally, I have heard figures of over £150 per guest being charged by reception venues. Many towers are embarrassed to ask that much for a team of ringers for their services ringing both before and after a wedding. We need to put a realistic market value on the services that we are offering!
  • A J Barnfield
    If on a rare occasion I ring for a wedding I don't think I am working. I am not looking for financial gain. It is my hobby. I am not under a contract. I probably would not want any money for turning up and ringing but if someone did shove a few pounds in my hand on what basis would it be taxed?
  • John Harrison
    you may not be under a written contract, but the church is, and enters into the contract based on a trust/presumption that the ringers will use their best endeavours to provide the service.
  • A J Barnfield
    I can see that there is almost certainly a contract between the church and who ever is paying for the wedding as there is an agreement and a consideration. I don't think that there is one between me and anyone; as noted above I am not looking to be paid.
  • Simon Linford
    I know enough about legal contracts never to offer 'best' endeavours for anything! Sometimes I might agree to 'all reasonable'.
  • John Harrison
    agreed. Had I been writing a contract I might have used different words. My point was that the understanding with the ringers is that they will try to back up the PCC contract.
    In fact for weddings during the week the couple is told that we will try to get eight ringers but might only be able to get six.
  • Julia Lysaght
    I wish we got paid for weddings here. I have to ask for my fee and it comes over as greedy. We are either told that the bride and/or groom has a connection with the church (well, duh, surely that's why they've chosen this church) or that the money goes straight to the church funds. No one ever queries this. Can someone tell me how to persuade the various TCs I ring with that we are earning a wage? I might donate mine to the church or equally I might buy mars bars with it, but I consider it's my money to do as I like with. And all but one of the towers I ring at are an hour or more away in the car, plus parking, so I'd at least like to cover my expenses.
  • Alison Hodge

    Julia - would any of the article on the link help - its now rather old? (Can Steve Coleman or someone else provide us with an update please?) Not a direct answer to your question but shows that contributions to expenses for wedding ringing are reasonable.

    For the distance that you mention plus parking etc, surely it is a reasonable request, regardless of church connections. £200 shared by 8 ringers is a tiny sum compared with the huge sums paid out for all the other wedding expenses, not to mention hen / stag nights, honeymoon etc. Even £200 each (as suggested by AJB above) is still dwarfed by other wedding expenses!
  • John Harrison
    Does the organist play for nothing, the choir sing for nothing, or the priest officiate for nothing? If not you could reasonably ask why you should ring for nothing.
    You could also quite reasonably decide that you have more profitable things to do with your time.
  • Julia Lysaght
    Precisely, Alison and John, thank you.
    I wish I had the courage to say "No Fee No Ring".
    If the CCCBR set a minimum fee, would that help, or would it just give towers an excuse to be stingy?
  • John de Overa
    I wish I had the courage to say "No Fee No Ring"Julia Lysaght

    If you don't want to confront it head on, I'd just become permanently unavailable on wedding days, because I needed to iron the cat or somesuch. Nobody else has a right to demand your time.
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