The principal law relating to marriage in Church of England parish churches is contained in The Marriage Act 1949. The Act provides that before a marriage can take place in a church, one of the following legal requirements must be fulfilled:
- The calling of Banns; or
- The issue of a Common Licence by the Bishop of the Diocese; or
- The issue of a Special Licence by the Archbishop of Canterbury; or
- The issue of a Superintendent Registrar’s certificate
Brexit, Banns & EEA/Swiss Nationals: The Home Office have confirmed that they do not intend to make any changes to the sham marriage scheme on or immediately after the UK has left the EU. This means that after the UK has left the EU, EEA nationals and Swiss nationals can continue to marry after Banns or by Common Licence. The definition of ‘relevant national’ in the Marriage Act 1949 will therefore still include EEA nationals and Swiss nationals, although a minor amendment is likely to be made to reflect that the UK will no longer be an EEA State.
This means that Clergy can reassure EU, EEA and Swiss nationals seeking to marry in 2019 and early 2020. The longer-term position still remains unclear, but the Home Office will consult before making any changes to the scheme or to marriage preliminaries relevant to the operation of the scheme. In the event that changes to the scheme are proposed, the Home Office will consider what, if any, transitional provisions are required.