A Common Licence is a Bishop’s permission for a marriage to take place in a particular church. In order to qualify for the issue of a Common Licence one or both of the parties to the proposed marriage must:
- have resided in the parish where the marriage is to take place for at least 15 days immediately preceding the date when the affidavit for the Common Licence is sworn; or
- be on the church electoral roll (Marriage Act 1949); or
- one of the parties must be able to show a qualifying connection with the parish (Church of England Marriage Measure 2008).
A Common Licence may not dispense a couple from any other legal requirements – such as the place or time of the marriage – or from any legal impediment to marriage. The reasons for which Common Licences might be considered appropriate include marriages where there is insufficient time for the banns to be read (but there is a genuine reason for the wedding to take place soon), or when one or both parties is living overseas, or where there is a relationship of affinity between the bride and groom, or, in rare cases, when the parties wish to avoid local publicity.
If either of the couple are non-European nationals, instead of a Common Licence (or banns), they must apply for a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate from the relevant civil register office. This has been the case since 2nd March 2015 when the law changed. If such a couple have any of the legal entitlements to marry in a parish church then a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate can now be obtained on the same basis as banns could have been previously. For example, if the bride has a ‘qualifying connection’ to the parish, neither she nor the groom need also to be currently residing in the parish at the point of applying for the Certificate. It is not the case that a British or European couple can obtain a Certificate on the basis of a ‘qualifying connection’ to the parish.
A Common Licence application should be made only when both the bride and groom have British / European nationality.
An application is made directly to a Surrogate for marriages, in person. A Surrogate is a member of the clergy who has been specially appointed for this role. There are a number of Surrogates appointed in parishes around the Diocese. The Diocesan Directory will list those appointed as Surrogates.
The appointment with the Surrogate, at which the Affidavit is sworn, must be within three months of the date of the wedding.
The granting of a licence takes place when the Surrogate takes the Affidavit from the bride or groom in person, under oath. The Surrogate then sends the Affidavit papers to the Registry for the written licence to be drawn up and posted to the officiating minister. An Affidavit invalidly taken (e.g. where the party does not have a legal qualification to be married in the parish) causes the licence to be invalid.
The original documents as evidence will need to be provided:
- Current passports or other sufficient proof of nationality and identity (the Surrogate or Diocesan Registry should be asked to advise if the bride and/or groom do not have valid passports)
- Evidence of address of both parties (an original recent document showing the name of the party and current address, such as a utility bill, bank statement, etc.)
- Evidence of church electoral roll membership or having a qualifying connection with the parish (if not resident in the parish)
The Surrogate will also need evidence that the couple have met with the minister in charge of the church where they wish to marry. Usually it will be the minister who refers a couple on to the Surrogate.
Where either or both of the parties have been married before, please see Marriage After Divorce.
Where a document which is produced is in a foreign language, the party concerned will usually be required to produce an official certified translation.
For the fees payable for a Common Licence, see Fees.