Please be aware that from 2nd March 2015 it is not lawful for the wedding of a non-European national to take place by Banns or Common Licence. Any references to marriage by Banns or Common Licences on this page below apply only to UK and European nationals. For further information on the marriages of non-European nationals, please see our page on Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates.
Q: Is a member of the clergy obliged to marry a parishioner?
A: Yes, unless either (a) one of the parties is divorced and the former spouse is still living, or (b) the marriage is prohibited by law owing to the relationship of the parties, or (c) one of the parties is a minor and the appropriate consent or consents have not been given.
Q: Is it possible to be married in my school or college chapel?
A: Yes, if the Faculty Office is prepared to grant a Special Licence.
Q: Can I be married in the church of the parish where my parents live?
A: The Church of England Marriage Measure 2008 allows a couple to be married by banns or by common licence in the church of a parish where a parent of a party to the proposed marriage has resided at any time for a period of not less than six months during the lifetime of the party concerned.
Q: Can I be married at any time of day?
A: A Church of England marriage must take place between 8.00am and 6.00pm. This is a legal requirement of the Church of England’s Canons (Canon B 35.3). The restriction contained in the Canon remains in force notwithstanding the change in the secular law (the repeal of section 4 of the Marriage Act 1949). See the guidance of the Church of England’s Legal Office for further information. The only exception to this is where a Special Licence has been granted, as this can theoretically authorise a marriage at any time of day or night. However, a Special Licence will only permit marriage outside the usual hours when medical necessity dictates this.
Q: Can a Roman Catholic (or other non-Anglican) be married in an Anglican church, even if it is not possible to have a Roman Catholic (or other) wedding service?
A: Yes. People of any faith can be married in an Anglican church, provided that the Anglican form of marriage service is used. An Anglican priest must conduct the service. For the marriage to be legally valid, there are certain parts of the Anglican marriage service which an Anglican priest must say, including the final blessing, but a clergyman of another denomination may assist with other parts of the service, for example, an address or prayers. There is a detailed discussion of this question in Legal Opinions Concerning the Church of England, 8th Ed. 2007 on pages 365-366.
Q: I live in a parish which is part of a benefice which has five parish churches. Can I be married in any parish church within the benefice?
A: If you have a “qualifying connection” with another parish in the same benefice (see The Church of England Marriage Measure 2008) the answer is yes. But normally, the answer is no, unless you are on the church electoral roll of the parish where you wish to be married, or unless you obtain a Special Licence. The Marriage Act allows people to have banns called in the church of any parish where they reside or are on the electoral roll, and then to be married in the church, or in one of the churches, where banns have been called. Likewise, a person can apply for a Common Licence to be married in the church of the parish where he or she resides, is on the electoral roll or has a “qualifying connection”. The key word is “parish”, not “benefice”. However, it is possible for the Bishop to make an order under Paragraph 12(4) of Schedule 3 of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, specifying where banns may be called and marriages solemnised in a multi-parish benefice. Effectively, this means that the Bishop can make an order saying that any person living within the benefice can have banns called in, and be married in, any church within the benefice. To summarise: you can be married in a church in a different parish in the same benefice if either:
- you can show a qualifying connection with the other parish (Church of England Marriage Measure 2008); or
- you are on the electoral roll of the parish where you wish to be married (Marriage Act 1949); or
- the Bishop has made an order allowing banns to be called in any parish in the benefice (Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011).
If none of the above apply, you will need to apply for a Special Licence.
Q: What is the correct terminology for describing the parties to a marriage in marriage certificates?
A: The Registrar General has amended the regulations on registration, following the coming into effect of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004. The terms “bachelor” and “spinster” are no longer to be used in marriage registers and certificates. The alternative terms to be used are as follows:
Previous marriage dissolved
Previous marriage annulled
Surviving civil partner
Previous civil partnership dissolved
Previous civil partnership annulled
The same terms will be used in applications for Common Licences.
Q: What wording should be used by a member of the clergy calling banns in a case where one of the parties to a proposed marriage has a qualifying connection under the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008?
A: The normal wording should be used for the banns, and there is no legal need or provision for referring to the party’s qualifying connection.
Q: How should banns be read if the parish in question is part of a multi-parish benefice, where services are not held in each church every Sunday?
A: The Marriage Act 1949 requires that banns are to be published on three Sundays preceding the marriage. There is no requirement that these should be three successive Sundays. The last of the three Sundays must be within three months of the wedding date. It should be possible therefore to fit the requirements for publication of the banns within the pattern of services at the parish church in question.
Q: Does my natural father’s name have to appear in the marriage register?
A: Normally, the natural father’s name should appear in the register. Where a person has been legally adopted, his or her adoptive father’s name may be entered without qualification. But if the party to the marriage is known by a surname different from that of his or her adoptive father, and the name and surname of the adoptive father are entered in column 7 of the register, then the words “adoptive parent” may be entered in brackets after the surname, if this is desired by the party. But occasionally one of the parties to a marriage may not wish his or her father’s name to appear, for example, if he or she has never known his or her natural father, or has been brought up by a step-father. In such case the minister should not insist on the natural parent’s name being entered, but should draw a line through the columns relating to the father’s names and profession, to show that the information was not supplied. However, since the coming into force of the Registration of Marriages (Amendment) Regulations 2007, it has been permissible to record a step-father’s name, instead of the natural father’s name, provided that the step-father is, or has been, married to the mother. Where a step-father’s name is entered, the word “step-father” should be entered after the surname.