Marriage

 

The principal statutory sources of law applying to marriage in England are the Marriage Act 1949 and the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Can I be married in any church in the benefice where I live?

Under the Marriage Act 1949, a person could only be married in the church of a parish where he or she resided or was on the electoral roll. However, the various Pastoral Measures since 1949 have allowed a bishop to make an order in respect of a united benefice, so that anyone living in any parish of the benefice can have banns called and have the marriage solemnised in any other parish of the same benefice. In the Peterborough Diocese we currently have sixteen united benefices in respect of which such orders have been made. When the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008 introduced "qualifying connections", such connections applied only to a parish, not to any parish in the same benefice. Therefore, if a person had a qualifying connection with Parish A of a three-parish benefice, that qualifying connection did not allow that person to be married in Parish B or Parish C of the same benefice (unless there was an additional qualifying connection there), even if the Bishop had made an order under the Marriage Act and the Pastoral Measure. This anomaly has now been corrected, so that if a person only has a qualifying connection with Parish A, the qualifying connection extends to parish B and Parish C as well, but only if there is a bishop's order in place. (A bishop's order can extend to more than one benefice, if two or more benefices are held in plurality.)

Q2: Is a clergyman obliged to marry a parishioner?

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. 

Q3: Where can I be married if my parish has no parish church?

There are three options:

(1) You can be married in any church of a parish with which you have a qualifying connection under the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008 (see above).

(2) You can apply for a Special Licence to be married in a church or chapel or other place where you do not have a connection under the 2008 Measure, although in practice the Faculty Office will not normally issue a Special Licence unless you have some connection with the place where you wish to be married, for example, a school or college chapel.

(3) Under the Marriage Act, if a person lives in a parish which has no parish church (where, for example, there is a Parish Centre of Worship, which does not have the legal status of a parish church) or is on the electoral roll of a church which is not a "parish church", he or she has the right to be married in the parish church of any adjoining parish. When the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008 came into force and created "qualifying connections", a person having a connection with a parish with no parish church did not have a similar right to be married in the parish church of any adjoining parish. This is because the 2008 Measure only gave the person the right to be married in a church of a parish where he or she had a qualifying connection (e.g. where he or she used to live). This situation could give rise to a difficulty, because if a person lived in a parish with no parish church (Parish A), and booked a wedding in the church of an adjoining parish (Parish B), but then moved before the wedding to Parish C, the person could not have banns called in Parish B, because the qualifying connection was with Parish A, not Parish B. This difficulty has now been addressed by the Church of England Marriage (Amendment) Measure 2012. If a person has a qualifying connection with a parish with no parish church, they can now have banns called and be married in the parish church of any parish adjoining the parish where they have a qualifying connection.

Q4: What happens if the church in which I am to be married has to be closed for repairs or rebuilding?

Where a person is entitled under the Marriage Act to be married in a particular church (i.e. resident in the parish or on the church electoral roll), but that church has to be closed for repair or rebuilding, the parish can be treated as part of any adjoining parish. Therefore the person can have banns called and the marriage can be solemnised in the parish church of any adjoining parish. "Adjoining parish" means any parish physically adjoining the first parish. This could include a parish in a different benefice. It would not include another parish in the same benefice which is not contiguous with the first.) The Church of England Marriage (Amendment) Measure 2012 now provides that a similar arrangement will apply to a parish where a person has a qualifying connection. Thus, if a couple are planning to be married in a parish where they have a qualifying connection, but the church has to be closed temporarily at the time of the wedding, the couple will be treated as having a qualifying connection with any adjoining parish.

Q5: Is it possible to be married in my school or college chapel?

Yes, if the Faculty Office is prepared to grant a Special Licence. Contact details:

The Faculty Office

1 The Sanctuary

Westminster

London SW1P 3JT

Tel: 0207 222 5381

Email: faculty.office@1Thesanctuary.com).

 

Q6: Can I be married in the church of the parish where my parents live?

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. 

Q7: Can I be married at any time of day?

Special Licence can authorise a marriage at any time of day or night, but in the case of the other alternative preliminaries, the marriage must take place between 8.00am and 6.00pm

Q8: What is the cost of a Marriage Licence?

The fee payable for a Common Licence (issued by the Diocesan Registrar on behalf of the Bishop) is £200.00. This fee comprises a fee payable to the Surrogate (the person to whom the application is made) and fees payable to the Diocesan Registrar and to the Chancellor.

The fee payable for a Special Licence (issued by the Faculty Office in Westminster on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury) is £295.00. Once the application has been approved, one of the parties will have to swear an affidavit (a formal statement) to confirm the information given. This can be done in front of an Anglican minister (to whom a fee of £5.00 will be payable) near to where the parties to the proposed marriage reside, or at the Faculty Office (when no extra fee is charged). 

Q9: Can I have a Roman Catholic (or other non-Anglican) wedding in an Anglican church?

No. A Roman Catholic wedding in England must be preceded by civil preliminaries, and must take place in a registered building. An Anglican church is a not a "registered building" for this purpose.

Q10: 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?

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. 

Q11: Does my natural father's name have to appear in the marriage register?

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.