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Marriage CertificateMARRIAGE

Banns
Common Licence
Marriage of Foreign Nationals
Marriage Law News
Special Licence
Superintendent Registrar's Certificate
The Church of England Marriage Measure 2008
Marriage After Divorce
Marriage of Unbaptised Persons
Frequently Asked Questions
Recommended Reading for Clergy

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:

  1. The calling of Banns; OR
  2. The issue of a Common Licence by the Bishop of the Diocese; OR
  3. The issue of a Special Licence by the Archbishop; OR
  4. The issue of a Superintendent Registrar's Certificate.

Banns

Where a marriage is to take place in the parish church of the parish where one of the parties resides, the Banns must be called in that church and in the parish church of the parish where the other party to the marriage resides. If the marriage is to take place in the church of a parish where neither party resides, but in a church which is the "usual place of worship" of one of the parties (i.e. one of the parties is on the church electoral roll of that church), or in a church with which one of the parties can show a Qualifying Connection under the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008, Banns must be called in that church, as well as in each of the parishes where the parties reside.

Where there is a parish with no parish church, or where there is a parish church which does not have a service every Sunday, or the parish church is temporarily closed for repairs, the parish can be treated as part of any adjoining parish, so that Banns may be called in the church of any adjoining parish and the marriage solemnised there.

If a couple wish to be married in the church of a parish where neither resides or is on the church electoral roll, and where neither can claim a Qualifying Connection under the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008, they will need to apply instead for a Special Licence (but see the question below which deals with multi-parish benefices).

An application for the calling of Banns must be made to the minister of each parish where Banns are to be called. Banns must be called on three Sundays (not necessarily consecutive Sundays) prior to the wedding and a certificate of publication must be obtained.

A marriage after the calling of Banns must be solemnized within three months of the last occasion on which Banns were called.

The Church of England Marriage (Amendment) Measure 2012 has made some important changes regarding the time of calling of Banns. Banns of marriage may now be called either during the principal Sunday service only or at both the principal service and another service on the same day. If Banns are called at two services on the same day, that only counts as one calling of Banns. “Principal service” means the service at which, in the minister's opinion, the greatest number of persons who habitually attend public worship are likely to attend. Thus, for example, if more people are likely to attend a sung evensong on a Sunday, rather than a morning Communion service, then the Banns should be called at that evensong service only, or else at both services.

The Marriages Regulations prescribe the "specified evidence" a couple need to produce to establish that they are both UK/Irish citizens when they apply to have their Banns published or apply for a Common Licence. The attached checklist may be of assistance to clergy.

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Common Licence

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, either (a) one of the parties to the proposed marriage must have lived in the parish where the marriage is to take place for at least 15 days immediately preceding the date when the application for the Common Licence is made, or else must be on the church electoral roll (Marriage Act 1949) or (b) one of the parties must be able to show a Qualifying Connection with the church (Church of England Marriage Measure 2008).

An application for a Common Licence may be made by prior appointment at the office of the Diocesan Registrar in Peterborough. However, for those living at some distance from the Diocesan Registry, an application may be made instead to one of a number of clergy around the diocese who have been appointed Surrogates for receiving marriage licence applications.

A Common Licence is valid for only three months, and so normally an application for a licence should not be made until within three months of the proposed wedding date. However, where there are special circumstances, such as one party having been previously married (see Marriage After Divorce, below), the Registrar may be contacted much earlier, in order that such issues can be considered well before the proposed wedding date.

Where one or both of the parties live outside England and Wales (but is/are a UK/Irish citizen (see below)) the marriage cannot take place by Banns, because the law requires the Banns to be called in the place of residence (within England and Wales) of each party as well as in the place where the marriage is to be solemnised. In this case an application for a Common Licence should be made.

Please see the Fees page for details of the fees payable for a Common Licence.

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Marriage of Foreign Nationals

Following the UK's exit from the EU and the end of the transition period on the 31st December 2020, EU free movement ended meaning that EEA citizens and their family members now require permission to enter and remain in the UK. EEA citizens and their family members who were lawfully resident in the UK before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 were required to regularise their immigration status by making an application to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) for Settled Status (or Pre-Settled Status if they had not been resident in the UK for at least 5 years before making the application) before the end of the grace period on 30 June 2021. EUSS status may be granted to any nationality provided they meet the eligibility and suitability requirements of the EU Settlement Scheme.For these purposes EEA citizens are:

Austria Greece Norway
Belgium Hungary Poland
Bulgaria Iceland Portugal
Cyprus Italy Republic of Ireland
Czech Republic Latvia Romania
Denmark Liechstenstein Slovakia
Estonia Lithuania Portugal
Finland Luxembourg Spain
France Malta Sweden
Germany Netherlands Switzerland

Following 30 June 2021, an EEA citizen who wishes to marry in the Church of England (CofE) and who does not hold Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status under the EUSS is no longer be permitted to be married after the calling of Banns or the issue of a Common Licence but instead they will have to give notice of their intention to marry at a register office and be issued with a Superintendent Registrar's Certificate (SRC). This means that EEA citizens who do not hold Settled or Pre-Settled Status will be treated the same as all other foreign nationals have been since 2nd March 2015 when the sham marriage referral and investigation scheme came into being. Irish citizens will continue to be exempt from the EUSS and will be free to enter the UK without permission and to marry after Banns or by Licence.

What do the changes mean for Anglican weddings?

Any wedding taking place in the CofE where either or both of the parties are non-UK/Irish citizens and who do not have Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status under the EUSS will only be able to take place on the authority of an SRC (or a Special Licence - see below) and it will be illegal for the wedding to take place after the calling of Banns or by Common Licence. As these changes are likely to result in a significant increase in Anglican weddings where an SRC is required, all register offices in England & Wales will be designated for the purpose of giving notice and a couple will be required to give notice together and in person at a register office in the district where one or both of the parties reside. EEA citizens travelling to the UK in order to marry will require a mandatory marriage visitor visa issued through the British embassy in the country where they normally reside before coming to the UK.

What this means for clergy is that they will be required to check that couples are either UK or Irish citizens (by seeing an in-date Passport) or that any other national has Settled Status or Pre- Settled Status under the EUSS before agreeing to call Banns of Marriage. Surrogates for Marriage and others responsible for the issue of Common Licences will also need to check. Note that it is possible for a non-EEA citizen to have been granted Settled Status if they are a family member of an EEA citizen.

How do clergy and others check whether a person has Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status?

The answer is that there is a simple to use online status checker tool. A person with EUSS status is required to share their status through the online EUSS status checker tool. The holder must request a six digit 'share code' to provide to the member of the clergy either before or at their initial appointment to give notice to marry. The person's name, date of birth and code will be used to confirm that the person has been granted EUSS status.

The six digit share code will be requested on the 'view and prove your settled or pre-settled status page' on GOV.UK at: https://www.gov.uk/view-prove-immigration-status. The member of the clergy needs to input the person's name, date of birth and code into the EUSS online status checker tool on the 'check someone's settled or pre-settled status' page on GOV.UK': https://www.gov.uk/view-prove-immigration-status. The result will display details of the person, including a photograph, to enable clergy to confirm that the person does have the required status.

Couples resident abroad

Where a couple are normally resident abroad and one or both of them are non-UK/Irish citizens without an EUSS status, then in order to marry in a CofE church which is licensed for marriages, they would need to apply for SRCs.

They would both need to be resident in England or Wales for the minimum qualifying residence period for an SRC (ie 7 clear days, not counting the day of arrival in the England or Wales) before they can give notice to marry at the register office of the registration district where they have been residing. As is the case with all SRCs, there is then a 28 day waiting period (which can be extended up to 70 days if the application is referred under the sham marriage scheme) before the SRCs are issued. The couple do not need to be resident during the notice period but may need to be available for an interview if called upon as part of the referral.

If the couple already have a Qualifying Connection with the parish where the wedding is to take place, their pre-notice residence period can be in any registration district in England or Wales and their notice would be given in the register office of that district. However, if they do not have a pre-existing Qualifying Connection then their period of residence must be in the parish where the wedding is due to take place and give notice in the registration district which covers that parish in order to qualify for an SRC to be married in the parish church.

Special Licences

The changes noted above do not affect Special Marriage Licences issued through the Faculty Office (see below) and these will continue to be available to permit the marriage of couples regardless of their nationality or EUSS status. However, in accordance with the policy which the Faculty Office adopted since the March 2015 changes came into force, they will not issue a Special Licence in circumstances where another legal preliminary is available.

Marriage Law News

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Church weddings are now possible again. Government guidance changes on a regular basis and for up to date information, please click on the following link: Coronavirus (Covid-19) Guidance for Churches

Marriage Registration

The way in which marriages are registered changed following the passing of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 which, as well as providing for opposite-sex couples to be able to enter into civil partnerships, allows for mothers' names to be included in marriage registers as well as/in place of fathers' names. It also makes provision for significant changes in the way that marriages are registered.

These changes are significant, both for the clergy and the couples, and it is essential that all clergy who conduct marriages are aware of the procedure to ensure that the law is complied with and that couples' marriages are validly conducted and properly registered.

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Special Licence

The Archbishop of Canterbury has the right to grant a Special Licence for a marriage to take place at any convenient time or place in England or Wales. The issue of a Special Licence is discretionary. The most common need for a Special Licence is if the parties wish to be married in a church or chapel of a parish where neither resides or is on the church electoral roll, and where neither can show a Qualifying Connection under the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008. Another common reason is if the parties wish to be married elsewhere than in a building which is authorised for marriage according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, for example, a school or college chapel.

Enquiries about a Special Licence should be made to:

The Faculty Office ,
1 The Sanctuary,
Westminster,
London SW1P 3JT

Tel: 0207 222 5381

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

See also Fees

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Superintendent Registrar's Certificate

A Superintendent Registrar of a civil Register Office may issue a Certificate to permit a marriage to take place in an Anglican church. One of the parties must have the required 7 days' residence within both the registration district and the parish where the marriage is to take place before applying for the Certificate, or the church must be the usual place of worship of one or both of the parties. A Superintendent Registrar's Certificate cannot be issued where the couple only have a Qualifying Connection (unless one or both are UK/Irish citizens who do not have Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status under the EUSS (see Marriage of Foreign Nationals above)) (see below). The Registrar enters the details of the parties in a book which is open to public inspection and also displays a notice at the Register Office for 28 days. If no impediments are shown within the period of 28 days, a Superintendent Registrar's Certificate can be issued. In practice clergy will recommend Banns or a Common Licence (except in the case of a non-UK/Irish citizen(see above)).

The marriage of non-UK/Irish citizens who do not have Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status in the Church of England by Superintendent Registrar's Certificate are now required in any situation where previously the publication of Banns or Common Licence could have been the legal preliminary for the marriage. This includes cases where the bride and/or groom have a 'Qualifying Connection' under the 2008 Marriage Measure to the parish. This is not the case for UK/Irish citizens; the Superintendent Registrar's Certificate procedure will be available to them only in the more limited circumstances explained above. It will remain rare for the marriage of UK/Irish citizens to take place in the Church of England by Superintendent Registrar's Certificate.

Couples applying for a Superintendent Registrar's Certificate should read the government's website pages which can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/marriages-civil-partnerships

These include contact details for local (civil) register offices. Each register office will usually have its own website explaining the procedures in greater detail.

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The Church of England Marriage Measure 2008

Under the Marriage Act 1949, a person may only be married by Banns or Common Licence in the church of a parish where he or she resides or is on the church electoral roll. The aim of the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008 is to allow couples to be married by Banns or Common Licence, rather than by Special Licence, in a parish where one of the parties can show that he or she has a "Qualifying Connection".

A person has a Qualifying Connection with a parish if:

The references to baptism, confirmation and marriage, and to attending public worship, are all confined to services according to the rites of the Church of England.

The Measure came into force on 1st October 2008. The House of Bishops has issued some Guidance on the Measure, which includes a marriage information form, for use by clergy. See also, the Church of England web site.

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Marriage After Divorce

In July 2002, General Synod decided to rescind the marriage resolutions of the Convocations of Canterbury and York, which had urged clergy not to use the marriage service in the case of anyone who had a former partner still living. In November 2002, the House of Bishops issued Advice to Clergy concerning the procedure to be followed when one of the applicants for a marriage licence is a divorced person with a former spouse still living. The Archbishop of Canterbury decided in 2003 to review the policy concerning the issue of Special Licences, and invited the House of Bishops to consider and comment on his proposals. In January 2004, the House of Bishops discussed the issue of both Special and Common Licences in respect of those being married in church after divorce and also where neither party to the marriage has been baptised. The House voted to support the Archbishop's proposals regarding the issue of Special Licences and agreed that the same policy should apply to the issue of Common Licences by Diocesan Bishops.

The General Synod Office has produced for enquiring couples a Form and Explanatory Statement concerning marriage in church after divorce. In future, when a couple wish to apply for a Common Licence, if one of them is a divorced person with a former spouse still living, the clergyman concerned should interview the couple, in accordance with the Advice to Clergy, and ask the couple to complete the Form and Explanatory Statement. The completed form should be submitted with the application for a Common Licence to the Diocesan Registrar, who will seek the advice of the Bishop.

Whilst parishioners normally have the right to be married in the parish church of the parish where they live, a clergyman or woman is entitled by law to refuse to remarry a divorced person in church whilst the former spouse is still living. (See Section 8 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1965.)

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Marriage of Unbaptised Persons

It was formerly the practice that, where neither party was baptised, an application for a Common Licence should be referred to the Bishop. At a meeting in January 2004, the House of Bishops agreed that the unbaptised status of one or both parties should no longer be a bar to the grant of a Common Licence. Accordingly there is no longer a need to refer an application to the Bishop where neither party is baptised.

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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 or woman 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 2012 Measure. 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.
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. See the Opinion of the Legal Advisory Commission concerning the timing of marriage services.
Q8: What is the cost of a Special Licence?
The fee payable for a Special Licence (issued by the Faculty Office in Westminster on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury) is £325.00 (as from 1 August 2018). 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: What is the correct terminology for describing the parties to a marriage in marriage certificates?
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:
Single
Widow
Widower
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.
Q12: What is the correct wording for the calling of Banns?
The words prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer are:

"I publish the Banns of marriage between N of ------- and N of ------. If any of you know cause or just impediment, why these two person should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is for the first [second or third] time of asking."

The Church of England Marriage (Amendment) Measure 2012 provides that the following alternative wording may be used:

"I publish the Banns of marriage between NN of ..... and NN of .....
This is the first/second/third time of asking.
If any of you know any reason in law why they may not marry each other you are to declare it."
Q13: What wording should be used by a clergyman 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?
The normal wording referred to in the prevous answer should be used for the Banns, except that at the point where the Banns refer to the person with the Qualifying Connection, the words "N of the parish of ------" should be changed to "N of the parish of ------ who wishes to be married in this church by virtue of his/her connection with this parish".
Q14: One of the parties to a proposed marriage is divorced. Is it necessary to mention the status of the parties when Banns are published?
No. It is not necessary to mention the status when calling banns.
Q15: 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.
Q16: What should be done if a clergyman makes an error in a marriage document?
See the Guide for Clergy, published by the General Register Office.

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Recommended Reading for Clergy:

ANGLICAN MARRIAGE IN ENGLAND AND WALES - A GUIDE TO THE LAW FOR CLERGY
The Faculty Office booklet Anglican Marriage in England and Wales : A Guide to the Law for Clergy, priced £7.50, can be ordered online directly from teh Faculty Office.
GUIDE FOR CLERGY
The General Register Office has produced an excellent Guide for Clergy in relation to the Marriage and Registration Acts.
CLERGY NEWSLETTERS
Clergy Newsletters, prepared by the General Register Office, can be viewed or downloaded at the Government Web Site
MARRIAGE IN CHURCH AFTER DIVORCE (GS1361)
A discussion document commissioned by the House of Bishops. Available from Church House Publishing. £5.00 ISBN-13: 9780715138335

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