Church of England: license to marry
One in three of all religious marriage ceremonies take place in the Church of England. There are four ways to affect the necessary preliminaries for an Anglican marriage. Only one of these may be used. Thus in order to obtain consent to get married in the Church of England, you must either
• publish banns, or
• obtain one of the following:
(i) a common ecclesiastical license
(ii) a ‘special’ license, also from the ecclesiastical authorities
(iii) a superintendent registrar’s certificate from the civil authorities.
(a) Publishing banns
‘Banns’ are the announcement of the names of the couple who intend to marry, and an appeal for possible objections. Banns have to be read aloud (‘published’) in the church of the parish where the couple are resident If they are resident in different parishes, the banns must be read in each parish church, in one or other of which the ceremony must take place. You and your husband-to-be live and work in the same parish in London. However, you decide you want to get married in a church in the village where your mother-in-law lives as she is not very mobile. Where the banns should be read? In this case, the banns will have to be read in the church in which you intend to get married as well as in the church of the parish in which you are resident. The priest needs seven days’ notice in writing from both parties before he can read the banns. He has to read them in ‘an audible manner’ in his church on three successive Sundays. If there is no objection from a member of the congregation, the marriage can take place at any time up to three months after the third reading of the banns. Any objection to the marriage must be voiced publicly in church by a member of the congregation after the banns are read. The banns are then void.
The purpose of the banns is clearly intended to ensure publicity for the intended marriage. Provided, therefore, that you do not intend to conceal your identity, you can publish the banns under a name by which you are generally known. You are known as Miss Roberts after the name of your stepfather although the name on your birth certt1cate is Smith (your father’s name). You publish your banns under the name of Roberts. Are they still valid? The answer is ‘yes’, provided there has been no attempt to conceal your identity.
(b) Common license
this dispenses with the banns and is granted by the bishop of the diocese. You must make a sworn statement in writing [an affidavit] that there is no impediment to the marriage, that any necessary parental consent has been given, and that you have resided in the parish for 15 days. Once granted, the license to marry takes immediate effect and remains valid for three months. It must specify the church in which the wedding is to take place. In general the church authorities advise this procedure for a marriage between a foreign person and a British subject or between two foreigners who wish to get married in a church of the Church of England.
(c) Special license
this is issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury and enables a marriage to take place at any time or place. It also dispenses with the residence period of 15 days. It might be applied for if, for example, one of the couple were seriously ill. To get such a license, a sworn statement is required with the same particulars as above.
Note: addresses for the issue of common license and special license by the ecclesiastical authorities . You are advised to approach the Vicar-General
(d) Superintendent registrar’s certificate
it is usual for a wedding in the Church of England to take place after publication of the banns or after obtaining a license from the church authorities (above). However, an Anglican wedding can take place after a superintendent registrar’s certificate to marry has been obtained.
The procedure is as follows:
The parties must give their notice to the superintendent registrar of the district in which they must have resided for at least seven days before giving notice. They must make a solemn declaration (not an affidavit) that
• there are no lawful impediments to their union
• they meet the residential requirement
and (in the case of persons between 16 and 18) that
• their parents have consented.
If the parties live in different districts, then notice must be given in each district. The notice, written into the notice book, is displayed in the superintendent registrar’s office for at least 21 days. At the end of that period provided there has been no objection the superintendent registrar’s certificate is issued. The marriage can take place in a church in the superintendent registrar’s district. The consent of the minister of the church must be obtained.