Category Archives: Marriage Law News

Changes to Marriage Registration – Information for Clergy

You may already be aware that the way in which marriages are registered is set to change following the passing into law 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, will allow for mother’s names to be included in Marriage Registers as well as/in place of father’s names. It also makes provision for significant changes in the way that marriages are registered.

Representatives of the Faculty Office and the Legal Offices of the Church of England and Church in Wales have been in discussion with the General Register Office (GRO) about the proposed changes which they under pressure from Government Ministers to bring into effect as soon as possible – and despite our collective representations, the GRO are currently proposing to bring in the changes before the end of the year. A number of issues remain to be resolved including the provision of a workable secure system to produce the new documentation and time to train the 20,000+ clergy who are able to conduct weddings in both Churches.

In essence the proposals will replace Marriage Registers and Marriage Certificates (issued at the time of the wedding) with a Marriage Document which will be prepared by the officiating priest before the wedding. At the ceremony, the Marriage Document will be signed by the couple, their witnesses and the officiating priest (in much the same way as the Registers are currently). The significant difference is that the couple will then need to ensure that the Marriage Document is deposited at the local Register Office within 7 days of the date of the wedding and the local Superintendent Registrar will then record the details and issue the couple with a Marriage Certificate (for which there will be a fee). The couple can ask someone to lodge the Marriage Document on their behalf (as in many cases they will, of course, be on honeymoon!) but it is their responsibility, NOT the officiating minister’s responsibility, to ensure that it is done.

As an interim measure, the Marriage Document will be available in a number of formats, including a manual format and a ‘type and print’ facility. The Regulations envisage that eventually there will be a secure online portal to which clergy will require access as there is provision for couples to be reminded by email from the General Register Office if they have not lodged the Document within the required period.

For marriages that currently take place by Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates, the SRC will be replaced by a “Marriage Schedule” which will be produced by the Register Office taking Notice of the Marriage and that Schedule will then be signed by all the parties including the officiating priest once the marriage has taken place and, again, will have to be lodged with the Register Office within 7 days.

Immediately following implementation, the existing marriage register books held in churches will need to be closed. The incumbent, or in a vacancy the Area/Rural Dean, will be responsible for closing the registers by striking through any unused entry spaces. One copy of the register will then need to be returned to the local Superintendent Registrar together with any unused marriage certificate stock. The other copy of the register is to be retained in the church until such time as it is to be deposited in the Diocesan Record Office.

There is a proposal that, in due course there will be a register book for marriages solemnized in Anglican churches in the same way as for baptisms, confirmations and burials. However that will be an internal matter for the CofE and nothing to do with the GRO and it will not be the legal record of marriages, nor will be certificates issued from it. The Legal Office will advise further on this in due course. It is not immediately clear if the Church in Wales has anything similar in mind.

Before the new system goes live, some training will be provided by the GRO. However, it is unlikely that the GRO will have the resources to provide face-to-face training for all clergy and there will need to be a degree of co-operation with the dioceses. The GRO will however provide “awareness” (probably online and by mail-out) and a dedicated helpline available Monday – Saturday as well as a 24 hour emergency line. It is also intended to provide a printed aide-memoire to be placed in the vestry and which will include the emergency numbers and reminder of the new system. As regard training on the new system, it has been agreed that the Diocesan Registrars will be the most appropriate point of contact for the GRO to co-ordinate this.

These changes are significant, both for clergy and the couples, and it is essential that all clergy who conduct marriages are aware of them to ensure that the law is complied with and that couples’ marriages are validly conducted and properly registered. As further details become available we will post details on our website and Church House, Westminster and The Representative Body of the Church in Wales will also communicate the details through the dioceses and any relevant national networks.

Faculty Office
5 August 2019

Changes to Marriage Registration

Changes to Marriage Registration – The way in which marriages are registered is set to change following the passing into law 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, will allow for mother’s names to be included in Marriage Registers as well as/in place of father’s names. It also makes provision for significant changes in the way that marriages are registered.

Representatives of the Faculty Office and the Legal Offices of the Church of England and Church in Wales have been in discussion with the General Register Office about the proposed changes which the Government are keen to bring into effect as soon as possible – but no implementation date has yet been confirmed. A number of issues remain to be resolved including the provision of a workable secure system to produce the new documentation and time to train the 20,000+ clergy who are able to conduct weddings in both Churches.

In essence, the proposals will replace Marriage Registers and Marriage Certificates (issued at the time of the wedding) with a Marriage Document which will be prepared by the officiating priest before the wedding. At the ceremony, the Marriage Document will be signed by the couple, their witnesses and the officiating priest (in much the same way as the Registers are currently). The significant difference is that the couple will then need to ensure that the Marriage Document is deposited at the local Register Office within 7 days of the date of the wedding and the local Superintendent Registrar will then record the details and issue the couple with a Marriage Certificate. The couple can ask someone to lodge the Marriage Document on their behalf (as in many cases they will, of course, be on honeymoon!) but it is their responsibility (not the officiating minister’s responsibility) to ensure that it is done.

How the Marriage Document is produced remains one of the significant areas under discussion. The Regulations envisage that this will be some form of secure online portal to which clergy will need access as there is provision for couples to be reminded by email from the General Register Office if they have not lodged the Document within the required period. In the shorter term, it is likely that clergy will be issued with a stock of Marriage Documents (similar to the books of Marriage Certificates which are currently provided by the GRO).

For marriages that currently take place by Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates, the SRC will be replaced by a “Marriage Schedule” which will be produced by the Register Office taking Notice of the Marriage and that Schedule will then be signed by all the parties including the officiating priest once the marriage has taken place and, again, will have to be lodged with the Register Office within 7 days.

Before the new system goes live, training will be provided by the GRO (probably in conjunction with clergy training offered through Dioceses/Diocesan Registries). Please keep an eye out for the training as the changes are significant and it essential that all clergy who conduct marriages are aware of them to ensure that the law is complied with and that couples’ marriages are validly conducted and properly registered. Once a timetable for implementation of the new registration regime and training provisions are known, we will post details on our website and Church House, Westminster and The Representative Body of the Church in Wales will do their best to communicate the details through the dioceses and any relevant national networks.

GRO Clergy Newsletter

The latest issue of the General Register Office Clergy Newsletter has been issued. Of particular note to clergy is that the fee for the issue of a Marriage Certificate has been increased to £11.00 with effect from 16th February and that the two tier fee system for church weddings has been replaced with a single fee regardless of when the Certificate is issued (ie at the wedding ceremony itself or afterwards). A full copy of the newsletter is available here: Clergy Newsletter February 2019

Brexit, Banns & EEA Nationals

Brexit, Banns & EEA/Swiss Nationals: The Home Office have confirmed that they do not intend to make any changes to the sham marriage scheme on or immediately after the UK has left the EU.  This means that after the UK has left the EU, EEA nationals and Swiss nationals can continue to marry after Banns or by Common Licence.  The definition of ‘relevant national’ in the Marriage Act 1949 will therefore still include EEA nationals and Swiss nationals, although a minor amendment is likely to be made to reflect that the UK will no longer be an EEA State.

This means that Clergy can reassure EU, EEA and Swiss nationals seeking to marry in 2019 and early 2020.  The longer-term position still remains unclear but the Home Office will consult before making any changes to the scheme or to marriage preliminaries relevant to the operation of the scheme.  In the event that changes to the scheme are proposed, the Home Office will consider what, if any, transitional provisions are required.

Church marriages: updated guidance for clergy

Updated marriage law guidance for the clergy has been issued by the Faculty Office:
The Second Supplement from the Faculty Office has now been issued. This Supplement is intended to be read alongside the 3rd edition of the Faculty Office marriage guide booklet and the July 2013 First Supplement. It provides an important update to those areas where there have been changes in the law since July 2013, especially on the topic of marriages of non-European nationals in the Church of England. The Supplement is available to download by clicking here. Read our ‘guidance for the clergy’ page to download the First Supplement or to buy a copy of the 2010 booklet (3rd edition).

Church marriages: commencement of the Immigration Act 2014

Updated guidance for the clergy on marriage law:
The sixth issue of the General Register Office’s Clergy Newsletter is available to read, along with earlier editions: www.gov.uk/government/publications/clergy-newsletters.
A new edition of the ‘Guidebook for the Clergy’ is now available: www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-the-clergy. This is an important update because it takes account of the changes in the law brought about by the Immigration Act 2014. In particular, the flow-chart in Appendix B of the Guidance will assist clergy in establishing whether a person who does not have a current British Passport is a British National.

Changes to the law for non-European nationals wishing to marry in the Church of England:
Please be aware of the implications of the Immigration Act 2014 on marriages in the Church of England. From 2nd March 2015, it is no longer lawful for the marriage of a non-EEA (i.e. non-European) national to be solemnized in the Church of England after the publication of banns or by a common marriage licence (unless a couple has been informed that the ‘transitional arrangements’ will apply to them). All such weddings will now have to be authorised by Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates. Read our pages on marriage law for further information.

Clarification of the law relating to ‘qualifying connections’ for marriage

Clarification of the law relating to ‘qualifying connections’ for marriage: Section 1 of the Church of England Marriage (Amendment) Measure 2012 amends the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008 and came into force on 1st June 2013. 

The legislation clarifies for the avoidance of doubt that those who have a ‘qualifying connection’ (as defined in the 2008 Measure) with a parish may benefit from various provisions of the Marriage Act 1949 in the same way that those who have a right to marry in his or her parish of residence or usual place of worship.

 

Those provisions are as follows:

A)   Where benefices are held in plurality or where a single benefice has multiple parishes, and the bishop has made a order for banns and marriages (under the Marriage Act section 23 or the Mission and Pastoral Measure section 43), banns may be published and marriages take place in any of the churches or chapels in the benefice(s) as defined by the terms of that order.

B)    Where a parish church is being rebuilt or repaired, and is therefore not being used for usual parish services, banns may be published and marriages may take place in:-

i.          a building in the parish that has been licensed by the bishop for services whilst the parish church is out of use; or,

ii.          if the bishop has not licensed any such building, any consecrated chapel in the parish as directed by the bishop; or

iii.          a parish church or chapel licensed for marriages of any adjoining parish.

C)    Where a parish does not have a parish church or public chapel, or does not have a parish church or public chapel in which Sunday services are regularly held, the parish is deemed to belong to any adjoining parish, and banns may be published and marriages solemnized in the parish church of any adjoining parish.

D)   Where a parish has no parish church, but a building (or part of a building) in the parish is designated as a ‘parish centre of worship’, it is deemed to be, for the purpose of marriages, a parish church; but a marriage may be solemnized either in the ‘parish centre of worship’ or in any adjoining parish as under (C) above.

 

The Church of England Legal Office has provided a more detailed briefing setting out the changes, which can be found here.