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This note is intended to update the position set out in our news item posted on 18th March following further guidance issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York after the Prime Minister’s Address to the Nation on Monday 23rd March and advice from the Church of England.  It will seek to address some common questions which the Faculty Office has been receiving since the Covid-19 restrictions have been introduced and which weren’t covered in our earlier item which can still be viewed below.

Can weddings still go ahead?   Sadly there can be no weddings taking place in church buildings until further notice.   A wedding requires a minimum of five people to be present and this exceeds the numbers which the Government restrictions currently permit to gather together in one place.

What about emergency weddings in hospital, hospice or at home?  The Faculty Office will continue to facilitate the issue of a Special Marriage Licence for a Church of England/Church in Wales wedding to proceed in a hospital, hospice or at home where one of the parties is terminally ill (whether through Covid-19 or otherwise).   Clearly, any decision to proceed with a wedding in these circumstances will, as always, be one for the clergy and parties and will need to be based upon medical advice and with social distancing policies and guidance applied as regard the officiant and witnesses. The permission of the hospital or hospice authorities will always be required in writing. Clergy or others enquiring about a wedding in these circumstances are invited to use the contact form (click here) in the first instance for further advice.

We were seeking to establish a Qualifying Connection through habitual attendance at public worship but cannot continue as there are no services taking place – what can we do?  For many couples who don’t already have the legal entitlement to be married in the church where they wish to be married, the way to attain that entitlement is to attend services in the parish at least once a month for a period of six months or more.  Now that services have been suspended for a season, many couples who have not been able to attend for six months already will be concerned that they are unable to complete their ‘qualifying attendance’. However, where they have already started to attend and are only prevented from maintaining attendance due to the suspension of services, provided that couples resume as soon as services are able to resume, the ‘gap’ will still be capable of counting towards their ‘habitual attendance at public worship for six months or more’.

Where couples have been prevented from starting their attendance period due to the suspension of services, the situation is quite different as the six month period can only start from the date of the first actual attendance at public worship. If there is then insufficient time for couples to create the qualifying connection between services resuming and their intended wedding date, an Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Marriage Licence is likely to be required.   Whilst every application for a Special Licence is considered on its own merits, the Faculty Office will be very sympathetic where couples have shown a willingness and commitment to create a qualifying connection with their chosen church and have been prevented from doing so solely due to the suspension of public worship. Although ‘attendance’ at any virtual or live streamed acts of worship cannot be said to be attending public worship sufficient to count towards a qualifying connection, couples are encouraged to participate in such services as are available in the parish through social media or other channels.

Is the Faculty Office still open to callers?    Our offices in Westminster are currently closed and all the staff are working from home in accordance with Government advice.  We are having our post re-directed, so all the time postal deliveries are able to continue, post will be received although there may be some delays.    The best way to contact us is by email at faculty.office@1thesanctuary.com

The staff of the Faculty Office can also be contacted by phone:

For general special licence enquiries: 0207 960 7162

For specific enquiries on marriage law or Covid-19 related issues Neil Turpin: 0207 960 7126 – neil.turpin@1thesanctuary.com

For emergency marriage queries: Patrick Roberts: 0207 960 7130 – Patrick.roberts@1thesanctuary.com or Susan Black: 0207 960 7152 – susan.black@1thesanctuary.com