Legal Entitlements to marry in a church: Residence, Church Electoral Roll membership and ‘qualifying connections’
The Church of England and the Church in Wales are divided geographically into parishes and for each parish there is normally a parish church.
Details of the parish boundaries in England and their parish churches can be found here, searchable by place-name or postcode: http://www.achurchnearyou.com/. Parish churches in Wales can be searched for through the Church in Wales website: http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/life/marriage/.
Historically couples had the right to married in the parish church of their parish of residence and additionally the parish church where they usually worshipped and had joined the Church’s Electoral Roll. Couples retain these rights, but since the introduction of the ‘Marriage Measure’ in 2008, couples have also had the legal entitlement to marry in the parish church of a parish to which either of them could demonstrate just one of any of the following ‘qualifying connections’.
If either of the couple:
i) have at any time lived in the parish for a period of at least six months;
ii) were baptized in the parish concerned (this does not apply where the baptism formed part of a combined service of baptism or confirmation);
iii) were prepared for confirmation in the parish (and when confirmed had his or her confirmation entered in a confirmation register in the parish);
iv) have at any time habitually gone to normal church services in the parish church for a period of six months; or
If any of the couple’s parents, at any time during the applicant’s lifetime:
v) has lived in the parish for a period of at least six month;
vi) has habitually gone to normal church services in the parish church for a period of at least six months; or
If any of the couple’s parents or grandparents
vii) was married in the parish;
then the couple are deemed to have a ‘qualifying connection’ to that parish. Couples are able to choose between marrying in any of the churches where they have a legal entitlement to marry.
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. Further information about ‘qualifying connections’ and the 2008 Marriage Measure can be found here, including the Guidance issued by the House of Bishops.
Please note that special considerations apply where one or both parties have been previously divorced with a former spouse still living. See Marriage In Church After Divorce.
If a couple hope to marry in a church which to which they do not have any of the legal links, or where the church itself is not a parish church or otherwise licensed for weddings, the only option open to them is to apply for an Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Marriage Licence from the Faculty Office.