Preliminaries to Marriage: Banns and Common Marriage Licences
If either of the couple are non-European nationals, instead of banns or a Common Marriage Licence, they must apply for Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates (‘SRC’) from the relevant civil register office. This is the case since 2nd March 2015 when the law changed, unless a couple has been informed that the ‘transitional arrangements’ apply to them. If such a couple have any of the legal entitlements to marry in a parish church then Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates can now be obtained on the same basis as banns could have been previously. For example, if the bride has a ‘qualifying connection’ to the parish, neither she nor the groom need also to be currently residing in the parish at the point of applying for the Certificate. It is not the case that a British or European couple can obtain a Certificate on the basis of a ‘qualifying connection’ to the parish.
If a couple have a legal entitlement to marry in a parish and wish to marry in the parish church (or a public chapel in the parish holding a Bishop’s Licence for weddings), the usual preliminary for the wedding is the publication of banns.
Banns are read in the church where the wedding is to take place and in the parishes where each party resides.
An application for the calling of banns must be made to the minister of each parish where banns are to be called, which should be 7 days in advance of the Sunday when it is hoped the reading of the banns will be commenced. 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.
Common Marriage Licences
If either of the couple reside overseas or are a European (non-British) national, or have a genuine reason for needing to marry in church before the publishing of banns can be completed, a Common Marriage Licence may be needed. If a couple have any of the entitlements to marry in a parish church after banns then a Common Marriage Licence can be obtained on the same basis. For example, if the bride has a ‘qualifying connection’ to the parish, neither she nor the groom need also to be currently residing in the parish at the point of applying for the Licence.
Banns and Common Marriage Licences: evidence of nationality
Where an application for banns or for a Common Marriage Licence is made by any couple wishing to marry in church, after 2nd March 2015 both parties should provide evidence of their nationality. Usually this will be a passport or (for some European citizens) national identity card. Clergy will advise couples on the exact requirements. Guidance for the clergy is found in the General Register Office’s ‘Guidebook for the Clergy’, including a flow-chart to help clergy establish whether a person who does not have a current British Passport is a British National. If the bride and groom do not both produce evidence that they are both British/European nationals, the couple will need to apply for Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates.
Banns and Common Marriage Licences: Special Provisions
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. The provisions also apply to Common Marriage Licences, and (for non-European nationals only) Superintendent Registrar’s Certificates.
Where there is a parish which is part of a benefice which has multiple parishes, it is possible for the Bishop to make an order under Paragraph 12(4) of Schedule 3 of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, specifying where banns may be called and marriages solemnised in a multi-parish benefice. This means that the Bishop’s order will permit any person living within the benefice to have banns called in, and be married in, any parish church within the benefice.
In other cases apart from the ones mentioned above, including multi-parish benefices where a Bishop’s order has not been made, a couple may marry only in a parish (not benefice) to which they have the legal entitlement to marry, unless it is by Special Licence.[GLOSSARY:
A parish is a geographical area with fixed legal boundaries, which is served by a particular church and minister.
A benefice is the office which a minister holds, and covers one or more parishes.]