Would I be eligible to get a Special Licence?
If you have a genuine connection with a particular church or chapel but you are unable to satisfy the legal requirement to marry there (which is explained on the following page), you may apply to the Faculty Office for an Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Licence.
Special Licences are given by the Archbishop of Canterbury under powers he and his predecessors have exercised since 1533. They are not issued automatically, but at the discretion of the Archbishop and in accordance with criteria personally set down by him. If you think you need a Special Licence, you should enquire about its availability before making any other preparations for the wedding. This is something you should discuss first of all with the priest who is to conduct the ceremony.
Special Licences enable a couple to marry in a church building for which they do not satisfy the usual residence test or ‘qualifying connection’, or for cathedrals where different rules apply. They are also used where the building itself is not authorised for marriages (in practice, a private chapel such as a school, college or university chapel). They are a privilege and not a right. This section explains the Archbishop’s usual requirements for applicants. There are special requirements for marriage in school, college and university chapels.
Applicants for a Special Licence should have a genuine and longstanding demonstrable link to the church building (and its congregation/worshipping community) where they wish to be married, which is sufficiently strong to justify the issue of a Licence. As part of this, applicants for a Special Licence will usually need to show a worshipping connection, over a period of time, with the church where they hope to marry.
If a couple does not satisfy these requirements but still feels there is good reason for being granted a special licence, the minister who is going to conduct the wedding should write to the Faculty Office, on behalf of the couple, explaining the circumstances. Special Licences do not issue on aesthetic or sentimental grounds or to facilitate pre-planned wedding receptions.
There are a number of other conditions which have to be satisfied before an application for a Special Licence can be approved:
i) The couple’s families should approve of the marriage.
ii) The incumbent(s) or minister(s) in charge of the parish(es) where the couple reside should have been consulted; or, if a couple are resident overseas, an Anglican minister local to their residence should be consulted.
iii) The minister in charge of the church where the service is to be held must have been consulted and given his or her agreement.
iv) The minister who is to solemnize the wedding must be fully in support of this couple’s application for a Special Licence.
If you wish to marry in a church building which has been declared ‘redundant’ (and so where regular services are no longer held), the Churches Conservation Trust website has some general information about marrying in their churches: www.visitchurches.org.uk/Ourchurches/Usingourchurches/Weddingsblessings/. A Special Licence will be required for a wedding in any ‘redundant’ church. A very close and on-going connection to the ‘redundant’ church in question must be demonstrated. The consent of the Bishop of the Diocese in which the church is situated must be obtained. Licences are rarely granted and you may wish to seek the informal advice of the Faculty Office before making an application.
In cases where one (or both) of the parties is divorced and has a former spouse still living, Special Licences are granted only where a certified copy of the decree absolute is supplied with the application, the House of Bishops’ Advice on remarriage is followed , including the filling out of the ‘Marriage In Church After Divorce’ application form, and the officiating minister has consulted with his/her Bishop (and sends, with the application form, a copy of the Bishop’s written response and the completed ‘Marriage In Church After Divorce’ leaflet).
Where one or both applicants is a foreign national or lives overseas, the Faculty Office’s advice about this should be read at an early stage.
If you wish to apply for a Special Marriage Licence having read the above guidance, please follow the link here.
Special Licences may be available for a couple wishing to marry in a hospital/hospice, or at home, on medical grounds. The hospital/hospice chaplain, or the local parish priest if it relates to a wedding at home, should be contacted in the first instance. The chaplain or parish priest should then contact the Faculty Office for advice on how to proceed.