Changes to Marriage Certificates and Registrations in England and Wales
From today, 4th May, the Home Office has changed the way marriages are registered in England and Wales, including electronic registration of marriages and the inclusion of mothers’ names on marriage certificates.
Adding mothers’ names to the marriage register has brought England and Wales’ practices more in line with those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Until now, it was only the couple’s fathers’ names which could feature on the documentation.
The electronic registry will simplify the process of documenting marriages and civil partnerships. Previously, register books were used at venues all over the country, with the details manually entered from those paper records.
The Home Office believe these changes are the most significant alterations to the system since the 19th century, however we are still waiting for the Law Commission to complete their ongoing review of Marriage laws which may lead to much more significant changes.
The changes to ‘correct an historic anomaly’ are long overdue. MPs in England and Wales have been pushing for the rules to reflect modern needs and match those in the rest of the UK.
What does this mean for couples?
There are a number of changes that will affect the marriage registration process, whether you are having a civil or religious ceremony. However, it should make the process quicker and easier.
From 4th May, the paper register stopped being the legal marriage record. Your local registration service will be responsible for registering all marriages, (both civil and religious) in an electronic registration system.
Then, instead of signing the Marriage Register on your wedding day, you will sign a document called a Marriage Schedule. This is not your marriage certificate.
Once your marriage ceremony has taken place, your Marriage Schedule is given to your registrar. They can then register the marriage in the secure, online system.
The new electronic version of the registry system is designed to speed up the entire process. For couples, this will not make much of a difference, but for people working behind the scenes it should make everything faster and easier.
The Inclusion of the Mothers’ Names
From the 4th of May, the mothers of the couple can be included in the official marriage documentation. This will be significant for many couples. For example, if your mother is your sole remaining parent, she can be named on your marriage certificate and included in this formal symbol of your union.
The move represents a more modern attitude towards weddings as well, with equality between parents officially recognised. For couples everywhere, this is cause for celebration!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the new regulations. We recommend that you contact your registrar if you are unsure about anything. You can also watch our Q&A with Alison Cathcart of Westminster Registration Service discussing these changes and what they mean to couples:
What information is included on the Marriage Schedule?
The marriage schedule will include the personal details of the couple getting married. This will include: full names, dates of birth, condition, address and occupation.
You can record your mother, father or step parents’ details on the Marriage Schedule and in the marriage registration.
In most cases, you will provide this information when you give notice. However, if you didn’t or weren’t able to provide these details when you gave notice, you’ll be able to provide it either before or on the day of marriage.
How will I obtain my Marriage Schedule?
The Superintendent Registrar in the district you will be marrying in will provide you with your Marriage Schedule.
The process for obtaining your Marriage Schedule:
- Whether you are getting married in a religious building or having a civil ceremony, you will still be required to give a notice of marriage.
- The Marriage Schedule will be issued to you by the Superintendent Registrar following a 28 day waiting period.
- If you are having a civil ceremony in a registry office or in a licensed venue the Superintendent Registrar will keep hold of your Marriage Schedule until the civil ceremony.
- If you are having a religious ceremony, it is your responsibility to arrange for the Marriage Schedule to be collected. This will then need to be taken to the person performing your marriage ceremony in the religious building. Don’t worry, the Superintendent Registrar in the district you are marrying in will guide you through the process.
What is the process for signing the Marriage Schedule?
After the ceremony, you and your partner will be asked to double check all of the information on the Marriage Schedule and confirm that it is accurate. This will include name spellings.
Once this has been checked, you, your partner and the witnesses will sign the document. The registration officer or the person from the religious setting will also sign the Marriage Schedule.
How is the marriage registered?
If you have a civil ceremony, the registrar will keep the signed Marriage Schedule and be responsible for adding the details into the electronic register at the register office.
For those marrying in religious buildings, the relevant person from the religious building will return the signed Marriage Schedule to the register office within 21 days (although the advice is to do this within 5 days to receive marriage certificates in a timely manner). Once the register office has received the Marriage Schedule, their team of registrars will input the details into the online system.
When will I get my marriage certificates?
You will not receive your marriage certificates on the day of your ceremony. All marriage certificates will be sent to the couple in the post or able to be collected within 7 days of entering the record into the online system.
Can we still have photos when we sign?
Couples have already started using this new system and have been able to have photos as with the previous system.
What do I do if I lose my Marriage Schedule?
You will only need to collect your Marriage Schedule if you are having a religious ceremony where it is legally required that you give notice. If your ceremony is performed by a registrar, they will keep hold of the Schedule.
In the unfortunate event that you lose your Marriage Schedule before your ceremony, you need to contact the Superintendent Registrar at the registry office where your Marriage Schedule was given to you.
Does this change affect me if I am getting married in a Church of England / Wales?
There will be minimal impact to those marrying in the Church of England or Wales. The information given here is mainly for those who are required to give notice in a register office (typically, anyone not getting married in a Church of England or Church of Wales church).
If you are getting married in a Church of England or Church of Wales church while there are some changes, the clergy will handle this for you. Read more here.
If you are unsure about what is required for your church wedding, we advise you to contact your minister to discuss it directly with them.
Contact your Registrar if you are unsure
If you are unsure about what the new changes mean for your wedding, get in touch with your register office, they will be able to help you understand the process.
Remember, if you are having a civil partnership, civil marriage or religious ceremony which requires you to give notice, you must book an appointment with your registrar to do this. When required to give legal notice, you must do this at least 28 days before your ceremony is due to take place.
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