Q and A on Church Weddings
Can I get married in a church?
The Church of England gives all British citizens, with no former spouse still living, the right to be married at their local parish church. There is no obligation to have attended church regularly, or for both parties to have been baptised. Firstly, arrange to meet with your parish minister and he or she will be pleased to advise you of their procedures.
When can I get married?
Marriage in church must take place between 8am and 6pm, and may do so on any day of the week by mutual agreement although ministers are less likely to be able to marry you on a Sunday, and marriage during Lent is usually discouraged as it is seen as a time of preparation for Easter and not for celebration.
If either of you has been divorced, you should tell the minister at the outset as they have discretion as to whether or not they will conduct a marriage service for you in their church during the lifetime of your former partner. Your minister may be able to propose an alternative ceremony or service to bless your marriage after having a civil wedding.
Publication of banns
You need not involve a Registrar, as all C of E clergyman are automatically entitled to act as the legal Registrar, as well as the church’s official witness. As with a civil wedding, your intention to marry needs to be announced formally. The usual method is the “publication of banns”. The banns are a public declaration of your intention to marry and must be read in the parish church of the parish in which each of the couple lives. So, if the couple choose to marry at the bride’s parish church, the banns must also be read in the parish church where the groom resides.
The banns will be read during a normal church service, and the congregation are invited to declare any lawful reason why the couple should not be married. Banns are read on three Sundays during the period of not more than three months prior to the wedding. If the wedding is postponed past the three month period, the banns will need to be read again. If the banns are read at a second church, a certificate declaring this will have to be presented to the minister conducting the service before the wedding can proceed.
How do other religious ceremonies differ?
Roman Catholic priests are not always licensed to perform marriage ceremonies, so a registrar may need to be present. You will need to discuss this with your priest who will help you to organise this. It’s much more than just the exchanging of rings – a traditional Jewish wedding is a truly significant family event supported by centuries-old traditions and meaningful rituals. Jewish weddings can take place almost anywhere – indoors or outdoors.
For those couples seeking a truly sacred and spiritual experience, the marriage takes place in the synagogue or temple. If the wedding is held outdoors, it is held under a beautifully decorated Chuppa (the canopy) representing the couple’s new home. During the ceremony, the bride must wear a veil over her head, and the groom must wear a cap (a yarmulke) and a white prayer shawl (the tallith). A unique tradition at the end of the wedding ceremony is crushing the wineglass – the groom breaks the wineglass with his foot, symbolising the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem of centuries ago. The reception is a very joyous occasion – “sing, dance and be merry”. The wedding reception includes tasty dishes (the feast is called the Se’udat Mitzvah) supplemented by grace and blessings by family members and friends alike.
Your minister may be able to propose an alternative ceremony or service to bless your marriage after having a civil wedding. Catholics also believe that a marriage lasts forever and they do not recognise divorce. In their eyes your fiance is still married, therefore they cannot marry him to you. This will depend on your minister. Special dispensation is often granted by the Catholic church if one party is not Catholic. Check with your minister before hand. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend any specific churches that may meet your criteria! I assume that both yourself and your partner are from out of the area – do any parents live locally? If they do, approach their local Catholic church first, as if there is a family tie to the area the priest may be more open to marrying you. I would advise you to shortlist some churches and make an appointment to visit the priest and discuss your requirements directly. You will need to be able to attend regular worship at the church, and possibly pre-marriage counselling run within the parish. Arrange to meet with the minister as it is at their discretion as to whether he marries you. You should attend worship there on a regular basis and then apply to have your name added to the Parish Church Electoral Roll. Should you wish to be married in a parish church, other than the one in whose area you currently reside, you must talk to the local minister. It is at their discretion as to whether they choose to marry you or not. For more information on marrying in a church, visit our dedicated section on Churches and Religion.
If one of you has been married before, you will both need to go to your local register office to give notice of your intention to marry. If you plan to marry in a different area, you should also contact the register office for the district in which the marriage is due to take place. This is because you will need to ensure that a superintendant registrar (to conduct the service) and a registrar of marriages (to record the details in the marriage register and issue your certificate) will be free to attend your chosen venue on the day.
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