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The Forms of Marriage

In England and Wales there are four forms of marriage: by banns,* by ordinary licence, by special licence and by a registrar.

* (banns - public notice of intended marriage read in church on three successive Sundays; the form of publication calls upon those knowing of any impediment to the proposed marriage to declare it.)

Marriage by Banns is the form most usually adopted. Banns must be called for three consecutive Sundays in the parish churches of both the future bride and the groom unless they both live in the same parish. They must have been resident for at least fifteen days previous to the first publication of the banns. There is a small fee for the certificate of banns.

The clergyman at the church where the marriage is to take place must be notified by letter of the couple's intention to marry, of their names and addresses and how long they have resided in their parishes.

If one of the parties is a minor,* a letter of consent must be obtained from both parents, and attached. (The form can be obtained from the Superintendent Registrar of the district.) If the marriage is to take place in the bride's church, a certificate of calling of the banns must be obtained from the bridegroom's parish clergyman. The marriage must then take place within three months of the banns being published.

* (a minor - under age, i. e. under 21.)

Marriage by Ordinary Licence is a convenient alternative to the publications of banns. In London, application must be made by one party to the Faculty Office,* where he will swear that he does not know of any impediment to the marriage such as being legally married to another or consanguineous relationship, and that one of the parties has lived for at least fifteen days in the parish of the church where the marriage is to take place.

* (Faculty Office - the Court of Faculties is held on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury to deal with cases arising from his powers of granting special or ordinary licences for marriage, and permission to undertake important alterations to Church buildings, and so on.)

A licence* is valid in England and Wales for three months after the date of issue. Outside London, it can be obtained from any Bishop's Registry Office in a cathedral town or from a Superintendent Registrar in the district of residence. The licence is granted without previous notice and is available as soon as it is issued, but the marriage must take place in a church named on the licence.

* (licence - in English law, authorisation to do something which would otherwise be unlawful; also the document conveying the authorisation. Licences, usually obtainable on payment of a fee, are required for, e. g., marriage without publication of banns; for keeping motor vehicles, dogs, radio and T. V. receivers and transmitters; for selling alcoholic drinks, etc.)

Marriage by Special Licence costs £25 and can be obtained only for special reasons such as suddenly being sent abroad. It is never granted lightly. Application must be made in person by one of the parties at the Faculty Office. The marriage can then take place at any time and in any place, celebrated by the rites of the church, and residence qualifications are unnecessary.

Marriage by a Registrar can be celebrated, without any religious ceremony, at a registry office. Notice must be given by one of the parties of the intended marriage, if both have resided in the district for seven days immediately preceding the notice. If one has lived in another district, notice must be given to his or her local registrar. The certificate is issued twenty-one days after the notice has been given.

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