Getting Married:
Established Church, Religious, Secular

Both man and woman must be free to marry, and not too closely related. If one or both are 16 to 17 years old then parental permission is needed. Both must be mentally capable of understanding the ceremony, and be acting with free will.

A civil ceremony is performed by a Registrar. This takes place in a Register Office or external premises approved by a local authority. External locations can be attractive places and thus offer some of the benefits of a traditional church wedding unlike an often dull Register Office. However, all forms of religious content are banned; for example hymns and any poetry that hints at religious meaning is excluded.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is the venue that qualifies as being a licensed place for weddings. In Scotland it is the approved celebrant who may take a wedding and do it anywhere.

A Minister of a church carries out a Religious ceremony. It is most straightforward in the Church of England. Other Churches (denominations) can be used but with the visit of a Registrar, although some ministers are allowed to act as Registrars. There is a need to obtain a Superintendent Registrar's Certificate and for this residence for 7 days in the area is needed (nationality is irrelevant). A public notice is displayed for fifteen days, to allow anyone to object to the marriage. A "certificate of marriage" is produced for each person which must be collected and produced at the ceremony. The ceremony happens after the end of the 15 day notice and before twelve months is passed after when the notice began. After the ceremony the couple gain a marriage certificate.

The registrar is arranged from the home Registration District of one partner. If the religious building or venue is elsewhere they can be passed on to that Registration District for an official to attend from there. Your student teacher arranged with his home based Superintendent Registrar to marry in another Registration District and an official from there attended the church wedding.

The Registration Official listens for the correct legal words to be said - a marriage that is known not to be illegal and freely entered into.

Other religious (e.g. Pagan religious rites) or humanist ceremonies are purely personal and a civil ceremony is then required to be legal. Your student teacher carried out such a wedding and the couple had a civil ceremony too.

For a Church of England ceremony one person should be resident in the Parish. The Vicars (in up to two parishes) publish Banns on three separate Sundays before the ceremony. Banns show the intention to marry, and a chance for members of the public to object if illegal. A certificate (valid for up to three months) is issued to the person living outside of the parish where the wedding happens. Or either Vicar can arrange for a Common Licence or Archbishop's Licence to be issued. One (or the only one) Vicar carries out the wedding and registers the marriage, and no further official is needed.

Getting married is not complete until it is consummated. An unconsummated marriage can be annulled (that is, recognising it never happened). A few churches offer ceremonies to mark a divorce. Some Churches will remarry divorcees on the same basis as a first religious or civil wedding, whilst other Churches will not and may offer blessings only instead. In the UK homosexual partnerships are not recognised although London Register Offices offer a limited ceremony. Certain priests, ministers and Churches offer services which recognise homosexual unions like voluntary private marriages.

1. What kinds of people are unable to get married?
2. Why is the Church of England in a privileged position when it comes to taking weddings?
3. If you want to write your own religious wedding, how can getting married be made legal? What steps are necessary?
4. "Most reasons people have for church weddings are now available in secular weddings." Do you agree? Explain how this might be so and what may be missing in a secular wedding.