This afternoon the Church of England issued the following statement on the marriage registration changes that will take place at the end of 2019, with a subsequent clarification on clergy as marriage registrars.
Marriage registration changes
The Government plans to introduce a new system of registration for marriages, including church weddings, in England and Wales.
It is anticipated that the new system will replace traditional marriage registers with a new “marriage document” to be signed by the couple at the wedding and lodged with the local register office.
Although no date has been set for implementing the new system, representatives of the Church of England, together with the Church in Wales and the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, have been in discussion with the General Register Office on how it will be introduced.
It is expected that the General Register Office will provide training and information for clergy. Details will be announced as soon as possible.
The Revd Dr Malcolm Brown, the Church of England’s Director of Mission and Public Affairs, said: “We are in close discussions with the General Register Office, who are working hard to ensure that the change in the system of registering marriages is as smooth and seamless as possible.
“I want to reassure clergy and couples planning a marriage that we are absolutely committed to making the new system work within the context of a Church of England marriage service and the GRO has promised to provide training and comprehensive user-friendly information for clergy.
“We are currently in discussion with the GRO about the exact shape that will take and will update clergy as soon as the details have been finalised.
“Although no firm date has yet been set for the introduction of the new system we are aware of the desire to implement it as soon as possible.
“A church wedding is a very special day where unique promises are made before God and in the presence of friends, family and the wider community in a timeless setting, marking the beginning of their married lives together.”
The question of changing the status of Clergy as marriage registrars has not arisen and the situation will remain the same as it is currently.
The content of the Church’s statement will be of no surprise to readers of yesterday’s post Registration of marriage from end-December 2019 – Faculty Office or those who had managed to locate the original update(s) from the Faculty Office, an URL to which has now been added to the statement. Today the Church Times ran the article Unease at timetable for clergy to adapt to new marriage formalities which captured the concerns that were expressed in social media as elements of the story unfolded.
Certain time constraints are imposed by the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 (“the Act) which was granted Royal Assent on 26 March 2019, although those relating to the certification of marriage are relatively relaxed, as we noted in Opposite sex civil partnerships. The Faculty Office notice in June gave a broad outline of the operation of the new arrangement, but it was not until 5 August that the end of year deadline was indicated. However, the timetable for the introduction of these changes is not within the gift of the Church of England. Further details of the scheme will not be confirmed until parliament has approved regulation by Secretary of State on the overall framework within which the registration process operates, s1(1 & 2) and the GRO has made regulations on the form and content of the registers under s1(4)
The proroguing of Parliament, swiftly followed by its dissolution, has further delayed the opportunity for the necessary Regulations to be laid. As we noted in our 1 December 2019 round-up:
“The new Parliament will be summoned to meet on Tuesday 17 December, when the business will be the election of the Speaker and the swearing-in of members. Should this Prime Minister return, the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech, with “reduced ceremonial” … will follow on Thursday 19 December. If there is a change of Government following the Election, it is anticipated that the Queen’s Speech would be in January on a more usual timetable; but this would be a matter for the incoming administration”.
3 December 2019
Update: On 14 January 2020, the House of Commons Library published the research briefing on Mothers’ details on marriage certificates which concluded: “The detail of the new marriage registration scheme will be set out in regulations which have not yet been published. The timing of the regulations is not yet known. The regulations will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, meaning that they require the approval of both Houses of Parliament to become law.”