On 14th October Her Majesty in Council gave Royal Sanction to the Projet de Loi of the States of Guernsey, entitled the Marriage (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2020, which was registered in the Royal Court, and is due to come into effect on Monday 1st March 2021. The Marriage (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2020 was approved by the States of Deliberation (‘States’) in April 2020, giving effect to the policy decisions made by the States in February 2019 (Article VI of Billet No III of 2019). This replaces the Marriage Law of 1919 and simplifies the administrative procedure required before a couple are married, whilst ensuring that the necessary safeguards are in place to prevent illegal marriages.
Under the new Law couples can choose to be married in the same way that is available today, or choose a number of different venues around the island, including hotels. It will also be permitted to be married outside, be that in the garden of a house or hotel, on the cliffs or on the beach.
The changes introduced by the new law are summarized in the associated FAQs. which include:
- Couples will have more flexibility and control over their arrangements, which could increase the number of non-residents who decide to marry here, in turn providing benefit to local businesses and the economy.
Today, there is a growing demand for an alternative to traditional religious and civil marriage ceremonies, with people who do not follow a religion or who have different beliefs wanting the option to personalise their ceremony to better reflect who they are. Humanist and other non-religious marriages have seen a significant increase in popularity and for this reason the reform will enable these types of ceremonies to be legally recognised, if it is conducted by an authorised civil celebrant.”
- Under the new law couples will be able to get married at night time and any other time of the day, so long as the chosen celebrant and the location owners where they intend to marry agrees before they give notice of marriage.
Once the new law is in place couples will be able to get married on a beach, so long as there is agreement with the celebrant before giving notice of their intention to marry. Couples can already hold a ceremony on a beach, but the marriage itself would not be legally recognised under the current law and, couples would be required to have a separate legally recognised ceremony at a registered building, such as at the Greffe or St James Assembly Hall.
- The reform changes will allow marriage ceremonies to be held in any building or outdoor space, so long as the owner’s permission has been given and it has been agreed with the celebrant in advance. All locations will need to comply with existing legislation and regulations for publicly accessed locations, for example health & safety legislation and venue capacity restrictions.
- Couples will be able to marry at sea in territorial waters and in the Bailiwick’s airspace, so long as the minimal legal requirements are met to legally recognise the ceremony.
- Potentially, it will be possible to get married in the grounds of the family Church, provided as the Church gives consent and that the celebrant is authorised to carry out the ceremony in that location.
- The only restrictions on marriage locations under the new law will be that the celebrant and the legal owners need to consent to the location being used. For example, this means that it will not be possible to have a non-religious ceremony in a place of worship unless the celebrant or the registered owner/s agree. The same applies to any privately owned land or premises.
- All changes under the new law will apply equally to all marriage types. Civil marriage ceremonies are already legally recognised under the Same-Sex marriage law. Like all residents and non-residents couples can have their wedding where and when they want, so long as this is with the consent of the locations legal owner and in agreement with the chosen celebrant.
- a Humanist ceremony will be legally valid, if it has been conducted by a civil celebrant authorised by HM Greffier. Couples are currently able to have a Humanist ceremony, but it would not be legally recognised and they would be required to have a separate legal ceremony in a registered building.
- In the new law there will be provisions made to allow some limited religious content in civil and non-religious belief ceremonies. This will not be to the extent that the ceremony is performed as a religious ceremony would be. HM Greffier will provide detailed guidance on what can and cannot be included, which will be published on the website in due course.
- In a civil ceremony couple can add their own vows to the legal declarations. The wording has been modernised, but is still required to ensure each party freely consents to marriage. The wording is only two sentences.
“I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, …, may not be joined in matrimony to …“
“I call upon the persons here present to witness that I, …, do take you, …, to be my lawful wedded wife/husband“.
- There is also a new category of celebrant licenced to solemnise marriages designated Civil Celebrants; these will undergo training arranged by the Registrar General of Marriages so that they can help arrange the marriage and conduct a legal recognised marriage ceremony. These Civil Celebrants will not be employed by the Registrar General, they will operate in a private capacity, either self-employed or through one of the Islands businesses that provide wedding services.
- Existing authorised celebrants will be able to carry out marriages after the new law takes effect. Grandfather rights (where if you have been authorised to carry our marriages under the old law your authorisation will continue under the new law) will apply to all religious celebrants, including Anglican celebrants. To enable all celebrants to understand how the changes under the new law will affect them, there will be a need for them to take part in some training. HM Greffier (Registrar-General of Marriages) will be responsible for developing and delivering the training to all celebrants, and for the authorisation of celebrants.
- Under the new law both partners must give notice of their intention to marry a minimum of 21 days before the marriage takes place. Notice can be given up to one year in advance of the marriage date. This process will be possible electronically as well as in person at the Greffe, this will make the process of giving notice simpler, especially for non-residents. Both partners will have to attend the Greffe in-person for identity checks and review of freedom to marry documentation, a minimum of the day before the date of marriage. This applies to non-residents and residents alike.
- If one or both of a couple requires immigration permission they will need to provide the necessary immigration documentation, such as a marriage visa, before notice of marriage will be accepted.