Some recent developments in weddings law

Registration of Marriages Regulations 2021 

The draft Registration of Marriages Regulations 2021 were laid on 22 February. In brief, they amend the Marriage Act 1949 to provide for a new marriage registration system in England and Wales.

Part 2 amends s.28B of the 1949 Act to specify the evidence that must accompany a notice of marriage where a party to the marriage is a relevant national by virtue of having status, or a pending application for status (within the meaning of regulation 4 of the Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, under the EU Settlement Scheme established by the Government in Appendix EU to the Immigration Rules.

Parts 3 and 4 (and Part 1 of Schedule 1) insert provision in the 1949 Act for a new registration system. The amendments provide that a clergyman solemnizing a marriage after the publication of banns, on the authority of a special licence or on the authority of a common licence, must issue a marriage document before solemnizing the marriage. The amendments also provide that any other marriage is only to be solemnized after the superintendent registrar for the registration district in which the marriage is taking place has issued a marriage schedule.

The amendments further provide that, following solemnization of the marriage, the marriage document or marriage schedule must be signed and returned to the registrar for the registration district in which the marriage took place. The registrar must then register the marriage by entering particulars into a register, accessible in electronic form. The clergyman will be responsible for returning the marriage document to the registrar and the specified person (as defined in new section 53C(8), inserted by regulation 7) will be responsible for returning the marriage schedule, except in respect of a marriage schedule where the marriage was solemnized by a registrar.

Part 4 revokes provisions in the 1949 Act which required marriages to be solemnized on the issue of two certificates of a superintendent registrar and which required marriages to be registered by a number of different persons.

Part 5 amends the Marriage of British Subjects (Facilities) Act 1915 and the Marriage of British Subjects (Facilities) Amendment Act 1916, so that those Acts will no longer apply in respect of England and Wales.

Part 1 of Schedule 1 contains consequential and related amendments to the 1949 Act. These include creation of a new offence of failing to attend at the office of a registrar after having been given notice to do so for the purpose of returning a signed marriage document or marriage schedule (as the case may be). The amendments also enable the Registrar General to prescribe the form of a marriage document and marriage schedule.

Part 2 of Schedule 1 contains consequential amendments to other primary legislation, including the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1956, the Marriage (Registrar General’s Licence) Act 1970 and the Immigration Act 2014.

Part 3 of Schedule 1 contains consequential amendments to secondary legislation.

Schedule 2 contains transitional provisions.

EEA nationals marrying in the UK from 1 July 2021

The Faculty Office reports that, following the UK’s exit from the EU and the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, EU free movement ended. EEA citizens and their family members will therefore require permission to enter and remain in the UK. Any wedding taking place in the Church of England or the Church in Wales on or after 1 July 2021 where either or both of the parties are non-UK/Irish nationals and do not have Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme will only be able to take place on the authority of a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate (or a Special Licence). Further details have been posted by the Faculty Office and by the Home Office.

But even if they speak it fluently, they can’t make their vows in Cornish…

On 26 February, the BBC reported that a Cornish couple, Steph Norman and Aaron Willoughby, wanted their wedding to be conducted in Cornish but had been told (correctly) by Cornwall Council that because the Marriage Act 1949 makes no provision for couples to recite the necessary declarations in any language other than English or Welsh, they would have to make their vows in English.

Cornwall Council said: “We try to tailor each ceremony to the couple’s wishes and Cornish phrases are often included in our ceremonies. Currently, we don’t have a fluent Cornish-speaking registrar but we can accommodate a Cornish translator if one is provided by the couple.”

Perhaps the Law Commission might give some thought to the matter as part of its project on weddings law in England & Wales – and Cornwall.

Marriage legislation in the Bailiwick of Guernsey

An earlier post reported that the Marriage (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2020, which was registered in the Royal Court, comes into effect today, 1 March 2021. This legislation simplifies the administrative procedure required before a couple are married, whilst ensuring that the necessary safeguards are in place to prevent illegal marriages. On 27 February, the Very Revd Tim Barker, Dean of Guernsey, commented:

“[t]he end of an era … the last marriage licences issued under Guernsey’s old marriage law to three lovely couples this morning, thanks to WhatsApp. Inconceivable in 1919 when the old law came into effect … Looking forward to issuing licences under the new law, which allows greater flexibility in locations for marriages in Guernsey, including for Church of England weddings in Guernsey, Alderney, Sark Island and Herm Island”.

3 thoughts on “Some recent developments in weddings law

  1. Cornish people can have a wedding in Cornish – I have taken one myself – but the vows must be taken in English as well.
    (Canon) Michael Fisher (Bard of the Cornish Gorseth)

  2. Pingback: Registration of Marriages – GRO Advice for Clergy | Law & Religion UK

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