Registration of Marriages – GRO Advice for Clergy

In our post on 1 March 2021 Some recent developments in weddings law, we described the draft Registration of Marriages Regulations 2021 which were laid on 22 February 2021. In brief, they amend the Marriage Act 1949 to provide for a new marriage registration system in England and Wales. Further information has been issued by the General Register Office (GRO) in its Clergy Newsletters; extracts from Issue 10, February 2021 and Issue 11, March 2021 are summarized below.

Clergy Newsletter 10

[This issue is an] update to issue 9 which provided an introduction and background to the forthcoming changes resulting from the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act 2019 in relation to the registration of marriages. This newsletter will update you on the plans to implement the new system and will outline the support available in more detail.

The Training and Business Improvement Team, General Register Office

The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc.) Act 2019

You will be aware from the last newsletter that the Act had successfully completed its passage through Parliament and attained Royal Assent on 26 March 2019. The Act provides for the modernisation of marriage registration for the first time since 1837, by introducing a marriage schedule system and registration in an electronic register. The process will move away from the current paper register introducing a more secure system for keeping marriage records, that is also more efficient and simpler to administer and amend, if necessary, in the future.

The regulations which will make the required amendments to the Marriage Act 1949 have been laid in Parliament today 22 February 2021, and subject to approval, will come into force on 4 May 2021.

How will this impact the work and responsibilities as a member of the Clergy?

What won’t change:

  • You will still be required to ensure couples meet the requirements to marry in your building.
  • You will still be required to ensure couples complete the relevant preliminaries, i.e.: the calling of banns, issue of common or special licence or, where required, the prior attendance of the couple at the relevant register office to give their notices of marriage in the correct timescale.
  • You will still be required to conduct pre-marriage checks and confirm that the details contained on the marriage document or marriage schedule are correct before the marriage proceeds.
  • The marriage will still be performed by Church of England or Church in Wales rites.
  • You will still use registration ink to complete the marriage schedule.

What will change:

  • You will be required to create a marriage document or obtain the marriage schedule prior to the date of marriage.
  • You will no longer complete the formal register for the marriages you solemnize (There will still be a register kept by you for the records of your church).
  • You will no longer issue the legal marriage certificates.
  • The completed marriage document or marriage schedule must be returned to the register office for the registration to take place in the electronic marriage register before a certificate can be issued.
  • You will no longer need to complete quarterly returns for marriages which take place in your building.
  • You will no longer be responsible for corrections in marriage registers. After the changes are introduced, all corrections to marriage entries will be carried out by the registration officers or GRO.
  • The electronic register will also allow for the names of parents of the couple (mother / father /parent) to be included in the marriage entry instead of only their fathers’ names as is currently the case.

Clergy Newsletter 11

[This issue is an] update to issue 10…This newsletter will provide details of the training, support and reference materials available to prepare and guide you through the new processes, which will be introduced on 4 May 2021.

The Training and Business Improvement Team, General Register Office

What training materials will be available and when?

Digital presentations

There are several presentations available in digital format which provide a step by step explanation to guide you through the changes and new processes. The presentations include:

  • An overview of the changes to marriage registration
  • Information about how you will prepare for the changes
  • Details of what a marriage document looks like and how to obtain one.
  • Guidance on how to complete a marriage document.
  • A process to reconcile the marriages you perform with the registrations completed.

All the presentations will be available to access with and without a voice over.

Frequently Asked Questions

There will be a reference document providing answers to frequently asked questions which will support the other training materials.

Question and answer session

A ‘live’ question and answer session with representatives from GRO will take place prior to the implementation of the changes. This will take place via an agreed digital platform. Further information will be made available in due course.

How can the training materials be accessed?

The training materials will be hosted on the Local Registration Service Association (LRSA) website in a secure training area. A user name and password to access the secure part of the site will be sent to you via your usual Church communication channel.

When will the training materials be available?

The digital presentations are available on the website now. Further information, including the frequently asked questions, will be added over the coming days and weeks.

What happens next?

You will receive an email with a username and password and details of the question and answer sessions from your Church representative.

The Guidebook for the Clergy

Will be updated to reflect the changes as a result of the implementation of the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019. Once finalised the updated version will be uploaded on to the usual page on GOV.UK.

If you have any comments about this newsletter, please contact

Note: At at the time of posting,  Diocesan Registrars within the Church of England had not been provided with access to either the secure website on which the training presentations are available, or copies of the FAQ document. (18 March 2021 at 14:00). However, later in the afternoon, the links appear to have been sent to clergy with the result that the system crashed.

Similar information has been produced by GRO for Authorised Persons in its Authorised Persons Newsletter, Issue 14: March 2021 and is summarized in our post here

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Registration of Marriages – GRO Advice for Clergy" in Law & Religion UK, 18 March 2021,


7 thoughts on “Registration of Marriages – GRO Advice for Clergy

  1. When will the long anticipated latest Guidebook for Clergy be issued please?

    I have weddings on 15th and 22nd May.

    I am today meeting a couple who are travelling 200 miles to see me!
    I am very disappointed that all the new info is not already available to share with them

    I particularly wish to be able to download and print a sample copy of the Marriage Document as soon as possible please, so i know what to fill in.
    The print in the GRO video tutorial is so small it is impossible to read! And why is it not possible to print a copy?

    The eleventh hour roll- out of full details of the new process does not inspire confidence! This is the view of huge numbers of parish clergy, all of us wanting to avoid legal pitfalls and fully cooperate with GRO requirements.

    Thank you for reading this

    If you could respond to me with a latest sit rep I would be hugely grateful
    Many thanks
    Peter Bevan
    United Benefice of Great Torrington
    Exeter Diocese

  2. It is understood that unused pages of marriage registers must be struck through by clergy to prevent marriage fraud. Is it a legal requirement for the registers to be surrendered to the local registry office?

  3. I have a consumer question. Do these amendments involving the marriage schedule system and registration apply to the work and responsibilities of Roman Catholic Clergy in England as well? Thank you.

    • Sorry: I replied too quickly. The new registration system is a replacement for the old system under the Marriage Act 1949. The proposal for marriage schedules and nominated officiants is part of the Law Commission’s proposals for reform of weddings law in England & Wales. It’s not yet law and will require primary legislation.

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