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Legal Requirements

St Nicholas Church Wedding

Church of England weddings in this country are governed by the 1949 Marriage Act and may only be solemnised inside a building licensed for the purpose and between the hours of 08.00 and 18.00. However, the Church Minister has the right to determine the precise time and date of the ceremony within those parameters.

Church of England weddings are normally limited to the parish church of either of the couple or to a church which is the ‘usual place of worship’ of at least one of them. In that instance, at least one of the couple must have had his/her name entered on the electoral roll of that church. To qualify for enrolment, the person concerned must have attended habitually for a minimum period of six months and must be a baptised member of the Church of England. Your Church Minister will be able to advise further on this requirement.


Except in special cases, the legal preliminary to marriage in church is for banns to be published. Banns are the public announcement that two people wish to marry, and an invitation to anybody who knows just cause or impediment to the union to declare it. On three Sundays prior to the wedding, the banns are read out in the parish church(es) of the future bride and groom, and are effective for three months afterwards. Banns must be called in both the church where the wedding is to be held, as well as the parish church(es) of the bride and groom (from which certificate(s) of banns must be obtained). Other requirements apply if one partner is from outside the European Union, Old Commonwealth, or USA.


Any British National who normally resides in England is entitled to marry in his or her Church of England parish church, provided that:

  • the other partner is also of British Nationality and also normally resides in England;
  • that there are no legal impediments (see CofE website for a list);
  • and that neither of the couple is a divorcee whose previous partner is still living.

When arranging a wedding, it is customary to visit in person the Minister (or an appointed representative); if one of the couple resides in another parish, the Minister of that parish must also be contacted. Clergy have the right to ask questions in order to be satisfied that there is no impediment to the marriage and that the information supplied is correct.


Legally, the Minister has the right to decide the format of the service, including which hymns and music are to be used, and he or she should be consulted before a decision is made. The Minister also has the final word on floral and other decorations in the church, photography and tape or video recordings. Any marriage ceremony must be in accordance with the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England.

Please visit www.yourchurchwedding.org for details regarding the inter-denominational and inter-faith marriages.


Special considerations apply in regard to the marriage in church of a divorced person whose previous partner is still living. In such circumstances the couple need to contact the Parish Priest who may in certain circumstances give permission. Alternatively a Service of Prayer and Dedication (sometimes called “Blessing Service”) may be offered after a civil ceremony. This particular form of service provides an opportunity for a couple to re-affirm their vows in a Christian setting and is a worthy alternative which should be considered seriously. Please do discuss this with the Minister.

For initial wedding enquiries, please contact Alison Hare.

Photos courtesy of Andy Walden Photography.