If you are being married elsewhere, but you need Banns to be published at St Michael and All Angels’, please fill in and return this form:
The Church of England is in a privileged position to conduct weddings entirely legally without the presence of a Registrar. Every licensed bishop, priest and deacon is qualified by virtue of holy orders to solemnize marriages in church; we are always delighted to join a couple in holy wedlock. You have many decisions to make as you plan your wedding, and lots of questions. To help you, the main ones are covered below.
All couples, regardless of their religion, have a right to be married in their parish church, providing certain qualifications are fulfilled. Principal qualifications for marrying after Banns are:
- you have never been married, you are not in a civil partnership, or you are widowed;
- you are not related, within certain degrees, by blood or family marriage to your fiancé(e);
- you are not the same sex as your fiancé(e);
- one of you lives in the parish where the wedding is to take place, or you have another qualifying connection;
- you are a British or Irish national, or else a citizen of an EEA state (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
If you have been divorced and your former spouse is still living, it is entirely the decision of the priest whether to marry you in church or not; no appeal is possible. The priest will ask you about the circumstances leading to the divorce and make his decision based on those. If he does agree to marry you, he will need to notify the bishop: this is a formality. The Church of England’s guidance for clergy is not to conduct a marriage of divorced persons where the engaged couple had committed adultery with one another and that destroyed the earlier marriage. (This was the case with the Prince of Wales, who was a widower in the eyes of the Church, and Camilla Parker-Bowles, whose husband was still living; by contrast, Meghan Markle’s first marriage had ended before she met Prince Harry.) Some priests will not marry divorced persons at all. (An annulment is different: it means the previous “marriage” was invalid: it never existed, and is therefore no impediment.)
Church and State
Any marriage ceremony recognised by the state is a legal contract between two people; marriage in church, to be lawful, must be according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, and can only be between a man and a woman. If you wish to be married in church, you should realise that it is a service of Christian worship: the vows are made in the presence of God and your marriage is made sacramentally, thus bringing God’s blessing and grace to your married life together.
Banns or licence?
You can only be married after Banns if you meet one of the qualifying connections. Banns must be published (i.e. read out) for three Sundays in the main service of the church where you are to be married. If either the bride or groom lives in a different parish, Banns must also be published there and a certificate obtained to give to the priest marrying you: he can’t marry you without that certificate. Banns are valid for three months from the “third time of asking”. It is best not to have the third time as the Sunday immediately preceding the wedding, just in case something goes wrong. You do not have to be present for the publishing of the Banns.
People who can’t be married after Banns will need a licence or a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate. The priest marrying you can give you advice on this. If there are immigration issues, all the preliminary formalities are carried out at the local Register Office, who will issue you with a Marriage Schedule that you give to the priest marrying you; this (instead of a Marriage Document) is signed during or immediately after the service and goes back to the Register Office for registration of the marriage.
You can choose among three different wedding services: The 1662 Book of Common Prayer; the “1928 Service”, which is also in traditional language; the Common Worship service, which is in contemporary English. It is entirely your decision which of these three services you have.
- If you want one of the first two, there are very few decisions to make.
- If you wish to have the third – Common Worship – service, there are several different choices open to you, among them: whether the bride is given away; whether you come in together, or the bride makes an entrance (or, indeed, whether the bride sits without ceremony in church waiting for the groom to make his entrance); you must have a reading from the Bible; there must be a sermon; you have the option between two Prefaces (an explanation of the meaning and purpose of Christian marriage) and of which prayer of blessing you’d like over the ring(s); if there is only one ring, it must be given by the groom to the bride.
For reference, all royal marriages use the “1928 Service”. The only exception was the Sussexes’ wedding, which used Common Worship.
Here are the hyperlinks to the texts of these three services:
Music and Readings
Whichever service you choose, you don’t need to have hymns – indeed, if your guests won’t sing, you really shouldn’t have hymns as the lack of voices is embarrassing. Music played must be in harmony with Christian teaching: this doesn’t mean it has to be “religious”. If you decide on the Common Worship service, and you want a reading in addition to the Bible, again it must not be in conflict with Christian teaching. The priest marrying you will help you with this.
The Wedding Planner
Note that in a church wedding, because it is a service of Christian worship, there is only one wedding planner: the priest who marries you. All decisions are made between the three of you: the couple and the priest, and no one else.
Service and Banns fees are set nationally. If you want a choir, organist or bells, (if available), the fees are charged by the people providing those facilities. The organist has the right to charge a fee if you use a videographer.
If you’re a regular communicant, you may wish to have a Nuptial Mass: in this case, the wedding service is embedded into the Mass.
Vows and Actions
Soaps often give the impression that you can write your own vows. You can’t: you have to use the exact wording laid down in whichever service you have chosen. In the “1928” service, the bride can include the vow to obey – this is entirely her decision.
The three legally-required actions are: the vows, the joining of hands, the giving and receiving of a ring or rings.
Tying the knot
This happens almost literally when the priest wraps his stole round the couple’s joined right hands and says, “Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” (The contemporary words are slightly different.)
Do I or will I?
You frequently see adverts or publications with wording like, “Before you say, ‘I do’”. Well, you don’t! You are asked, “Wilt thou/Will you…?”, to which you answer, “I will”. This is an important distinction. “I do” implies simply that you are doing something, whether you want to or not: “Do you pay your taxes?” In a Church wedding, it is vital that everyone present can hear that you are willing to be married: “I will” – I am willing, it is my will. This means you haven’t been forced into it or coerced in any way.
What if I forget something?
The only two words you need to remember are, “I will”. You will have a rehearsal beforehand. When the wedding day arrives, simply relax and enjoy it! The priest will guide you through everything, so there is no need to be nervous. You repeat the vows after the priest, who will say them in small, manageable, easily-remembered chunks.
“Stop the wedding!”
The Banns provide an opportunity for the bringing to light of any legal impediments to the marriage. Examples are consanguinity; that one of the parties is married to someone else; that the bride or groom is under age; that their nationality prevents it. There is a final opportunity at the start of the wedding. Whilst this is the stuff of drama, it rarely happens. If an impediment is alleged at the wedding, the priest will pause the ceremony and enquire in private as to the nature and validity of the allegation. Only legal impediments can stop a wedding, not an ex-lover’s jealousy or a relative’s dislike of the bride or groom. The question is whether there is a reason in law why the marriage cannot take place (in which case the service does not continue). If the allegation is not a legal impediment, the priest will resume the service.
In both England and Wales, the wording of the service must be in English or Welsh. If either the bride or groom (or both) doesn’t adequately understand or speak the language of the service, there must be an interpreter to ensure that they can give informed consent; the interpreter must be one of the signatory witnesses on the Marriage Document or Schedule. If the priest can speak the native tongue of the bride or groom, he can conduct the service bilingually.
As mentioned earlier on, a C of E wedding is recognised by law, and is effected legally when the priest says, “I pronounce that they be man and wife together” or, “I therefore proclaim that they are husband and wife” (the wording depends on which service you have). Since 4th May 2021, registration of the marriage takes place at the local Register Office, not as part of the wedding service, so you won’t be issued with a Marriage Certificate there and then. Instead, the couple, the witnesses and the priest sign a Marriage Document, which then goes to the local Register Office. On receipt of that document, the State Registrar will register the marriage and the couple can then apply to the Registrar for a certificate. (Additionally, note that the priest can no longer issue any certificates for weddings conducted before that date.) This part of the service is now called The Signing of the Marriage Document (or Schedule).
Parents and witnesses
Until 4th May 2021, only the details of the couple’s fathers appeared in the registers and on the certificate. Now the mothers’ details are also recorded (initially on the Marriage Document and subsequently in the State Register). There is further space for up to two “Parents” for each of the bride and groom, should they so desire (i.e. they don’t have to); this allows both for step-parents and for parents who do not wish to declare their biological sex.
In the past, the bride’s father and the best man were witnesses, because they could testify that the couple had not only said the vows, but also joined hands and given/received a ring or rings (which actions might be unobservable by the congregation). More recently, and because the mothers’ details didn’t appear in the registers or on the certificate, it became customary for the mothers to sign the registers as witnesses. Now it is unnecessary to ask the mothers or fathers to be signatory witnesses when their details are already on the Document; instead, as a record of members of the immediate wedding party whose details wouldn’t otherwise be recorded, it is worth considering having the best man and the chief bridesmaid as witnesses. Moreover, you can have more than two witnesses, although the number will be restricted by the space provided on the Marriage Document (and consider also that the witnesses are required to print their names next to their signatures, thus taking up more space).
Photos and videos
To avoid distraction from both the solemnity and joy of the occasion, guests are not permitted to take photographs of the ceremony or to video it. You can, however, have an official photographer and/or videographer, who must act under the directions of the clergyperson marrying you.
Before the wedding, the priest will arrange with you to have a rehearsal. Present should be the couple, the best man, whoever (if anybody) is giving the bride away, and the bridesmaids. If the bridesmaids are very young, you may wish to have the chief bridesmaid only at the rehearsal. Often the ushers attend, also. Having other members of the family there is unnecessary and may prove distracting.
Soaps keep showing the bridesmaids making an entrance of their own before the bride. For good reason traditionally, the bridesmaids followed the bride (they are her maids, after all, not the main show) and stood a short distance behind her during the ceremony. This made it possible for the chief bridesmaid to take the bride’s bouquet to free her hands; for one or more of the bridesmaids to arrange the bride’s veil and train; to be ready to attend and assist her throughout. If they come in before the bride, where do they go and what do they do during the service? They also detract from the wow-impact the bride wants to make when she enters the church, her maids following her as supporting cast – and which bride wants to be upstaged? Think carefully through what you want to happen and why.
American brides attempt to pace in to the music on their father’s arms. It often goes wrong. Royal brides don’t attempt such a hazardous venture and walk at their own slow pace up the aisle. This is the practice of most brides in the UK.
The person giving the bride away says nothing and does not move away after doing so, but stays there to witness the actions and vows (as does the best man). A bride can be given away by anyone (a widowed mother, for example); if it’s not one of her parents, it’s a good idea to have that person as one of the witnessing signatories so they’re recorded when the marriage is registered. Of course, she doesn’t need to be given away at all if that is her wish.
Traditionally the bride’s side of the church is on the left as you face the altar, and the groom’s is on the right. If one of the couple is likely to have few from his or her side in comparison to the other, it would be unkind to keep to this tradition; in that case, the ushers can put the immediate family members on their respective sides and everyone else evenly throughout the church.
Whilst it may look nice for a girl to scatter flower petals in front of the bride as she makes her entrance, it creates a mess: they get trodden into the floor and blow everywhere else. If you want this, you must arrange for a guest to clear it up at the end; this can be done during the photographs so it doesn’t delay that guest’s departure to the reception.
This is available here:
Please return it after you’ve completed it. Note that, for people’s occupations, you need an adequate description: for example, “Engineer” is insufficient, so write “Software Engineer” or whatever type of engineer you are. Abbreviations aren’t allowed (Heavy Goods Vehicle Driver, not HGV Driver).
The priest marrying you will require proof of address and nationality. Other documents may be required (e.g. spouse’s death certificate if you’re widowed; decree absolute; documentary proof of UK “settled status” if you’re an EAA citizen).
Yes, guests can throw confetti outside providing it is biodegradable and it neither blows back into the church nor onto the road.
Parking in Maidstone is always a challenge (some might say a nightmare!). There is a small car park owned by the church (entrance from St Michael’s Road), or you can take your chances on the street. What many wedding parties do is hire a coach from and to the reception venue so guests can leave their cars there; this will be of great benefit to your guests. If your reception is at the Grange Moor Hotel opposite the church on St Michael’s Road, you will be able to leave your cars there and walk across.
This hyperlink to the C of E’s weddings site has full details of qualifying connections and much helpful advice and information.