Weddings - Legal Aspects

Wedding at St Thomas'

Legal Aspects

Because a wedding service is a legal ceremony, there are a number of requirements which must be met. The law gives the right to any person, irrespective of nationality, living within the parish to be married in the parish church, even if either or both are of another religion. The church must still be made available to them by the rector or priest, even if he/she is not conducting the service. Neither of the persons to be married, needs to be baptised.

A legal marriage in England must be solemnised by an authorised person. This means the registrar of any Registry Office, an ordained minister of the Church of England or a minister of other religious denominations who have been legally authorised to register marriages.

In the UK weddings may only take place between a couple where one partner was born male and one partner was born female. Both partners must be over the age of 16. In England or Wales, if either is under 18 a parent or legal guardian must give written permission for the marriage to go ahead. If however, someone under 18 has been married and is now divorced or widowed, this consent is not needed.

Certain members of families may not marry. These couplings are set-out in the Marriage Act of 1986. Many of these prohibited relationships will be obvious (you may not marry one of your brothers or sisters for example) and others are rare, but similarly obvious (you may not marry, for example, a former wife or husband's parent). Marriages between first cousins were previously prohibited, but they may now marry each other. Should you be in any doubt, clergy or registrars can advise on any marriages that are prohibited by law.

Weddings may take place only between the hours of 8am and 6pm, except in particular circumstances such as where one or both of the partners are house bound.


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