Wedding Couple link to Wedding Page


This page summarises many of the legal documents, procedures, and processes which you’ll come across along the wedding planning journey with couples.  

Page Contents

Key Resources

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Marriage Preliminaries

How couples can lawfully marry in your church

British nationals

Couples will be enquiring whether they can marry in your church. If they are both British nationals, use the “Ten ways to say yes” guidance to help you discern if they are legally able to marry in the parish. 

Foreign nationals without settled or pre-settled status 

Nationals from other countries who do not have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme must have a  Superintendent Registrar’s Marriage Schedule (SRMS) to go ahead. The only exception to this is if a Special Licence has been granted. Couples will need to apply for an SRMS at the relevant local register office. Information for couples about the process can be found on the Church of England website


If the couple have divorce in their background, there is guidance from the House of Bishops for the procedure to follow. Couples can be referred to the Church of England website page on Marriage after divorce for more information about what to expect.  

Other circumstances

The Faculty Office website offers information about more unusual circumstances when a Special Licence or Common Licence may be required.

Same-sex couples cannot lawfully marry in a Church of England church.

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For the first meeting

Checking identification

The couple will need to bring their passports (if they have them) to the first meeting with the marrying priest to confirm their nationality. If they don’t have passports, see p.13/14 of the above Guidebook for Clergy to see other acceptable documents for providing evidence of nationality. 

Discussing fees

It is important for everyone to be clear on the mandatory fees and optional costs associated with a wedding. Read about how you can quote for the church service clearly and within the Law using ready-made resources. 

If a couple is experiencing genuine financial hardship, find out about when and how you can lawfully waive a parochial fee.

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Preparing the banns

The Faculty Office website outlines the key points surrounding the reading of the banns and detailed legislation is listed out in the Marriage Act 1949.  

You can point couples to the Church of England website for more about banns and what to expect at this stage. 

If you have any doubts about whether to proceed with banns, or any complex circumstances which might interfere with the usual banns process, (such as if the couple are likely to move house during the time banns are in progress), consult your diocesan registrar for advice.  

To help you collect the necessary data for banns, there is a Banns form available from Church House Publishing, or you could use the Life Events Diary feature on the Church Organiser tool as a digital alternative. The tool can be set to remind you by email of forthcoming banns dates. 

It is not compulsory for couples to attend their banns readings but having them present can be reassuring for both you and the couple, since everyone can then be certain that all the details (names etc), have been read out correctly. It can also be a special moment for the couple and an opportunity to extend the welcome of the church and pray for them. A Banns invitation card for couples to help you invite them to one or more of the banns is available from Church House Publishing.  

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The Wedding Day

Ahead of the wedding day, you will need to obtain and prepare the marriage document in order to enable the couple to register the marriage after the service. It replaces the registers that were in use before Marriage Registration changes came into force in May 2021. 

You can obtain it in one of three ways as follows:  

  1. A type and print version which can be accessed by the clergy on the Local Registration Service (LRSA) password protected website: If you don’t have a password for the site, contact your Diocesan Secretary or Archdeacon. 
  1. Hard copies – please contact Registration Supplies via if you require a stock of hard copies. 
  1. Add a Wedding Service to your Life Events Diary feature on the Church Organiser if you have an Account. You will then be able to create and print the marriage document from within your Account.  

For completing the marriage document, the clergy should follow the guidance issued by the General Register Office in their Guidebook for the Clergy. Your local register office also offers help if needed. 

You are obliged to make a record of the marriage in the Church Register of Marriage Services. 

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Further Resources for Weddings

From Church Support Hub

Free Resource Pack for your first meeting with a couple – a download with several ready-made items to help make your data collection and quoting for a wedding easier. 

How to collect legal data for a wedding with warmth – to help with this first part of the wedding planning journey. 

The huge missional value of keeping in touch with Life Events contacts – a helpful insight. 

Other Resources

All printed wedding resources on Church House Publishing which will help with your administration and with supporting the couple.

Church wedding information for couples on the Church of England website. 

If you are producing your own paperwork for weddings, you might like to match them up with nationally produced weddings branding. Here you can download a zip file of wedding logos and a PDF Style Guide for all three Life Events. 

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Do both witnesses to a marriage have to be 18 or over?

There is no legal requirement for witnesses at a wedding to be 18 or over, however, when it comes to younger witnesses, you should be satisfied that they fully understand what they were witnessing and what their signature on the marriage document means. It is therefore advisable for marrying couples to choose responsible adults as witnesses, but if they have a particular preference for someone younger, check with your diocesan registrar in each case. 

Can a non-UK resident witness a Church of England marriage?

Yes, they can. However, if their first language is not English then there is a need to ensure they understand enough of the service to know what being a witness means and understand what they are signing for on the marriage document.

Can banns be called in Scotland for couples resident there?

If either, or both the bride and groom live in Scotland, but have a legally recognised connection to a Church of England church where they are to marry, the Common Licence procedure would be advised. 

Is a minimum period of residency required before banns can be called?

If a couple move into a parish which they now call home, they have a legal connection with the parish church in respect of weddings and banns with immediate effect. They are not required to live there for a certain amount of time before a wedding can be booked, or banns can be called.

Are middle names required for the reading of the banns?

The requirement for the reading of the Banns of Marriage is that the names clearly identify the couple to be married, i.e., the names by which they are usually known. First names and surnames should therefore be all that is required for banns, with the inclusion of middles names optional and not a requirement.

If someone is known by a different name from that on the birth certificate, which name should be used for the banns?

When banns are published, the “true name” of the persons who intend to marry must be used.  For the purpose of banns, a person’s true name is not necessarily the full and exact name given in baptism and their original surname. If a person has adopted a new first name and/or surname in such a way as to supersede their original name, and so that he or she is properly known by that name, it will be his or her true name for the purpose of banns.

Do banns certificates have to be signed by a clergyperson?

Yes. Section 11(4) of the Marriage Act 1949 says that a certificate of publication of banns ‘shall be signed by the incumbent or minister in charge of the building in which the banns were published or by a clergyman nominated in that behalf by the bishop of the diocese’.

Can couples use their own words for their vows?

No. The vows must remain unchanged for legal reasons. At an appropriate point, couples can be given space to offer a reading or even additional things they would like to say to one another, but the official marriage vows, and the rest of the marriage service, must not be changed in any way. See the advice to couples on the Church of England weddings web pages.

Do first, middle and/or surnames need to be used in the vows and declarations?

The Christian/first names, or at least the Christian/first name of the bride and the groom should be used.

I have a bride who wants to have bridesmaids entering the church first, ahead of her entrance. Is this ok?

The entrance and exit of the bridal party is purely a matter of custom, not law, so if a bride wishes to have bridesmaids entering the church first, that is fine.

How can I combine a marriage service with a baptism?

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Last updated

Published on June 2024 / Next review date June 2025