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3 Quick Tips About Marrying Outside Your Parish

Question :

I need some advice about booking a church. We want to get married in a specific church in my area, but not my local parish church. I have none of the set "connections" specified by the Church of England to qualify for the use of it. Has anyone had experience of getting approval to get married in a non local church? How did you go about this? How easy was it? I am going to approach the vicar but wanted some info first! Thanks

BOBBY London


Now this is something I have first hand experience of as I was for 10 years a Baptist Minister, even though I am now a wedding photographer.

First thing you need to know :

Is not every church is a Church of England church. Now you may be aware of that, but for a lot of younger people who do not have a tradition of church going they may not be aware that over the last 25 years many Non-Denominational and Non-Conformist Churches have taken over former Church of England places of worship.

Therefore just because it looks like a 'traditional church', does not mean it is a Church of England church.

If it is the case that the building is now occupied by say a House Church, or the Baptists or the Family Church Group, all of which have growing congregations, then getting married at that venue is simply a matter between you and the minister. 

These 'non-conformist' churches do not have the same hierarchical red tape that the Church of England has accumulated over centuries and so tend to be far more flexible in allowing you to marry. They will often encourage you to have the kind of wedding celebration which is more individual and personal than just traditional!

Second thing you need to know :

Is that in 2008 the Church of England brought in their 'MARRIAGE MEASURE'. This is an official piece of Church Law which governs marriage in every Church of England Church everywhere.

Prior to the Marriage Measure you could only marry in you Parish Church, or other religious building or registry office, that was it, no discussion and that's how it was for about 1900 years.

The world outside the church began to change and did so very quickly between the 1970's and 1980's. Hotels, Stately Homes, Botanical Gardens, and many other amazing venues started to become registered for weddings. Suddenly the main stay of the Church of England, marriage, began a very, very sharp decline.

In fact it became so bad that at one point more people were getting married in hotels than all the churches put together. Then came the Church of England fightback. The issue of the 

CHURCH OF ENGLAND MARRIAGE MEASURE 2008

This was suppose to address the decline in church marriage by providing access to what the Bishops called "Pretty Churches". If you want chapter and verse of these measures you can find them here. Marriage Measures

What the Marriage Measures did was to relax access to all churches. There are now many reasons to be able to marry in the church of your choice not just because its your parish church:

  • One of the couple was Baptised in the church where you want to get married
  • One of the couple has been Confirmed in the church where you want to get married
  • Parents or Grandparents were married  in the church where you want to get married
  • Lived locally for six months to the church where you want to get married
  • Parents lived locally for six months to the church where you want to get married
  • Parents have worshipped for Six months in the church where you want to get married

But I leave the one clause most people use in order to get married in the church of their choosing to last...

Third thing you need to know :

Church of England ministers are more pragmatic today then ever before, not all, but far more than 20 years ago. Certainly the younger ministers would rather include couples from outside their parish into their church. The strict lines of, if you live here then you worship here are now blurred and becoming more so as parish churches close and parishes merge.

This leads me on to the last clause of the Marriage Measures:

  • If you worship in the church where you want to get married for 6 months then you qualify

What this means is that for one service on a Sunday, one or both of you attend the worship service. Usually there is a choice morning or evening. The morning tends to be more family orientated and so a lot lighter than the evening service.

Now its not like a register, no one checks you in and out, its a general effort, so you can go on holiday or you can miss a week or two because you are ill or working away. No one is going to check up on you. But if in general you attend for 6 months, you qualify.

The strictness of this rule varies from Minister to Minister, some more progressive ministers see your marriage as a way of creating an important link to the church and the local community and so take a very relaxed approach to the six month rule. Other more traditionalists who comply with the rules can be a bit ardent about you attending.

The key question is how important is your wedding ceremony to you? Six months is nothing really and you never know you may gain some helpful insight into life together, commitment and the opportunity for be part of a community.