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Wedding-hours change will not apply to C of E

06 July 2012


A RELAXATION of the law that places a restriction on the hours when marriages may be solemnised does not apply to wedding services in the Church of England, lawyers from Church House said this week. They warned that conducting a marriage outside the permitted hours "would amount to an ecclesiastical offence for the purposes of the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003".

At present, both canon law and the 1949 Marriage Act say that weddings can be conducted only between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The restriction in the Marriage Act will be lifted from 1 October, when provisions in the Protection of Freedoms Act come into force. But the new law does not amend canon law.

A Home Office statement said that "neither local authorities nor religious groups are required to provide services outside of the traditional hours."

The Home Office says that marriages conducted by the Society of Friends, or in accordance with the Jewish faith, as well as some marriages approved on the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury's special licence, are already permitted

The Church's legal office issued a guidance note this week. It says: "The member of the clergy officiating must say the whole rite and perform the whole ceremony by 6 p.m." The signing of the registers, it says, may take place after 6 p.m., so long as the service is fully concluded by then."

"The restriction contained in the Canon," it says, "remains in force notwithstanding the repeal of section 4 of the 1949 Act. The Canons are legally binding on the clergy."

When civil marriages were introduced in 1837, the law restricted the hours in which services could be conducted to between 8 a.m. and midday. In 1886, the permitted hours were extended to 3 p.m. This was extended again, in 1934, to 6 p.m.

The change in law will bring England and Wales into line with Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Question of the week: Should weddings be permitted to take place in the evening?


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