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
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?