The Church of England is just about to make it easier for someone to get married in what he or she thinks of as his or her own home church, although it is not going to open the way for people to get married in any church which happens to take their fancy. This week I’ve been juggling with how to communicate the detailed guidelines which have now been issued with the large number of people who look after wedding bookings for this parish.
At the moment it is straight forward exercising the right to be married in a church in the parish in which you live. From 1st October this right is being extended to parishes in which you or a parent have previously lived (for at least six months) and parishes where a parent or grandparent was married.
At the moment it is straight forward exercising the right to be married in a church in the parish in which you worship (by putting your name on the church roll as an habitual worshipper). From 1st October this right is being extended to parishes in which you or a parent have worshipped during your lifetime (for at least six months) or where you were baptised or from where you were presented for confirmation.
The bit about baptism has been carefully drafted. Sometimes a person is baptised and confirmed in one service which might take place away from his or her own parish; this doesn’t accidentally create the right to be married in the parish which hosted the service. Sometimes a person is baptised away from his or her home parish, perhaps the most obvious example being in a hospital; to the surprise of some, this will now create the right to be married in the churches in the parish in which the hospital stands.
In all this we are talking about Church of England churches and services; you don’t acquire the right to be married in a parish simply because, for example, a Catholic priest baptised you somewhere within it or a grandparent was married in a Methodist church somewhere within it. And we are not talking about those who have had a previous marriage dissolved and a former partner still living; such new marriages do take place, but there is no automatic right for them to do so. Cathedrals are different too.
In many ways the new rights only make easier some of the things which have sometimes been happening anyway, from an individual giving a parental address as if it was that person’s own address to a couple going through the procedure to apply for a Special Licence on the basis of a suitable link with the particular church. We will see how they work out in practice. The full guidelines will often need to be consulted.
The picture was taken after one of the weddings at St Michael’s, Little Coates yesterday.