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  • Advice

    Marriage is viewed as a union between two individuals. It can be understood as a social and legal contract between them. With marriage come certain obligations. A married person will be responsible for different matters, such as providing for the family and taking care of it. Both partners will be responsible for the upbringing of their children if they have children. They will also be responsible for one another. As marriage is a contract, specific legal rights and benefits are acquired through it.

    In 1753 the Marriage Act declared that all marriage ceremonies must be conducted by a minister in a parish church or chapel of the Church of England to be legally binding. The Act was revised again in 1836 and yet again in 1929. A recent change was via the Civil Partnership Act 2004 which granted the same rights in civil partnerships to same-sex couples, the Act also applies to Scotland.


    Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013

    The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 introduced civil marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales. The legislation allowed religious organisations to opt in to marry same-sex couples should they wish to do so. It also protected religious organisations and their representatives from successful legal challenges if they did not wish to marry same-sex couples. The legislation also enabled civil partners to convert their civil partnership into marriage and people who classify as transsexual to change their legal gender without necessarily having to end their existing marriage. In Scotland, the Scottish Parliament has legislated to allow same-sex marriages. The Northern Ireland Assembly has not legislated to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.


    Arranged Marriages

    An arranged marriage is usually organised by the elders of the families themselves to create a mutually beneficial union. They are a common tradition in many cultures; however, they are not the same as forced marriage as although both individuals may feel under pressure to get married, there is no legal enforcement to do so. There are exceptions of course, especially in countries like Niger and India having particularly high and disturbing rates of child brides, often pulled from school but agreeing to marry for whatever reason, as such in effect an “Arranged” marriage it is still a veneer, cloaking abuse in the name of tradition. In China, they are referred to as “blind marriages”.


    Even though it is estimated that around half of the marriages worldwide are arranged by families on an individual’s behalf the rate of divorce in arranged marriages is very low (4%), this may be because of the shame that a divorce would bring to the family. In effect an arranged marriage is like marrying someone on your first date, both sides relying on their family to effectively choose their life partner. The legal rules for arranged marriages are the same as those for any other type of marriage, however, there is less chance of a pre-nuptial agreement as both sides would have typically come from similar backgrounds.


    Who Can Marry?

    All adult couples can marry if they meet the legal requirements. To get married in England and Wales, you must be over the age of 16. However, if you are under 18, parental consent is needed to get married. A person needs to be single, widowed or divorced to get divorced. One cannot marry their relatives, such as step-relatives or in-laws, unless under certain circumstances. 


    The ceremony

    A religious marriage ceremony can be held at any authorised religious building such as a church. LGBTQ couples can have religious ceremonies based on the approval of individual venues. Religious ceremonies, however, must be attended by a person approved to practice the religion chosen by the couple. The primary example of this would be a religious minister. Individual couples can also source or choose to appoint a registrar. Much as there is some room for discussion on the exact wording, a religious marriage ceremony must involve exchanging vows between the two parties in some capacity. This can be discussed ahead of the ceremony by those involved within it.


    Other marriages and civil partnerships can occur at a local registrar office or any building that local councils have approved to hold the ceremony. From a legal perspective, civil ceremonies cannot include any religious element, any religious blessing chosen by the partners must take place after the ceremony has been completed. However, non-religious songs, readings and music are still an option and will depend on the choices of individual couples.


    Giving Notice

    Both parties must decide on a venue for their marriage ceremony before giving notice of their intent to marry and sign a legal document at their local register office stating their intent to get married. This is known as "giving notice". They must do this at least 29 days before holding the marriage ceremony. This notice is then valid for 12 months, over which time the couple can have the ceremony.


    Both parties must prove proof of identification, any of the following documents are valid for this purpose. 

    • A valid UK driver's licence (ones from the European Union, European Economic Area or Switzerland are also accepted);
    • Utility bill (gas, water, electric dating back up to three months before the notice appointment);
    • Bank or building society statement from the previous month;
    • Council tax bill dating back up to 12 months;
    • Mortgage statement dating back up to 12 months;
    • A current tenancy agreement; or
    • A letter from a landlord confirming the address of the party giving notice. The letter must be dated within the last seven days and detail the landlord's name and address.


    Objecting to a marriage

    Sometimes there may be reasons why you believe that a marriage should not occur, for this we would guide you to the caveats that can be used to object. These caveats must be lodged with the appropriate superintendent registrar who must ensure that it is recorded in the marriage register as soon as reasonably practicable. Whilst the list of potential caveats is too long to consider the way they are handled is detailed in section 29 of the 1949 Marriage Act. Essentially no marriage schedule shall be issued until the relevant superintendent registrar has examined the matter and is satisfied that it ought not to obstruct the issue of the marriage schedule, or until the caveat is withdrawn by the person who entered it. If they are in any doubt, they can refer the matter to the Registrar General. If the Registrar General believes the grounds for the caveat are frivolous and it was lodged with the sole intention to frustrate the process, they may direct that the objection be dismissed and the objector to be held liable for the costs of the proceedings and for damages recoverable by the person against whose marriage the caveat was entered.

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