Marriage Act 1836

This act came into effect from January the 1st 1837 and legally applied only to England. It marked the first time a record of all marriages in England and Wales began to be kept in one place. From this date all marriage records were sent to The General Register Office for England and Wales (GRO), a newly created body responsible for the civil registration of births, adoptions, marriages, civil partnerships and deaths in England and Wales. Any couple intending to be married would now receive a marriage certificate from the parish registrar, and could not marry until 21 days had passed from delivery of this certificate. Unless permission was given by a parent, the minimum age of marriage was 21. The act also laid out other major reforms:

Notice of Marriage

An example of the required format for notifying the parish registrar of a marriage, taken from the original act

  • Marriage could take place in any legally recognised place of worship, such as a register office, upon signed confirmation from at least twenty householders that it was their primary place of worship.
  • A requirement for the registrar to record in a Marriage Notice Book the first name, surname, occupation, age, address & time at the address for both parties.
  • The registrar and a minimum of two credible witnesses must be present at the ceremony.

The act contains a few other fascinating points –

every such Marriage shall be celebrated with open doors, between the hours of Nine in the Forenoon and Three in the Afternoon.

If you married outside these hours, or you didn’t let the public in, your marriage would be void!

this Act shall extend only to England, and shall not extend to the Marriage of any of the Royal Family.

Interestingly, it didn’t apply to royalty. Good news for Prince Charles.

no Marriage unless by License, shall be solemnized or registered in England until after the expiration of Twenty-one Days after the day of the delivery of such certificate of notice…

If you bought a license for £3 (between £150 and £500 in todays money, depending how you calculate it) then you only needed to give 7 days notice of intended marriage.

The act also says how the vows should be worded, with the familiar line –

I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, A. B. do take thee, C. D., to be my lawful wedded Wife [or Husband].

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