Marriage Act 1949

This act came into effect on January the 1st 1950 and is the one we know today, with a few amendments. Its biggest change was to abolish marriage entirely for those under 16 years of age in England and Wales.

We see a widening of the permissible hours of marriage, from between 9am and 3pm to 8am and 6pm. A few people then using this early start so they can get married before work, as the playwright Alan Bennett dryly notes about his parents in his excellent book A Life Like Other People’s.

It is the first act to specifically mention Jews and Quakers and when those marriages may be solemnized. Prior acts concerned themselves almost entirely with laws for Church of England marriages, every other religion seemingly being grouped together under general rules.

It runs to many pages in length, compared to the diminutive 2 pages of the 1836 act. It covers many unattended intricacies such as marriage on ships and across borders, as well as much refinement of the prior act.

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