The legalities of marrying in church

To ensure the marriage complies with both UK Civil and Church law, there are certain aspects of a church wedding that must be fulfilled.

A couple are showered with confetti in Offham
Will & Sophie married
in Offham in 2022.
Credit: Kate Rogers

Reading of Banns

Banns are an announcement in church of your intention to marry and a chance for any member of the public to put forward a legal reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place.

Banns need to be read in the parish where each of you live as well as at the church in which you wish to be married (if different). If you both live in the parish where you marry, then the Banns only need to be read in that church. You must have your banns read out in church for three Sundays during the three months before the wedding. This is most usually done over three consecutive Sundays.

If there is not enough notice given for the Banns to be read before the marriage is due to take place, or in the case of the marriage of people whose nationality is not British, or if one or both of you do not live in England, you must apply for a Licence rather than have Banns read. This is especially recommended if there is any doubt as to the legal requirements of the home country of a non-British person for recognition of an English Church marriage.

You must be old enough

If you are under 18 years old, you can’t legally get married in England or Wales. Before 27 February 2023, you could get married when you were 16 or 17 provided you had the consent of each parent with parental responsibility and any legal guardian. That is no longer the case and you must be at least 18 years old to marry.

Time of wedding

To be legal the wedding must take place between 8am and 6pm.

A couple pose for photos on their wedding day.
Kevin & Kerry
married in West Malling in 2022

Guidelines for divorcees

There are special guidelines on marriage in the church if you are divorced. It is our great pleasure to marry divorcees here in our parishes but you will need to talk to a member of our Clergy team about your situation to explore the possibilities for you. We’ve put more information on marriage in church after divorce in our Frequently Asked Questions.


There are some circumstances in which you may need a Special Licence, Common Licence or a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate to marry in church. We’ve put more information on licences in our information on who qualifies to marry here.

Marrying outside your parish

It is now much easier to marry in a church that has a special connection for you, even if the church you wish to marry in is not your own local parish church. There’s a special page of information available on this website.