Minister David E Flavell
English citizens living abroad
Q. My daughter is considering coming to the UK to be married. She was born here but now lives abroad. How would she find out the laws and regulations for being married here?Is it possible for her to have a church wedding? Can a travel agent make these arrangements?
A. If your daughter is not a UK citizen, she needs to check with her country's authorities that they will allow her to be married here. Assuming she (and her fiancé) are citizens, they still need to be here at least 22 days before the wedding - 7 days to claim residency and then 15 days wait for their certificates of eligibility. There would be no automatic right to a church wedding, but other things being equal, many ministers would be sympathetic. I would want to do everything myself rather than going through a travel agent. A preliminary visit to see the minister and the reception venue is a must.
Where must a religious wedding be performed?
Q. Is it possible to have a religious wedding performed not in a church in the UK? Is it true that in Scotland that is possible?
A. It is possible for a Jewish wedding or a Quaker wedding to be performed anywhere, even a garden, but you really do have to be either Jewish or Quaker. You can't just turn up and say that you might like to join! For all other religions in England and Wales, the wedding has to be performed in a religious building, such as a church. If you want to be married in a hotel or the Register Office, no religious ceremony is allowed, which means you can't have any hymns, Bible Readings, a poem which mentions God, or even Handel's Messiah. In Scotland, the law is completely different, and the venue of the wedding is at the discretion of the minister.
Two possible churches
Q. We have the option of 2 churches in which to get married. As neither of us are church-goers and do not know the vicars, can we meet both before we decide which church we want to get married in? We don't want to be disrespectful to the church or to the vicars and don't want to waste their time but we are hoping to make our decision based on more than just which church is prettier.
A. It's a bit cheeky to meet the vicars and tell them that you're making a conditional booking depending on the church down the road. The best thing to do is to attend each church on a Sunday morning. You should get some idea of how your wedding service will be conducted from how the Sunday service is conducted. Make your decision accordingly.
Dates to avoid
Q. We want to get married on either Easter Saturday or Christmas Eve in our local church. Is it possible to marry on these dates? Are there any other dates in the Christian calendar that it is best to avoid?
A. Legally, any day is possible. Some ministers are not keen to marry during Lent (the 6 and a half weeks before Easter) for theological reasons, and Easter and Christmas might be difficult for practical reasons - they're both very busy times for the church! It's also best to avoid Cup Final Day, but that should still leave you an awful lot of days from which to choose.
Our various celebrants may offer very different answers to the same questions, not only because of the religious tradition they follow, but because they have their own personal views too - religious questions don't necessarily have a right or wrong answer!