Revd Tony Sophianou

Written by    Last updated: September 13, 2006

Appropriate church readings

Q. I want a friend to do a reading at my wedding but I really don’t know what to ask her to do! Where should I look and is it possible for anything to be read out? Does it have to be religious?

A. Your parish priest will be able to suggest readings suitable for a marriage service. In certain instances it may be possible to have a ‘non‐religious’ reading ‐ provided that it was suitable ‐ though this would have to be in addition to a reading from Scripture. Church of England Canons specifically state that the priest has the final decision over the content of the service, including the music.

Renewing your vows

Q. My husband and I have been married for nearly ten years. We promised each other on our wedding day that we would renew our vows on our tenth anniversary. Please could you explain how I go about arranging this, can it be in any church or just the one we married in? How long do blessings last and what is normally said in them?

A. First of all, congratulations on your forthcoming anniversary. I hope your marriage will continue to grow as strongly in the future. The service of renewal of marriage vows (known as ‘Thanksgiving for Marriage’) is one that has grown increasingly popular in recent years and it is an especial joy for me personally to be involved with them, particularly as they are public expressions of the joy of Christian marriage. Nevertheless, the service is also suitable for couples coming together after a time of separation or difficulty in marriage. The service does not have to be performed in the same church as the marriage ‐ though many couples prefer it ‐ so just contact your local parish priest who will be able to give you all the details you require. As far as possible, we like to tailor the service around the specific wishes of the couple; on average, services last between 30 and 40 minutes.

What are the banns?

Q. I’ve been told I have to have my banns read, what are these and what do I have to do? Will my partner have to have them read as well?

A. Basically, banns are a form of licence allowing a person to marry. They are published (ie, read out) in church on three Sundays (not necessarily consecutive) up to three months before the date of the marriage, during which time, any person who knows of any legal impediment may challenge the proposed union. Banns must be published in the respective parish churches of each of the couple and in the church where the ceremony is to take place. Provided there has been no challenge a Certificate of Banns (for which a modest fee is payable) will be issued after the final reading allowing the couple to marry. The first step is to find out which is your parish church (and your partner’s) and to arrange to visit the priest(s) so that the relevant information is taken. He or she will then advise on the next step. Special regulations apply to marriages involving non‐British people.

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!

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