We are operating as normal > Read our COVID-19 guidance.

1 million uk marriages could be invalid

Lawyers for the Church of England have revealed that more than one million marriages in Britain are legally “invalid” all because the vicars who married them used the wrong form of words.

The error opens up the possibility that married partners heading for a divorce may try to deny their spouse maintenance, support or even a home on the grounds that they were never really married.

The Church’s blunder involves the wording of the banns, which ask if anyone knows of any good reason why the marriage should not be allowed, and which must be read out in church three times in the weeks before a wedding.
Under the Marriage Act of 1949, the wording of the banns must be according to the Book of Common Prayer set out in 1662, which asks the congregation “if any of you know cause, or just impediment , why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony” .

In 1980 the Church brought in a new prayer book, the Alternative Service Book, with a new marriage service and a new form of wording for the banns.

The modern wording has continued to be used in the Church of England’s latest prayer book, Commons Worship, adopted in 2006.

But when the new prayer books were approved, as is legally necessary, by Parliament, Church lawyers forgot to change the 1949 Marriage Act so that it included the new wording of the banns.

This asks if anyone knows a “reason in law” to stop the marriage . Hence, making the weddings conducted under the form prescribed in the newer prayer books, unlawful.

Now the legal changes approved by the CofE’s parliament, the General Synod, must win royal assent and be passed into law for any marriage to be considered lawful.

This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

Click here to chat with us!