Call to scrap marriage ‘banns’

Family|November 24th 2015

The Church of England should scrap the practice of marriage ‘banns’, a senior priest has urged.

This 800 year-old tradition involves reading the names of a couple who are soon to be married during a church service. It usually occurs over three Sundays within three months of the ceremony. They were originally designed to give members of the congregation the opportunity to object to an upcoming marriage if they believed it was illegal.

Reverend Stephen Trott, an expert on church law, said that people’s “attachment to banns in the 21st Century is at best sentimental” and that “the England of Jane Austen where everybody knows everybody” no longer exists.

Mr Trott will propose replacing the practice at a meeting of church’s General Synod on Monday. He will say that a civil ‘Marriage Schedule’ should be used instead of banns, similar to “those which have been in operation in Scotland since 1997”. His motion will require at least 100 votes in its favour from Synod members before it can be debated.

The move to consign marriage banns to history has support from Canon David Houlding, a senior member of the clergy at St Paul’s Cathedral. He told the Mail on Sunday that the tradition was “antiquated and a complete nuisance”, and insisted that this “money-making exercise” should be scrapped. Currently, banns can cost couples up to £110.

However, Prayer Book Society chair Prudence Dailey disagrees. A member of the Synod, she insisted that the reading of banns in church should be kept, claiming that the practice encourages church attendance because people “often want to hear the banns being read”.

Photo of St Paul’s Cathedral by Ronnie Macdonald via Flickr

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  1. Andrew says:

    You can get married in the C of E bu Registrar’s Certificate – but it’s very unusual.
    I suspect that everyone who has ever been to a C of E wedding and heard the celebrant tell anyone who knows any reason why they may not be joined in holy matrimony “to speak now or else hereafter forever hold his peace” has hoped, just a little bit, to be there at the Jane Eyre moment when somebody stands up and says that one of them is married!

  2. Luke says:

    I agree, we should scrap marriage ‘banns’ and have a complete marriage ban instead 😀

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