Ecclesiastical Committee Two-Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Report

G. Section 2—common licence

84.  Under the 1949 Act, a marriage according to the rites of the Church of England may be solemnised on the authority of a licence other than a Special Licence, known as a "common licence", which gives permission in appropriate cases for the marriage to take place without banns. It may be needed if, for example, one of the couple is temporarily resident abroad, so that banns cannot be called in his or her place of residence, or if there has been some defect in the publication of the banns. The licence is normally issued on behalf of the diocesan bishop by a surrogate - an experienced local member of the clergy - or the diocesan registrar.

85.  The licence is not granted as of right, but the power to issue it is exercised judicially and in accordance with settled principles. Under the 1949 Act, it may be granted only for marriages in the parish church or in a chapel of the parish or district where at least one of the couple has had his or her usual place of residence for 15 days immediately before the licence is issued, or where he or she is entered on the church electoral roll. The applicant must swear an affidavit that this requirement is satisfied and that there is no impediment to the marriage; knowingly and wilfully swearing a false affidavit is a criminal offence.

86.  Section 2 of the Measure makes it possible to grant a common licence for a marriage in a church or chapel in which the person seeking the licence may be married under section 1. The section thus makes it possible for the authority with power to grant such licences (i.e. normally the surrogate or diocesan registrar) to give permission for the marriage to be solemnised in such a church or chapel without banns being called in the types of cases referred to in paragraph 84 above.

87.  Where an application for a licence is being made under section 2:

  • the affidavit must state that one of the couple has a qualifying connection with the parish concerned and must set out the nature of the connection; and
  • section 1(8) (see paragraphs 78-81 above) also applies here, except that the person who must be satisfied as to the qualifying connection is the authority with power to grant the licence rather than the minister; that authority must also have regard to the House of Bishops' guidance under section 3.


88.  Neither the Revision Committee nor the full Synod were called upon to deal with any issues of substance on these provisions.

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