Marriage Certificates from 1837
The exact wording of a marriage certificate has varied slightly over the years but the first heading on a long format marriage certificate is usually the registration district and county/city (or at the bottom of an A4 certificate).
This is followed by where the marraige was solomnized, usually a church or register office although occasionally it is a private residence (Jews and Quakers), a hospital (deathbed marriage) or institution such as a prison because one of the parties was detained.
More recently buildings such as stately homes and hotels have been registered as authorized buildings for marriages.
The main part of the certificate starts with a number between 1-500 which is the number in the original register(s).
The date of the wedding
Name and surname
Grooms name as he stated it was.
Bride’s name as she stated it was.
The ages they said they were. Full age means 21 years or more.
Groom was usually a bachelor (not married before) or a widower.
Bride was usually a spinster (not married before) or a widow.
Whilst it is easy to prove a previous marriage and the death of a previous spouse there is nothing to show that someone has never been married so unless the minister or registrar knew the couple and also knew that one had been married before if they said bachelor
and spinster that’s what they were. However some people told lies!
Very rarely one or other party is ‘previous marriage void’ (never legally married) and more recently ‘previous marriage dissolved’ if they were divorced.
Rank or profession
Whatever the groom said his occupation was. Until quite recently it was usual for there to be a blank for the bride even though she was working.
Residence at the time of marriage
Early certificates usually just show a village name, street addresses were used by the late nineteenth century. Usually one (or both) of the parties had to live in the parish or registration district where they were married.
Fathers’ name and surname
Whatever the groom said his father’s name and occupation were.
Whatever the bride said her father’s name and occupation were.
Occasionally an illegitimate bride or groom would invent a father with the same surname as themselves, or name a step-father. Other’s who didn’t know who their father was (or refused the information) had a blank in that column. If the father had died it might
say ‘deceased’ after his name but that is not reliable; nor should it be assumed that the father was still alive because he wasn’t stated to be dead.
Again whatever the groom and bride said their fathers’ occupations were.
Place of Marriage
Beneath the information about bride and groom it states Married in..(name of church or register office).. and or a religious ceremony it then states According to the RItes and Ceremonies of (denomination) but nothing for a civil ceremony.
The Established Church is the Church of England.
Notice given was:
After Banns - CofE only. Banns read on three consecutive Sundays.
By Common Licence (Bishop’s Licence) - CofE only. Seven days notice.
By Certificate - Non-conformist or register office, three weeks notice.
By Licence - Non-conformist or register office. Seven days notice but often used if parties lived in different registration districts.
By Special Licence - CofE only. Issued by Archbishop of Canterbury, with immediate effect and in any church.
By Registrar General’s Licence - With immediate effect and any named location other than a CofE church, used for deathbed or prison marriage.
By Certificate - rare, but issued by a Superintendent Registrar for a CofE marriage. Used if the parish church had infrequent services making banns impossible, or if the couple were of different denominations or one had been divorced and the vicar didn’t
want a lot of publicity.
Signatures or marks of groom and bride.
Signatures or marks of two, occasionally more, witnesses.
Witnesses were frequently relatives of either bride or groom, and more likely to be from the younger generation rather than parents as is common nowadays (more likely to still be alive in years to come should there be a question about the validity of the marriage!).
It was also quite common for a church warden or parish clerk to witness marriages.
Signature(s) of the minister or registrars.