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The Answer - Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act, 1753

Hardwick's Marriage Act of 1753 (effective 1 Jan 1754) required all marriages to take place in a Church of England Parish Church or authorized chapel. The only religions left to continue their existing practices were the Quakers and Jews. So, definitely, couples would have had to have married within a Church of England parish church or authorized chapel. This Act remained in force until the commencement of civil registration of marriages on 1 July 1837 at which time several of Hardwicke's provisions were modified.

Hardwick's Act also required that the marriage must take place upon the authority of banns having previously been read on 3 occasions or upon the obtaining of a license to marry.

If the church register entry of a marriage fails to specifically mention that the marriage took place after the calling of "banns" then one can take it to mean that banns were called and the marriage took place afterwards. Remember the marriage could take place immediately after the third call of banns.

Also, and what most people forget, is that the banns could have been called in parish other than the one in which the couple were married. A certificate had to be obtained from the other church verifying that banns were duly called and given to the incumbent at the church where the marriage was to take place. The certificate was generally filed with the other materials in the parish chest once the cleric was satisfied that there was no further need for the banns certificate.

Banns would have been called in the native parish of either the bride or the groom. The marriage and the reading of the banns could take place at any church so long as one of the parents or grandparents of either the bride or groom had married at that church. Hence, we often find marriages in parishes that seem to make no sense to an immediate family group.

Alternatively, the marriage could take place upon the couple obtaining a license to marry. Licenses were granted by the court at Canterbury and referred to as the Archdeacon's licenses. Licenses were also granted by two courts in London - the Vicar General and the Bishop's Palace. The various mechanisms for the reasons requiring a licence from either of the three places will be the subject of a separate FAQ. Suffice it to say that if a marriage took place by license, the marriage entry in the church register will usually specify that a license had been obtained and if from either of the London Courts a brief note specifying which court will also be included with the marriage entry.

Marriage Licenses can contain very helpful information such as the marital status of both the bride and groom, the name of a parent or guardian if one of the parties to the marriage is under age, the parish of residence (not the parish of settlement) and the name of one or more bondsmen who may be a relative of one of the parties to the marriage. The license also included the names of up to three parishes at which the couple were permitted to marry.