The normal way of marrying was (still is) by the reading of Banns in church for three consecutive weeks before the marriage. However, an alternative way is to obtain a licence to marry immediately, and many people did. Those licences are preserved, and in many cases have been transcribed and published in books, usually around 1890-1920.
Invaluable Sources of Information
Those books are invaluable sources of information, especially as they give us some exc
ellent family history clues, including the home parishes of the couple, ages, occupations, marital status (widow, etc.) and very often a father’s name – some things that are not on pre 1837 marriage records. In addition, there was often a “bond” – an agreement to be married – and the bondsman (usually a relative) is also shown.
A licence may be issued in a different county from that of the couple, and this is very often the case. For example licences issued in the Diocese of London will include couples from all over Great Britain.
Many marriage licences books are available on CD from the Parish Chest.