New legislation was passed in 1754 (The Hardwicke Act) that everyone had to marry in a licensed parish church in their own parish. Banns (notices of intention to marry) were read publicly on three separate Sundays, which gave the opportunity for anyone to object. This gave the opportunity for parents of minors (under the age of 21) or previous spouses to call a halt to the proposed wedding.
It was also possible for couples to marry by Licence in a different parish church to that of their residence. By this method, banns were not read, although it was still possible for someone to call an objection to the marriage at the start of the ceremony.
The marriages of Jews and Quakers were exempt from the Hardwicke Act. Other non-conformists were officially required to marry in a Church of England church between 1754 and 1837.
From 1754, a pre-printed marriage register was used, laid out with spaces for three or four marriage records per page, (although some smaller parishes continued to use blank or lined books – but with the required information).
The information required was more complete than in previous times:
- The name of the groom and his parish of residence (sometimes his status and occupation, sometimes an age)
- The name of the bride and her parish of residence (sometimes her status, spinster or widow, sometimes an age)
- Whether the marriage was by licence or by banns
- The date
- The signature of the clergyman performing the ceremony
- The signature of the groom (or his mark)
- The signature of the bride (or her mark)
- The signatures of at least two witnesses (or their marks)
(Note that parents names were not recorded, although they may be witnesses. It was fairly common for a brother or sister to be a witness, or friends, or the churchwardens).
One of four marriage records from a page of the register for Notgrove, Gloucestershire in 1791.
Even the original is hard to read! The entry gives the dates that the banns were read, 20 & 27th November and 4th December.
Zachariah Williams (who signs) and Anne Hooper (who makes an X mark), and the signatures of the two witnesses.
The top panel of three from a page of the marriage register of Coaley, Gloucestershire in 1819.
Job Smith, Bachelor of this Parish and Sarah Ford, Spinster of this Parish were married in this Church by Banns with Consent of Friends this Fourteenth Day of June in the Year One thousand eight hundred and nineteen By me W. Davies, Curate
This Marriage was solemnized between us Job Smith his X Mark Sarah Ford her X Mark
In the Presence of John Webb Charles Smith.
Below: The marriage record of my own ggg/grandparents “Francis Neep of the Parish of Epperstone & County of Nottingham and Sarah Denman of this Parish”, who were married by licence on 2nd April 1804. Complete with their original signatures, and also those of the two witnesses James Cooper and Mary Neep. (Mary, the sister of Francis, was born in 1787. It was possible for a witness to be a minor).
For old and rare books on CD, including marriage register transcripts – Parish Chest