Mothers’ names to appear on marriage certificates for first time

Charles Hymas
·3-min read
Bode Mende (R) and Karl Kreile stamp their marriage certificate - ODD ANDERSEN/AFP
Bode Mende (R) and Karl Kreile stamp their marriage certificate - ODD ANDERSEN/AFP

Mothers’ names will appear on marriage certificates for the first time from Tuesday, as the Government corrects an “archaic anomaly”.

The changes will enable the names of both parents of the couple to be included on marriage certificates.

It is part of a new electronic system to modernise the way marriages are registered, which will also see the registry book for couples sealing their partnership replaced with a “schedule” that can be computerised.

The changes were initiated in a private member’s bill by the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, to end what he said was an “archaic” practice unchanged since Victorian times when “children were seen as fathers’ property, and little consideration was given to mothers’ roles in raising children”.

“This change rights a historic wrong so that wherever marriages take place, a woman’s place is not on the sidelines,” he said.

“Once the implementation has taken place, which will involve some change, the new electronic registers should make the process of certification easier for clergy.”

Owing to constraints on parliamentary time, the proposals were taken forward in a private member’s bill tabled by former minister Tim Loughton, a Conservative MP and backed by the Government.

The regulations amending the Marriage Act of 1949 mark the biggest changes to the marriage registration system since 1837.

Welcoming the move, Home Office minister Kevin Foster described how it had affected his own wedding to his wife Hazel four years ago.

“When Hazel and I got married in 2017, my Dad and Hazel’s Mum shared the day with us, but sadly my Mum and Hazel’s Dad could not be with us, both having passed away beforehand.

“Whilst Hazel’s Dad could still be part of the day by being listed on our marriage certificate, one was missing, my Mum.

“These changes bring the registration process into the 21st century and means no parent will be missing on their child’s wedding day.”

Canon Sandra Millar, the Church of England’s head of welcome and life events, said that the previous rule had caused some “awkward conversations” between clerics and couples over the past decade.

“We’ll be delighted to be able to include that part of their story [mothers and their occupations] as well,” she said.

The computerisation of the marriage register will also mean the demise of the registry book, which couples have traditionally signed with the priest and their witnesses.

Now they will sign a “marriage schedule” at the ceremony instead of the book, which will then be taken to the marriage register by whoever officiated at the wedding for it to be logged in the electronic register. A marriage certificate will then be issued to the couple.

Home Office sources said it would enable any changes that subsequently needed to be made quicker and easier, while the process would be more secure as paper registers would no longer have to be kept in registry buildings or churches.

The Reverend Dr Malcolm Brown, director of mission and public affairs for the Church of England, said: “Changing practices that go back many years is never straightforward, but we believe the new system changes as little as possible in terms of the couple’s experience of their church wedding and that the clergy will find the new regulations become second nature very quickly.”

Weddings can currently take place with up to 15 attendees in premises that are permitted to open under the government’s roadmap.