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Here Are The Rules For Marrying In A Church Of England, Especially If You're A Royal

by Cat Bowen

We are just days away from the most wonderful day of the year for Royal watchers: the wedding of bad boy Prince Harry to American girl Meghan Markle. Of course there are a lot of royal traditions the couple has to follow, but what are the Church of England's Marriage Rules? And how has Meghan's life as a seemingly secular American prepared her for such a peculiar institution?

The Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church, was founded in the 1530s when Henry VIII sought an annulment from his wife Catherine of Aragorn due to the fact they'd failed to produce any male heirs from the marriage. When the pope basically said, "Um, no, we don't do that here," His Royal Highness responded with, "What is this, the fifteenth century?" He split with the church, creating the beginnings of today's Church of England, naming himself the head of the religion. In doing this, he also declared the children of his marriage to Catherine to be illegitimate and therefore no longer in the line of succession, noted A Brief History of the Church of England.

Today, the church is known to be pretty liberal, allowing for women and gay men to become ordained priests, but their rules on marriage and Royal marriage are still more strict than a secular union. So, what are the Church of England's Marriage Rules?


For Royal Weddings, The Queen Must Consent

Since the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, the Queen must give her blessing for the royals to be wed. She can declare, as the head of The Church, any royal marriage legally invalid. She also has to give her permission in writing before the wedding takes place.

You've heard of asking the bride's father for permission? Well, this is like that, only the stakes are a million times higher, and she has a jeweled scepter she can bop you on the head with if she disagrees forcefully. It's come close in the past, when, according to reports, she requested her sister Margaret not marry William Townsend, noted the BBC, but even though that wedding was not to be, a formal decree in either way was never written.


Royals Can Not, Must Absolutely Not Marry A Catholic

Does this serve to discriminate an entire portion of the U.K. by banning the most popular religions of Northern Ireland and Scotland? Sure, but William II was a wee bit bitter in his dotage and really didn't want his Catholic rival to succeed him, composing the Settlement Act of 1701, noted

The act states that for British royalty to remain in the order of succession, they must be wed to another member of The Church of England or bow out of their chance of ever becoming King or Queen. Though,Harry is pretty far down at this point, so he might not have cared. But again, this is a royal rule and not necessarily for anyone marrying in the Church of England.


There's A Timeframe

Ever wonder why you've never seen a candlelit royal wedding? (I mean, could you imagine the drama?) That's because, according to church bylaws, "A marriage may be lawfully solemnised only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.," notes their official bylaws on their website. Brides and grooms may choose to have an evening civil wedding and then have their wedding blessed by the church in what amounts to an abbreviated second wedding.


Divorce Is Actually OK

Yes, it's discouraged and marriage is meant to be lifelong, but stuff happens, and the Church of England is going to prevent you from being happy or from marrying again, noted in the official Anglican contract. In fact, Markle herself is divorced, as are Prince Harry's parents. The rules around such are fairly lengthy, and much is left up to the parish Vicar, but they're generally very accommodating.


The Script is Already Written

The marriage homily in the Church of England is short, sweet, and to the point, and it's hundreds of years old. While there is some room for a bit of improv on the part of the priest, most of it is the well-loved prayers and verses first spoken in the 1700s. It is mostly traditional, and while more and more members of the church are going for an informal service, Royal weddings have yet to stray from the original marriage homily.

It is worth noting though that Princess Diana famously changed the vows from "love, honor, and obey," to "love, honor, and keep" during her 1981 nuptials to Prince Harry's father, Prince Charles.


You Must Be 18

According to church law, you must be at least 18 years old to get married. If you are under 18, you have to be at least 16 years old and have guardian consent. This may seem obvious to many, but did you know that Princess Diana was just 20 years old when she married Prince Charles? Barely made the cut, that one.


You Can't Get Married Wherever You Like

An odd law of the Church of England is that one of the parties being married has to have a specific connection to the parish where they're marrying. That rules out many a destination wedding. If you've lived and attended a parish for six months, if you were baptized there, or if your parents or grandparents wed there, are all sufficient allowances for you to marry at that church.


You Have To Announce It Publicly

To be legally wed in the Church of England, you must do something called "having your banns read." This means that you have to publicly declare that you're marrying by having it announced in church. They must be read in your home parish and in the parish where you're intending to be wed. This is done so that the congregation may pray for you, and it's a bit of festivity woven into the excitement.


Unfortunately, You Still Must Be Straight

While there are gay priests and the dedication of gay couples in the church, legal gay wedding ceremonies are not allowed in the Church of England as of yet, noted St. Andrew's Parish.


Get Thee A License

As is the case in most places, you may need a license or certificate to be legally wed in the Church. The bylaws read, "You may need a Special Licence, Common Licence or a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate to marry in church. Your vicar will let you know if these apply to you."