New legislation coming into force this week is set to modernise marriage registration for the first time since 1837.
The Marriage Schedule System will move away from the current paper register (the traditional book which is signed by the couple and their witnesses) to a more secure system for keeping marriage records.
The electronic register will also allow for the names of multiple parents of the couple to be included in the marriage entry and on marriage certificates – previously only fathers’ names were included. This move brings the system in line with the one already used for registering Civil Partnerships.
Couples will notice two main differences when it comes to their ceremonies. Firstly, they will not sign in an old-fashioned register book, but instead they and their witnesses will sign a single sheet of paper called a ‘Schedule’ that is unique to the couple.
Secondly, it will no longer be possible to provide a marriage certificate on the day of the ceremony. Couples will be legally married from the moment they say their vows, but certificates will now be posted to them within five working days.
Couples who have already given notice do not need to take any special steps. Somerset County Council’s Registration Service will take care of all the changes to paperwork and will give couples the option of adding extra parents to the schedule on their big day.
The new changes will present a technical hitch for some couples. Some honeymoon offers require proof of marriage to validate a special offer, or the couple may be travelling to a country where couples must be legally wed to share a room. As the certificate will not be available for up to five working days, couples are advised to check in advance what other proof businesses or travel destinations will accept.
Genevieve Branch, Somerset County Council Service Manager for Registration Services, said: “Registrars across the county are being prepped for the new changes, and our Somerset team are excited to start implementing the new, more inclusive system. With more streamlined paperwork behind the scenes and a better representation of modern families on couples’ landmark documents, this really is a welcome move for the wedding industry.”