Marriage in the Deanery of Guernsey
The clergy of the Deanery of Guernsey are delighted to welcome enquiries from couples who wish to be married in the parish churches and chapels in Alderney, Guernsey, Herm and Sark. This page explains the legal preliminaries to the marriage, including the licence and any residence requirements when neither party is usually resident, or deemed to be usually resident, in the Bailiwick of Guernsey.
Those planning to be married in a Church of England ceremony in the Deanery of Guernsey will find much useful information at the Church of England's website - click here. It is important to note that the sections in the Church of England's general website relating to the legal preliminaries do not apply in the Bailiwick of Guernsey.
The Rector or the Vicar responsible for the church where the marriage will be solemnised will gladly answer any questions, including as to the fees payable for the service.
Guernsey law prevents ministers of the Church of England in Guernsey from carrying out same-sex marriages. And although there are no authorised services for blessing a same-sex civil marriage, the local church can still offer support with prayer.
Licences for marriage in the Deanery of Guernsey
All marriages in Church of England churches and chapels in the Deanery of Guernsey are by Licence. Banns of Marriage are not used in the Bailiwick, and Banns of Marriage issued in England or other jurisdictions are not valid here.
This page of the website explains the procedure for obtaining a Licence.
When neither party to the marriage has a previous spouse still living
- The parties to the marriage will usually contact the Rector or the Vicar responsible for the church where they propose to be married, to discuss the proposed date and time for the marriage service.
- Application for the Licence must be made in good time before the marriage to the Registrar of the Ecclesiastical Court at the address above. The application form can be downloaded here. When completed, it should be returned to the Registrar’s office as soon as possible together with original 'long' birth certificates (i.e. showing parents) of both parties to the intended marriage. If one or both parties to the marriage is widowed, then in addition the death certificate(s) of the deceased spouse(s) must also be submitted, with the previous marriage certificate(s). Certificates will be returned as soon as possible by ordinary post unless applicants request otherwise. All applicants must supply original identification by way of a driving licence (with photograph) or passport. These will be returned at the time of application or attendance.
- Once the application has been approved, the Registrar will confirm in writing that the parties may attend at a convenient date to take the Oath before the Dean. The Court meets every Friday at 0930, except on Good Fridays and the Fridays closest to Christmas. The Licence will be issued on that day.
- Where one party to the intended marriage (or both of them) (a) usually lives in the Bailiwick but for the time being is living elsewhere (e.g. because of work or further education, or as the case may be), or (b) has moved away from the Bailiwick but still has parents and/or grandparents living in the family home in the Bailiwick, then the address to be used in the Licence application should be that of such party’s parents or grandparents in the Bailiwick, and in such cases the party or parties in question may be deemed to be resident in the Bailiwick for the purpose of the Marriage Licence.
- In the case of one of the parties not being resident or deemed resident in the Bailiwick an affidavit will be required as supporting evidence of identity and status. The affidavit, which will be prepared by the Ecclesiastical Court to be sworn at the time when the Licence is granted, will have annexed to it copies of such party’s birth certificate (with a translation into English unless the original is in French, in which case no translation is necessary) and the pages of such party’s passport as show his or her personal details, including a clear photograph.
- For the purposes of paragraph 5 above, a person is deemed not to be resident in the Bailiwick if he or she has never had a permanent address in the Bailiwick or has, or has had, such an address but for less than twelve consecutive months immediately preceding the date of the intended marriage.
- Marriage Licences are valid for twelve months. It is not therefore possible for a Licence to be granted more than twelve months before the date of the intended marriage. Any change in applicants’ circumstances affecting the information given on the application form arising after the Licence has been issued must be communicated to the Ecclesiastical Court. Failure to do so risks invalidating the Licence.
- The Ecclesiastical Court issues Marriage Licences for the whole Bailiwick (i.e. Alderney, Guernsey, Herm and Sark). Where it would be inconvenient for the parties to attend at the Court in Guernsey to take the Oath, arrangements may be made for it to be sworn in Alderney (but not Sark).
When one or both parties to the intended marriage has a previous spouse still living
- An application must in the first instance be made to the priest who has been asked to officiate at the marriage (usually the Rector or the Vicar responsible for the church where the parties propose to be married). The relevant application form can be downloaded here, and will be discussed with the priest.
- The Church of England's rules, which apply in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, allow the incumbent (the Rector or Vicar of the parish) the discretion to refuse to take a marriage, or to allow another priest to take it, in his or her church. This is the incumbent’s right and no reason for a decision need be given (although it is unlikely that there would not be careful discussion with the couple before an incumbent came to such a decision.
- Application for the Licence must be made in good time before the marriage to the Registrar of the Ecclesiastical Court at the address above. When the application form is completed and signed (twice) by the applicants, and the priest has signed it, the form should be returned to the Registrar’s office as soon as possible, together with original 'long' birth certificates (i.e. showing parents) of both parties to the intended marriage. If one or both parties to the marriage is widowed, then in addition the death certificate(s) of the deceased spouse(s) must also be submitted, with the previous marriage certificate(s). A person who has a previous spouse still living will also need to supply the previous marriage certificate(s) and the sealed evidence of the relevant Court(s) that the marriage(s) has or have been ended by divorce. Certificates and other documents will be returned as soon as possible by ordinary post unless applicants request otherwise. All applicants must supply original identification by way of a driving licence (with photograph) or passport. These will be returned at the time of application or attendance.
- The procedures in paragraphs 3 - 8 in the previous section then follow.
When neither party is usually resident, or deemed to be usually resident, in the Bailiwick of Guernsey
In such cases, the residence requirement must be satisfied.
- One party to the marriage must have lived at an address in the Bailiwick for at least eight clear days. The marriage licence will be issued on the eighth day. Since the Ecclesiastical Court only sits on Fridays, the eighth day must be a Friday. A further period of at least eight clear days must then elapse before the marriage can take place.
- Marriage licences are valid for one year only so the marriage must take place no later than one year from the date upon which the licence is issued.
- There are special provisions regarding Alderney and Sark. Except where otherwise specified, it is presumed that the residence requirement is to be fulfilled in the Island of Guernsey whether the intended marriage is to take place in Alderney, Guernsey, Herm or Sark.
The relevant period of residence
- must take place entirely within the twelve months immediately preceding the date of the intended marriage;
- cannot be divided into two or more separate periods (for example, it is not acceptable for the relevant period of residence to be taken in two separate periods of four days); and
- will need to be retaken if the date of the proposed marriage is subsequently postponed such that any period of residence already taken then falls outside the twelve months immediately preceding the date of the proposed marriage.
It is therefore advisable to fulfil the residence requirement as closely as possible in time to the intended date of the marriage.
In the circumstances to which this section applies (that is, when neither party is usually resident, or deemed to be usually resident, in the Bailiwick of Guernsey), such parties to the intended marriage as are fulfilling the residence requirement in the Island of Guernsey must report to the Registrar’s office before 0930 on the first day of the residence period to give the address at which he or she (or they) will be living and supply a telephone number. The Registrar's office is open on Monday to Thursday, 0900 to 1200.
Both parties to the intended marriage will be required to swear an affidavit about their residence qualification. The affidavit(s) of the party or parties who have fulfilled the residence requirement will contain an additional provision confirming that that requirement has been fulfilled.
Persons wishing to fulfil the residence requirement, and to be married, in Alderney must make their wishes known the Registrar’s office not less than eight weeks prior to the intended date of the marriage. In such cases the parties to the intended marriage as are fulfilling the residence requirement in the Island of Alderney must report to the Vicar of Alderney (acting as the Dean’s Surrogate) on the first day of residence in Alderney. The Oath leading to the Licence, and the affidavits required, will be sworn before the Surrogate.
In principle, it is possible to fulfil the residence requirement in the Island of Sark, and then to be married in Sark. However, since there is no Surrogate in Sark, persons wishing to do this must report to the Registrar’s Office in Guernsey on the first day of intended residence (to give the residence address as above, and a telephone number). When residence has been completed, the affidavits and Oaths will usually be sworn in Guernsey at a Friday sitting of the Ecclesiastical Court.
In exceptional circumstances, and provided all other requirements are met, the Ecclesiastical Court may be prepared to issue Special Licences (at additional cost) for marriages by Church of England ministers in places other than a church or outside canonical hours (0800 – 1800). The issuing of such Special Licences must be regarded as extraordinary, and the Commissary will wish to satisfy himself that the circumstances in each case warrant such a Licence. It may, for example, be possible to issue a Special Licence for a marriage in the hospital where one party is confined. Special Licences will not be issued other than in such exceptional circumstances.
The Registrar’s Office in Guernsey is open from 0900 to 1200, Monday to Thursday inclusive. The address is
Bureau des Connétables, Lefebvre Street, St Peter Port, Guernsey, GY1 2JS