Caroline secures debate on Marriage Registration Certificates

Westminster Hall: Caroline Spelman, Member of Parliament for Meriden Constituency and Second Church Estates Commissioner, secured an important debate to discuss the future of Marriage Registration Certificates. The debate attracted members from all side of the House and focused on the format of marriage certificates.

In recent months, an online petition calling for the name of the spouse’s mothers to be included on the marriage registration certificate attracted over 70,000 signatures from members of the public – a step which would change the current practice introduced in 1837.

However, whilst it was important to ensure that the change to include the spouses’ mothers name on the certificate, the cost of changing the 84,000 records held by the church and national register offices would come at a cost of up to £3 million.

For that reason, Caroline called upon the chamber to consider the advantages of including further revisions to the Marriage Act; such as the formation of a central electronic database of married persons. This system would reduce administrative cost and workload and to secure personal details which are currently housed in books in the respective religious buildings or registry offices across the UK.

During the debate, Caroline also drew reference to the Church of England’s consultation on the issue and set out their position.

Reflecting upon the debate, Caroline commented: “The current state of affairs is clearly not acceptable in modern times and there is a real need for the legislation to be updated. However, if we were only to legislate to update the particulars of the documents, this could incur a great cost.

“To avoid incurring such a high cost, we may look to pair the revision of the certificate with bringing the system of registration forward into the 21st century and adopt a system very similar to that which already exists in England and Wales for the registration of civil partnerships and which is already in use for the registration of marriages and civil partnerships in Scotland and Northern Ireland”. 

“Under the alternative system, known as the schedule system, marriages are registered in a single electronic register instead of in marriage register books. Changes to the form of the register entry can be made easily without the need to replace all the register books. Instead of signing a register book at the ceremony, the newlyweds sign a document that is then returned to the register office to be entered in the existing electronic register so that a marriage certificate can be issued”.

Watch the deabte in full, here