The registration of marriages has never been necessary to the validity of a marriage, whether under the system of parochial registration first introduced in 1536, the Clandestine Marriages Act 1753, or the system of civil registration in operation from 1837. Nor is registration sufficient to validate a marriage. Nonetheless, the one unifying factor in our current marriage law is that there is someone tasked with the registration of every marriage that takes place in England and Wales.
For civil ceremonies, whether in the register office or on approved premises, this is the registrar. For marriages in the Church of England, it is the presiding parson. For Quaker marriages it is the registering officer, and for Jewish ones the secretary of the husband’s synagogue. For marriages in other non-Anglican religious registered buildings, it is either a civil registrar or the authorised person for that building.
The complexities of the current law thus need to be borne in mind in proposing reform. Rather than trying to change the law relating to registration in isolation, there should be a comprehensive overview of marriage law, as advocated by the Law Commission, which could address the role of all elements of the process afresh.