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Article: Banns of marriage

Banns of marriage

Banns of Marriage in Christian Denominations

  • Banns of marriage are a public announcement in a Christian parish church or town council.
  • Associated with Catholic Church, Church of Sweden, Church of England, and other similar Christian denominations.
  • Purpose is to raise any legal impediments to prevent invalid marriages.
  • Catholic Canon law on banns was decreed in Canon 51 of Lateran IV Council in 1215.
  • Council of Trent in 1563 made provisions more precise, requiring public announcement in church.
  • Neither Lutheran Church nor Church of England broke with Roman Catholic Church on requirement of banns.
  • Break between Protestants and Roman Catholic Church was over what constitutes an impediment to marriage.
  • In England, Clandestine Marriages Act 1753 required banns to be read aloud on three Sundays before wedding.
  • Marriage licenses were introduced in 14th century to waive notice period under banns.
  • Non-conformists were required to be married in Church of England until legislation in 1836.
  • Sunday Service of Methodists contains rubric requiring publication of banns to reveal impediments to marriage.
  • Banns are read over a period of three Sundays during divine service.
  • African Methodist Episcopal Church and Free Methodist Church have rubric for reading banns.
  • Banns help investigate impediments such as consanguinity and legal betrothal to another.
  • Methodists are members of the World Methodist Council.

Publication and Announcement of Banns

  • Banns were traditionally read from the pulpit and published in the parish weekly bulletin.
  • Before 1983, canon law required banns to be announced in home parishes on three Sundays or Holy Days.
  • Norms regarding publication of banns are established by individual national or regional Conference of bishops.
  • Some places used specific wording when announcing banns during Mass.
  • Marriage licenses were introduced to waive banns with payment of fee and declaration of no impediments.

Historical Practices and Changes

  • Council of Trent made provisions for banns in 1563.
  • Before 1754, eloping couples could be married clandestinely without banns.
  • Scotland, particularly Gretna Green, became popular destination for eloping couples after 1754.
  • Isle of Man briefly became popular for eloping couples, but passed a similar Act in 1757.
  • Parish register of St Mary le Crypt in Gloucester recorded banns being published by the Bellman in 1656.

Country-by-country overviews

  • England and Wales:
  • The legislation relating to banns of marriage is contained in the Marriage Act 1949.
  • The Church of England Marriage (Amendment) Measure 2012 amended the legislation.
  • United States:
  • Banns were a common requirement during the colonial era.
  • Noncompliance with the banns procedure carried a serious fine in the 17th century.
  • Banns were superseded by civil marriage license requirements in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Governmental regulation of marriage intensified in the mid-19th century.
  • Canada:
  • In Ontario, the publication of banns is a legal alternative to obtaining a marriage license.
  • Same-sex couples married by banns in Toronto when marriage licenses were not issued to them.
  • Banns are required for all marriages in Quebec, with specific formalities.
  • Only Doukhobors can be married by banns in British Columbia.
  • Civil-law countries in general:
  • Many civil-law countries have different pre-marriage registration and publication requirements.
  • Belgium:
  • The publication requirement for banns was introduced in 1796 and removed in 2000.
  • Finland:
  • Until 1988, a forthcoming marriage was required to be announced in the bride's home parish church.
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland continues to practice the tradition.
  • France:
  • French civil law requires the publication of banns of marriage in the towns where intended spouses are living.
  • Germany:
  • German civil law required the publication of banns of marriage until 1998.
  • Couples must still register for civil marriage beforehand.
  • Netherlands:
  • Couples intending to marry in the Netherlands must formally register their intention beforehand.

Other uses and References

  • Banns can also be used as the prologue to a play, announcing and summarizing the upcoming play.
  • The term 'banns' originates from Old French and Middle English.
  • Banns of marriage were regulated by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.
  • Changes to the procedure for publishing banns of marriage have been made over time.
  • Various historical sources provide insights into the practice of banns.
  • Different legal documents and statutes govern the requirements for banns in different countries.

Banns of marriage Data Sources

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