Banns of marriage

Banns of marriage

Overview
The banns of marriage, commonly known simply as the "banns" or "bans" (from a Middle English word meaning "proclamation," rooted in Old French) are the public announcement in a Christian parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

 of an impending marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 between two specified persons. It is commonly associated with the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 and with other denominations whose traditions are similar; the Roman Catholic Church abolished the requirement in 1983.

The purpose of banns is to enable anyone to raise any canonical
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

 or civil
Civil law (common law)
Civil law, as opposed to criminal law, is the branch of law dealing with disputes between individuals or organizations, in which compensation may be awarded to the victim...

 legal impediment to the marriage, so as to prevent marriages that are invalid.
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Encyclopedia
The banns of marriage, commonly known simply as the "banns" or "bans" (from a Middle English word meaning "proclamation," rooted in Old French) are the public announcement in a Christian parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

 of an impending marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 between two specified persons. It is commonly associated with the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 and with other denominations whose traditions are similar; the Roman Catholic Church abolished the requirement in 1983.

The purpose of banns is to enable anyone to raise any canonical
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

 or civil
Civil law (common law)
Civil law, as opposed to criminal law, is the branch of law dealing with disputes between individuals or organizations, in which compensation may be awarded to the victim...

 legal impediment to the marriage, so as to prevent marriages that are invalid. Impediments vary between legal jurisdictions, but would normally include a pre-existing marriage that has been neither dissolved nor annulled, a vow of celibacy
Celibacy
Celibacy is a personal commitment to avoiding sexual relations, in particular a vow from marriage. Typically celibacy involves avoiding all romantic relationships of any kind. An individual may choose celibacy for religious reasons, such as is the case for priests in some religions, for reasons of...

, lack of consent, or the couple's being related within the prohibited degrees of kinship
Prohibited degree of kinship
In law, a prohibited degree of kinship refers to a degree of consanguinity between persons that results in certain actions between them becoming illegal. Two major examples of prohibited degrees are found in incest and nepotism. Incest is a taboo across all cultures worldwide, but which specific...

.

Roman Catholic Church


The original Catholic Canon law on the subject, intended to prevent clandestine marriages, was decreed at the Council of Trent
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to be one of the Church's most important councils. It convened in Trent between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods...

 on November 11, 1563. (Sess. XXIV, De ref. matr., c. i) which provided that before the celebration of any marriage the names of the contracting parties should be announced publicly in the church during Mass, by the parish priests of both parties on three consecutive Holy Days. Although the requirement was straightforward in canon law, complications sometimes arose in a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, when one of the parties to the marriage did not have a home parish in the Roman Catholic Church.

Traditionally, banns were read from the pulpit and were usually published in the parish weekly bulletin. Prior to 1983, canon law required banns to be announced, or "asked", in the home parishes of both parties on three Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation
Holy Day of Obligation
In the Catholic Church, Holy Days of Obligation or Holidays of Obligation, less commonly called Feasts of Precept, are the days on which, as of the Code of Canon Law states,-Eastern Catholic Churches:...

 prior to the marriage. Under Canon 1067 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law
Canon law (Catholic Church)
The canon law of the Catholic Church, is a fully developed legal system, with all the necessary elements: courts, lawyers, judges, a fully articulated legal code and principles of legal interpretation. It lacks the necessary binding force present in most modern day legal systems. The academic...

, the norms regarding the publication of banns are to be established by each individual national or regional Conference of bishops.

In some places, the words once spoken by the priest were: "I publish the banns of marriage between (Name of party) of the Parish of........ and (Name of other party) of this Parish. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these persons should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. This is for the (first, second, third) time of asking."

Marriage license
Marriage license
A marriage license is a document issued, either by a church or state authority, authorizing a couple to marry. The procedure for obtaining a license varies between countries and has changed over time...

s were introduced in the 14th century, to allow the usual notice period under banns to be waived, on payment of a fee and accompanied by a sworn declaration, that there was no canonical impediment
Canonical impediment
In the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, a canonical impediment is a legal obstacle that prevents a sacrament from being performed validly and/or licitly. The term is used most frequently in relationship to the sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders...

 to the marriage.

The Roman Catholic Church abolished the requirement in 1983, as greater mobility had limited its usefulness as a means of determining whether there were impediments to marriage. However, many parishes still publish such notices in church bulletins.

Protestant


While the Council of Trent is best known as a Counter-Reformation Council, neither the Lutheran Church nor the Church of England broke with the Roman Catholic Church on the requirement of publication of banns (or the equivalent) prior to marriage. (An equivalent notice was not required in the Orthodox Christian Churches, which used another method to verify eligibility to marry.) The break between some Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church was over what would constitute an impediment to marriage (the Church of England, for example, recognised remarriage after divorce in some circumstances), rather than over the means by which impediments to marriage should be identified.

In England, under the provisions of Lord Hardwicke's Act
Marriage Act 1753
The Marriage Act 1753, full title "An Act for the Better Preventing of Clandestine Marriage", popularly known as Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act , was the first statutory legislation in England and Wales to require a formal ceremony of marriage. It came into force on 25 March 1754...

 of 1753, a marriage was only legally valid if the banns had been called or a marriage licence had been obtained, codifying earlier practice within the Church of England. By this statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

, 26 Geo. II
George II of Great Britain
George II was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 until his death.George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany...

, c.33, the banns were required to be read aloud on three Sundays before the wedding
Wedding
A wedding is the ceremony in which two people are united in marriage or a similar institution. Wedding traditions and customs vary greatly between cultures, ethnic groups, religions, countries, and social classes...

 ceremony, in the home parish churches of both parties. Omission of this formality rendered the marriage void
Void (law)
In law, void means of no legal effect. An action, document or transaction which is void is of no legal effect whatsoever: an absolute nullity - the law treats it as if it had never existed or happened....

, unless the bishop's licence (a common licence) or the special licence of the Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 had been obtained. This statutory requirement had the effect of requiring Roman Catholics
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 and other non-conformists to be married in the Church of England, a requirement lifted by legislation in 1836.

Before 1754, when Lord Hardwicke's Act came into force, it was possible for eloping
Elope
To elope, most literally, merely means to run away with a girl and to not come back to the point of origination. More specifically, elopement is often used to refer to a marriage conducted in sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving hurried flight away from one's place of residence together...

 couples to be married clandestinely by an ordained clergyman (a favourite location was the Fleet Prison
Fleet Prison
Fleet Prison was a notorious London prison by the side of the Fleet River in London. The prison was built in 1197 and was in use until 1844. It was demolished in 1846.- History :...

, a debtors' prison in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, in which clergymen willing to celebrate irregular marriages might be found). After the law, elopers had to leave England and Wales in order to contract a marriage while avoiding these formalities. Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, in particular Gretna Green
Gretna Green
Gretna Green is a village in the south of Scotland famous for runaway weddings. It is in Dumfries and Galloway, near the mouth of the River Esk and was historically the first village in Scotland, following the old coaching route from London to Edinburgh. Gretna Green has a railway station serving...

, the first village over the border from England, was the customary destination, but became less popular after 1856 when Scottish law was amended to require 21 days' residence. The Isle of Man
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man , otherwise known simply as Mann , is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is...

 was briefly popular also, but in 1757 Tynwald
Tynwald
The Tynwald , or more formally, the High Court of Tynwald is the legislature of the Isle of Man. It is claimed to be the oldest continuous parliamentary body in the world, consisting of the directly elected House of Keys and the indirectly chosen Legislative Council.The Houses sit jointly, for...

, the Island's legislature, passed a similar Act, with the additional sanction of pillorying and ear-cropping for clergymen from overseas who married couples without banns. These details often figure in melodrama
Melodrama
The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them...

tic literature set in the period.

The wording of banns according to the rites of the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 is as follows:
  • I publish the banns of marriage between NN of … and NN of …
    • This is the first / second / third time of asking. If any of you know cause or just impediment why these two persons should not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it. (Book of Common Prayer 1662) or
    • This is the first / second / third time of asking. If any of you know any reason in law why they may not marry each other you are to declare it. (Common Worship 2005)

United Kingdom


The present legislation relating to banns of marriage is contained in the Marriage Act 1949.

United States


Lord Hardwicke's Act did not extend outside England and Wales, and hence did not become law in the colonies that would later become the United States of America. For this reason, and as a consequence of the American separation of church and state, banns or equivalent notice by publication is not required prior to marriage in most U.S. states, although most U.S. states require that a marriage license which establishes the freedom of the parties to marry be established prior to a valid marriage, often a certain number of days prior to the marriage ceremony. Such license is no more than a legal formality, as the license is not publicized in any significant way.

Canada


In the Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 province of Ontario
Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, the publication of banns "proclaimed openly in an audible voice during divine service" in the church(es) of the betrothed remains a legal alternative to obtaining a marriage licence. Two same-sex couples married
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

 this way at the Metropolitan Community Church
Metropolitan Community Church
The Metropolitan Community Church or The Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches is an international Protestant Christian denomination...

 of Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

 on January 14, 2001, since the province was not then issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples. The marriages were ruled valid in 2003. See Same-sex marriage in Ontario
Same-sex marriage in Ontario
The first legal same-sex marriages performed in Ontario were of Kevin Bourassa to Joe Varnell, and Elaine Vautour to Anne Vautour, by Rev. Brent Hawkes on January 14, 2001....

. Banns being read once in a church ordinarily attended by both parties to the marriage is allowed in lieu of a licence in Manitoba
Manitoba
Manitoba is a Canadian prairie province with an area of . The province has over 110,000 lakes and has a largely continental climate because of its flat topography. Agriculture, mostly concentrated in the fertile southern and western parts of the province, is vital to the province's economy; other...

.

In the Canadian province of Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

, equivalent formalities are required for all marriages, although the statutes do not use the word "banns". There is no requirement for a government-issued license, but a written notice must be posted at the place of the wedding for 20 days beforehand, and the officiant verifies the eligibility of the intended spouses.

In British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

, only Doukhobors can be married by banns.

Civil-law countries in general


Many civil-law countries have different, secular pre-marriage registration and publication requirements.

The Netherlands and Belgium


In the Netherlands and Belgium, there is a statutory requirement for couples intending to marry to formally register that intention with officials beforehand. This process is called "ondertrouw
Ondertrouw
Ondertrouw refers to the requirement in the Netherlands and Belgium to formally register the intention to marry.- Origin and development :...

". Civil marriage is mandatory, but some people also have a religious ceremony.

Other uses


A second use of "the banns" is as the prologue to a play, i.e., a proclamation made at the beginning of a medieval play announcing and summarizing the upcoming play. An example can be found in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, a Middle English miracle play written sometime after 1461.

External links