A photo of Andy and Karen, married at St Mary's in 2012.

Andy and Karen, married at St Mary’s in 2012.

You may have heard that the rules have changed recently to enable all couples to have more choice in where they get married and which church they choose to get married in.

If you want to get married at St Mary’s, West Malling or St Michael’s, Offham and you live within the parish boundaries, then it’s very easy and you qualify to get married in our church on the basis of where you live.

However, we know that you might like to get married in one of our churches even though you don’t live in the parish. It may have special significance for you through family or other special connections.

If either of you can show just one of the following seven connections with the parish, then you are also eligible to get married here.

If one of you was:

  • was baptised at St Mary’s or St Michael’s or
  • was prepared for confirmation at St Mary’s or St Michael’s or
  • has at any time lived in the parish for a period of at least six months or
  • has at any time regularly gone to normal church services here for a period of at least six months

or that one of your parents, at any time after you were born:

  • has lived in the parish for a period of at least six months or
  • has regularly gone to normal church services for a period of at least six months or

That one of your parents or grandparents:

  • was married at St Mary’s or St Michael’s

If one or more of those things apply to you, then you can definitely get married at St Mary’s or St Michael’s.

St Mary’s and St Michael’s also operate within a scheme called the ‘Benefice entitlement to marry’. In short, what it means is that if you can demonstrate a connection to one of the two churches, you are at liberty to get married in either church. So if you can demonstrate a connection to Offham, you can marry in West Malling and vice versa.

Even if you can’t demonstrate any one of those seven connections to either church and you don’t live in the parish, then do not despair just yet.

Firstly, you can get married if you attend church regularly for a period of six months. That means coming to church at least six times (once a month).

Alternatively, it still may be possible for you to marry in the church you want to get married in by applying for a special or common licence. Talk to the Vicar well in advance to discuss the options open to you.

special and common licences

If you want to get married in this parish, but cannot satisfy any of the ‘qualifying connections’ to a church that are set out above, you may need to apply for a Special Licence. If you genuinely feel you have a connection with this church, we should be able to help you in applying for a Special Licence.

There is a fee for such a licence of around £140. It’s also worth being aware that while we want to help you find a way to marry here, Special Licences are not automatically granted. Be sure to plan well in advance, up to 18 months in advance of your wedding to expand your options.

If your marriage is taking place too soon for Banns to be read, or one of the people marrying is a foreign national, then a Common Licence application may be appropriate for you. It is granted in the name of the Bishop of Rochester as St Mary’s and St Michael’s are in his diocese, and he has discretion whether or not to grant it. In order to obtain such a Licence, one of you must have had his or her usual residence within this parish during fifteen days immediately preceding the application, or must have had his or her usual place of worship at the church.

Common Licences can only be granted for marriage to take place within the Diocese, and are only valid for three months. Again, there is a special fee for a Common Licence which is approximately £125.