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PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 11:44 am 
Spider Lady
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Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:23 pm
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Location: Staffordshire
The purpose of the act was to prevent irregular, clandestine or runaway marriages.
Until 1754 marriage ceremonies that did not comply with church rules (such as those relating to banns, licences and the spouses' residence) were irregular but nevertheless legally valid.
Many marriages did not take place in the parish church of either the groom or the spouse, and sometimes not even in a parish church (but in marriage houses or even prisons such as the Fleet in London). It was not even essential for a ceremony to take place (since the exchange of vows by the coouple was sufficient under English law). Many clergy were prepared to conduct irregular marriages. Even in prisons there were clergymen, imprisoned for debt and therefore in need of the money, who would conduct a wedding ceremony for a fee (usually less than that charged by church officials for calling banns or issuing a valid marriage licence). It was easy for couples to get married almost anywhere. Clandestine marriages often involved minors (people under the age of 21) or heiresses whose parents opposed the marriage (or were not even aware of it). Marriage licenses could be obtained from many different church authorities, and a marriage was often celebrated in a church or chapel close to the church registry that issued the licence. If a couple came from a village or villages in the countryside, their marriage may have taken place in the nearest town or city in which a church official was issuing licences.

Hardwicke's Act required a marriage to be performed in the parish church of one of the spouses (or in certain designated chapels) by an Anglicam clergyman, in the presence of at least two witnesses, and only after the publication of banns or by the authority of a valid marriage licence. The only exemptions were for marriages in accordance with Jewish or Quaker ceremonies. Other non-conformist and civil marriage ceremonies only became legal again in 1837 when civil registration was introduced. Under Hardwicke's Act, minors had to obtain their parents' or guardians' consent in order to marry but, until 1929, the law still allowed boys as young as 14 and girls as young as 12, to be legally married with that consent.
(Info from Ancestral Trails)

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