Civil marriage

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A civil marriage in 19th century Switzerland (Albert Anker, 1887)

A civil marriage is a marriage that is recognized by a government official. It can either be a religious ceremony or it can be secular. The definition and practice varies greatly between countries.

United Kingdom[change | change source]

At present the law allows same-sex marriages as well as man/woman marriages, and both religious and civil settings are possible.

England and Wales[change | change source]

In 1753 an Act of Parliament required all marriages to be done in a religious place. Church of England churches, Quakers meeting places and synagogues were examples of appropriate places.

Scotland[change | change source]

The Act of 1753 did not apply in Scotland. Marriages were, of course, done in churches. But actually it was enough for a couple to state their commitment in front of witnesses. A registrar would record the marriage. This was a type of common law marriage.