When one of the couple wishing to marry in the Church has been married before and the previous spouse is still living there are some additional requirements before the wedding can be agreed upon. Please note that it cannot be assumed that it will be automatically arranged. These notes are to explain the Church of England’s position and the process that follows from here.
‘…till death us do part’
The Church of England holds that marriage is created by God to be a lifelong union between a man and woman. The expectation is therefore that all couples seeking marriage intend to live together “for better for worse… till death us do part”. Where that has not happened there will be many regrets and it is clearly not a light matter to seek to marry again. For the sake of all concerned, it is therefore important to explore the circumstances fully before deciding whether or not it is appropriate to proceed further. It is on this basis that this Church is sometimes prepared to conduct further marriages.
It is important that you realise that there is no automatic right to be married in a Church of England church where one of the couple has been divorced (and the former partner is still living).
Firstly, you need to complete an application form for Marriage in Church after divorce and return it to the vicar before we meet. The information on this will form the basis of the conversation when you meet. Please contact us if you would like a copy of this.
The vicar will call you after he has read the form to arrange a time for us to meet so that we can talk through what has brought you both to this point. That will inevitably involve talking about the previous marriage, what led to its irretrievable breakdown and how you feel about it now. There are guidelines to help clergy decide when it is and when it is not appropriate to conduct a further marriage in Church.
Experience has shown that:
- The decree absolute needs to have been granted at least two years previously to allow sufficient time for the dust to have settled and pains of the previous split to have been healed. Sometimes people don’t sort this out until they plan a further marriage – let us know if this is the case: the principle is distance from the former relationship.
- Everything to do with the previous marriage, all child care (if appropriate) etc., needs to have been long since settled so that you are free emotionally to enter into a new marriage.
- The person concerned needs to have worked through whatever may have contributed to the breakdown and the effects of it so that these don’t unwittingly harm the new marriage.
- The new relationship should not have been connected with the breakdown of the previous marriage.
- The couple should have a sense of the spiritual nature of a Christian marriage service.
There also needs to be a recognition that marriage is not a temporary arrangement and therefore the failure of a previous marriage is something that requires repentance and forgiveness, even if we may feel that ‘it was not our fault’. Vows were made and these were not kept, so there is a need to face this in prayer looking for God’s grace and healing to lift the burden so that we can walk on into a new life. A short service of prayers before a further marriage will be part of the marriage preparation and this will be something that takes place privately in the church, with just yourselves and the cleric taking the service present.
If you would like to explore Christian marriage we will be very happy to talk it through with you. When you meet the vicar they will need to see an original certified copy of the decree absolute (photocopies are not sufficient).
The bishop may need to be consulted to talk through with them whether or not it is in order for the Marriage Service to be conducted in Church. It may not, therefore, be possible to give you an answer straight away. That is not necessarily a bad thing, since marriage should never be rushed into, especially where it has not worked once before.