Marriage Act 1949
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Marriage Act 1949
Marriage Act 1949[1]
Long titleAn Act to consolidate certain enactments relating to the solemnization and registration of marriages in England with such corrections and improvements as may be authorised under the Consolidation of Enactments (Procedure) Act, 1949.
Citation12, 13 & 14 Geo 6 c 76
Royal assent24 November 1949
Commencement1 January 1950[2]
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Marriage Act 1949 (12, 13 & 14 Geo 6 c 76) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom regulating marriages in England and Wales.

The Act had prohibited solemnizing marriages during evenings and at night. Since the Marriage Act 1836 it had been forbidden to marry between the hours of six in the evening and eight in the morning. This prohibition was repealed[3] on 1 October 2012.[4][5]

The Marriage Act 1949 was the first Act to be enacted under the Consolidation of Enactments (Procedure) Act 1949.[6]

Section 1 - Marriages within prohibited degrees

Section 1 marriages of persons within the prohibited degrees of relationships listed in the schedule are void.[7]

The prohibited relationships were based the Table of Kindred and Affinity which had been included in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England since 1662.[8] The list included parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, as well as a number of affinity relationships. The Children Act 1975 added adoptive parents and children, and former adoptive parents and children to the prohibited list. The list was significant changed, especially by the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees of Relationship) Act 1986, which removed affinity relationships from the list and made other changes.[9]

Section 2 - Marriages of persons under sixteen

This section re-enacts section 1 of the Age of Marriage Act 1929 which set the minimum marriage age at 16 with consent of parents or guardians and 21 without that consent. Marriages contracted by persons either of whom is under the age of 16 years are void.[10][11] Before 1929, the common law and canon law applied so that a person who had attained the legal age of puberty could contract a valid marriage. A marriage contracted by persons either of whom was under the legal age of puberty was voidable. The legal age of puberty was 14 for males and 12 for females.

In 1971, Eekelaar wrote that the prohibition now contained in this section "though desirable, is extreme and inflexible." According to him it could result in "genuine hardship", such as where it is discovered, after years of apparent marriage, that a mistake was made, at the time of the ceremony, regarding the age of one of the spouses, or where one of the spouses concealed their real age, though, after 1971, some protection was afforded by section 6 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970[12] (now repealed and replaced by the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975).

Section 4 - Hours for solemnization of marriages

Originally, a marriage had to be solemnized between 8am and 6pm. The section was repealed by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.[13][14]

Section 75 - Offences relating to solemnization of marriages

Section 75(1)(a) was repealed by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.[15][16]

Royal family

The wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005 brought into question whether civil marriages were available to members of the British royal family. Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, replied to the House of Lords that in his opinion the marriage was in accordance with the 1949 Act - although documentary evidence indicated it was not.[17]

See also


  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 80(1) of this Act.
  2. ^ The Marriage Act 1949, section 80(4)
  3. ^ The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, section 114
  4. ^ The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (Commencement No. 3) Order 2012 (S.I. 2012/2234), article 3(m)
  5. ^ "Night-time weddings to be allowed". BBC News Online. 12 February 2011.
  6. ^ O Hood Phillips. A First Book of English Law. Fourth Edition. Sweet and Maxwell. 1960. Page 90.
  7. ^ Marriage Act 1949, s. 1
  8. ^ Table of Kindred and Affinity
  9. ^ "Marriage Act 1949 (c. 76)". The UK Statute Law database. Retrieved 2010.
  10. ^ Marriage Act 1949, s. 2
  11. ^ Bromley and Lowe. Bromley's Family Law. Eighth Edition. Butterworths. 1992. p 35.
  12. ^ John Eekelar. Family Security and Family Breakdown. Penguin Books. 1971. p 59. [1]
  13. ^ Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, section 114(1)(a)
  14. ^ The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (Commencement No. 3) Order 2012 (S.I. 2012/2234), article 3(m)
  15. ^ Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, section 114(1)(b)
  16. ^ Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (Commencement No. 3) Order 2012 (S.I. 2012/2234), article 3(m)
  17. ^ "Royal wedding legal says minister". BBC News Online. 23 February 2005.


  • J C Arnold. The Marriage Law of England. Staples Press. 1951. Chapter V and Appendix.

External links

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