Should We Change English Marriage Certificates?

Should We Change English Marriage Certificates?

Have a look at your English Marriage Certificate – what do you notice?

Perhaps I should not admit it but even though I have been a Notary Public for over twenty years and qualified as a Solicitor earlier than that, I must confess that I have not really noticed that a Marriage Certificate issued in England and Wales shows the name and job description of the father of the groom and of the father of the bride – yet there is no mention whatsoever of the profession or identity of their Mothers.

There is currently a petition to Parliament that this situation should change. Those proposing the change point to the practice in Scotland [which is currently a member Country of the United Kingdom] where details of both the Mothers and Fathers appear on Marriage Certificates.

The proponents of the change appear so far as I can tell to be basing their petition upon a straightforward idea of “fairness”

They feel, as one blog puts it, that women are “routinely silenced and written out of history” and that the present English and Welsh marriage certificate confirms marriage to be “a business translation between father of bride and father of groom”.

Other reasons raised are that in a country with millions of single parent families the majority of those single parent families are children living with their Mothers, so when those children get married their important parent is that Mother, who “deserves” to be written into the personal history that the Marriage Certificate represents.

In many other cases the Bride or Groom or both when getting married may have been brought up each by their own Mother and by a man who is not their Father but a Step-father. The feeling of many of those people may be that the marriage certificate should show the name or names of those guardians who have lived with them throughout their childhoods and cared for them. It is felt that thereby the marriage certificate becomes an acknowledgement of the care and guardianship which those people have provided.

The counter view is that this whole issue is turning into a media campaign to no real purpose, and that a Marriage Certificate is not in any event intended as a sentimental souvenir of a special day. “That is what the photo album is for”, say the antis.

What about the argument that if the form of the certificate does change, and the Mothers of the Bride and of the Groom should be recorded on the marriage certificate, then the surname of that Mother nine times out of ten is likely to be the name of her husband because in England the vast majority of ladies change their names when marrying? Therefore the result of adding the Mothers’ names, ironically, would be to give further information as to the male ancestry of the marriage partners.

As a Notary Public whose profession is based upon identification of human beings and providing certification of such identification my view must surely be that the more information to be obtained from certificates of birth, death and marriage the better.
No doubt genealogists in years to come would also welcome the proposed expansion of the information provided by more details being shown in marriage certificates in England and Wales.

At a time when new forms of marriage and civil partnership certificates are having to be drafted and composed to incorporate new provisions to incorporate civil partnership and same-sex marriage this would perhaps seem to be a good as time as any for the petitioned changes to take place.

Please do contact me whenever you need Notarial certification or Legalisation – at or phone me on 0113 816 0116 (internationally 0044 113 8160116)