House of Commons Library

Mothers' details on marriage certificates

Published Thursday, February 1, 2018

This Commons Library briefing paper provides information about calls for details of both parents of the bride and groom to be included in marriage registration (and not just fathers' details, as at present)

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This briefing paper deals with the law in England and Wales. Different legislation and marriage registration systems apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Current position

In England and Wales, the law requires all marriages to be registered once they have taken place. The system for registering marriages is currently paper-based. The prescribed particulars to be registered for a marriage include details of the father but not the mother of the bride and groom.

There have been calls from both within and outside of Parliament for mothers’ details to be included in marriage registration.

Labour Government proposals for change – not implemented

The Labour Government proposed wide-ranging reform of civil registration. This included a proposal to include on the marriage certificate the names and occupations of the father and mother of the bride and groom.  However, these proposals were not implemented. 

Government willing to address issue

On 18 August 2014, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced the Government’s intention to address this issue.

On 8 December 2015, there was a Westminster Hall debate on marriage registration certificates. Richard Harrington, who was then a junior Home Office Minister, confirmed the Government’s willingness to remedy the issue.  He spoke of the need for a comprehensive solution and not a simple amendment of the current marriage register.  The Minister said that officials at the Home Office were working with key stakeholders to ensure that the needs of all different types of family were met.

Private Members’ Bills

The Registration of Marriage Bill 2016-17, a Private Member’s Bill, was presented to Parliament by Edward Argar on 29 June 2016 (the Bill). Explanatory Notes, prepared by the Home Office, were published with the consent of Edward Argar.  The Bill had its second reading, without debate, on 13 January 2017. It was committed to a Public Bill Committee but made no further progress.

Three Private Members Bills have been introduced in the current Parliamentary session, two in the House of Commons and one in the House of Lords. The Registration of Marriage (No.2) Bill 2017-19 and the Registration of Marriage Bill [HL] 2017-19 are in similar terms and are also in the same terms as the Private Member’s Bill introduced by Edward Argar in the 2016-17 Parliamentary session.  The Home Office has prepared Explanatory Notes for the Registration of Marriage (No.2) Bill 2017-19, which was presented to Parliament by Dame Caroline Spelman on 14 November 2017. 

Each of these two Bills would enable the Secretary of State to make regulations to amend other legislation governing marriage registration, with the intention of changing the way in which marriages are registered in England and Wales. There would be a move from a paper based system to registration in an electronic register.  The Bill would enable changes to be made to the register entry, now and in the future, and would facilitate inclusion of mothers’ details.  The Government considers that this would create a more secure system for the maintenance of marriage records.

The Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill 2017-19

The other Private Member’s Bill in the current session is the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill 2017-19, introduced by Tim Loughton (Conservative), who came fifth in the Private Members’ Bill ballot held in June 2017.  This Bill is due to have its second reading on 2 February 2018.  Explanatory Notes have been prepared by the Home Office with the consent of Tim Loughton.

Information about the Bill is provided on the Bill page on the Parliament website

The long title to the Bill includes “to make provision about the registration of the names of the mother of each party to a marriage or civil partnership”.

The Bill would require the Secretary of State to “review the system of registration of marriages and civil partnerships with a view to ascertaining which changes would (whether alone or as part of wider changes) enable the provision of details relating to both parents of a party to a marriage or civil partnership in any place where details relating to only one parent are currently provided”.

The Bill would also deal a number of other matters. Another Library briefing paper provides further information:

Commons Library analysis: Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill (CPB 08217, 1 February 2018).

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7516

Author: Catherine Fairbairn

Topics: Marriage, Registration of births, deaths and marriages

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