Marriages in United Methodist chapels

Until 1837, all marriages (except those involving Quakers and Jews) had to take place in the parish church and according to the rites of the Church of England.

The 1836 Marriage Act made provision for the registration, for the solemnization of marriages, of any building certified as a place of religious worship, as from 1 July 1837.A registrar of marriages had to attend and register the marriage. To give non-conformist bodies the same rights as enjoyed by the Established Church, Quakers and Jews, the Marriage Act 1898 provided for the appointment (by the governing body of a registered building) of an authorised person in whose presence the marriage had to be solemnized and by whom it had to be registered.

The United Methodist Free Churches registered their chapels from the start, and The Methodist New Connexion and the Bible Christians also took advantage of the legislation.

By 1867 the differences between the three denominations were apparent. The Methodist New Connexion provided their members with the greatest proportion of its chapels being registered for marriages: 85 out of 261. The United Methodist Free Churches had 190 chapels registered for marriages out of a total of 817. The Bible Christian member wishing to make their vows in a sacred setting had least choice: only 42 chapels out of 417 provided this option.

By the end of 1899 not only did the three denominations have more chapels, but the proportion offering marriages had also increased. There had been a low take-up of the opportunity for ministers to replace registrars however. The Methodist New Connexion had now registered 303 out of 575 chapels for marriage before a registrar, and 53 for marriages conducted by a minister. The figures for the United Methodist Free Churches were 533 out of 1386, and 91. The Bible Christians were able to marry in 149 of their 622 chapels, but they appear not to have made use of the new legislation.

If you are looking for a marriage which took place in a United Methodist chapel (or one of the denominations who combined to form the church in 1907) you will find the
register either in the care of the local minister or in the local County Record Office. You can also find a full record of the marriage in the General Registry Office, and may find it easier to obtain a copy from there. In either case, a fee is required for a copy of the entry. Unlike baptisms or burials, marriage is a legal ceremony, with the minister acting on behalf of the state, so the records belong to the state.


Thirtieth Annual report of the registrar-general (1867) BPP 1868-69 XVI (4146) viii
Accessed 19 June 2020

Sixty-second Annual report of the registrar-general (1899) BPP 1900 XV [Cd.323] lix Accessed 19 June 2020

David M. Chapman, Born in Song: Methodist Worship in Britain (Church in the Market Place Publications, 2006), Chapter 8 ‘The Solemnisation of Christian Marriage’, pp. 197-217

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