Follow Us:

Common Licence

A Common Licence is a Bishop’s permission for a marriage to take place in a particular church.

The issue of a Common Licence is at the discretion of the Diocesan Bishop. In order to qualify for the issue of a Common Licence, either (1) one of the parties to the proposed marriage must have lived in the parish where the marriage is to take place for at least 15 days immediately preceding the date when the application for the Common Licence is made, or else must be on the church electoral roll or, (2) one of the parties must be able to show a ‘qualifying connection’ with the church, as defined in the Church of England Marriage Measure 2008.

An application for a Common Licence should not be made until the three month period prior to the proposed wedding date. The Licence will be valid for a maximum of three months (like a certificate that banns have been published) so if the Licence is issued too early it will expire before the proposed wedding date.

An application for a Common Licence may be made by prior appointment at the office of the Diocesan Registrar. However, for those living at some distance from the Diocesan Registry, an application may be made instead to one of a number of clergy around the Diocese who have been appointed Surrogates for receiving marriage licence applications. The current Surrogates available to recieve an application for a Common Licence are the following:

  • The Revd Canon Anthony Billett, Diss
  • The Revd Canon Julie Boyd, Aylsham
  • The Revd Mark Capron, Dersingham
  • The Revd Paul Cubitt, Dereham
  • The Revd Christian Heycocks, Sheringham
  • The Revd Matthew Jackson, Attleborough
  • The Revd Dr Patrick Richmond, Norwich
  • The Revd David Smith, Horning
  • The Revd David Smith, Raveningham & Geldeston
  • The Revd Canon Sally Theakston, Gressenhall/Norwich
  • The Revd Stephen Thorp, Necton
  • The Revd Selwyn Tillett, Norwich

    View contact details for the people above.

    Applicants for a Common Licence will be required to produce evidence of their nationality, identity and address (see details below). The Legal Advisory Commission recommends that where one of the parties to a proposed marriage is a foreign national, the marriage ought to be by licence (which involves the making of a sworn statement as to status), rather than by banns.  A foreign national will have to have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme and both parties should provide the Registrar or Surrogate with the following:-

    • Evidence of identity and nationality (and settled or pre-settled status if applicable), such as an original passport or birth certificate showing the full name and date of birth of the party concerned.
    • Evidence of the their current address, such as an original utility bill, bank statement or other document showing the name and address of the party concerned, which is less than three months old.
    • Confirmation of the single status of the party concerned. Normally the applicant for a Common Licence will make a sworn statement that they and their intending spouse are not under any impediment which would prevent them from being married, and would swear to their current status, e.g. ‘single’, and this should be sufficient. In any case where there is any doubt on the part of the minister, additional evidence that the applicant is single may be requested (such as further ID documents showing the same name, or a letter from the party’s lawyer or priest).
    • Where a party has previously been married and divorced, the original Decree Absolute of divorce is required and the minister taking the marriage service will have to seek permission from the Bishop of Norwich to enable parties to remarry in church. See the section dealing with Marriage following Divorce.

    Where one of the parties has previously been married, the Bishop will wish to be satisfied that the questions set out in the Guidelines for Clergy on Marriages in Church following Divorce have been addressed before consenting to the issue of a Common Licence. This approval is normally sought by the parish priest, or minister officiating the wedding.  If this is required the applicants should allow time for this approval to be sought.  The Registrar can not issue the Common Licence without receiving the Bishop’s written permission.

    Where any document produced is in a foreign language, the party concerned would be required to provide a certified translation.

    The application fee payable for a Common Licence in the Diocese of Norwich for 2023 is £150, but is reviewed annually in January.



    • With effect from 2 March 2015, foreign nationals from countries outside the European Economic Area are no longer able to marry in a Church of England ceremony after the publication of banns or under the authority of a Common Licence. Instead they need to apply either for a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate (this is the route which they should normally follow) or, where necessary (because they have no qualifying connection with the relevant parish church, or where they wish to marry in a building which is not licensed for marriages) a Special Licence from the Archbishop’s Faculty Office. The note at Immigration Act 2014 – Guidance Note gives more information about this. A Special Licence is only appropriate to authorize marriages according to the rites of the Church of England, and will be necessary where a couple does not have a legal right to be married in a particular parish church or where the building itself is not licensed for marriages, including school and college chapels, cathedrals, etc. A Special Licence is also necessary for Anglican marriages to take place in a hospital or hospice or at home, where there is urgent medical necessity and where no other preliminary is available. Otherwise the parties should proceed under the authority of a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate.
    • Where both parties to an intended marriage are UK nationals, the marriage may proceed after the publication of banns or on the authority of a Common Licence, as at present, or on the authority of a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate or, where necessary, a Special Licence.
    • Where one or both parties are nationals of other countries in the European Economic Area, the parties will need to apply for a Common Licence, or may proceed on the authority of a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate or, where necessary, a Special Licence.
    • The position will remain unchanged for the time being after BREXIT, since the Immigration Act refers to countries in the European Economic Area rather than the European Union. Advance notice is likely to be given before any change in the law is introduced after BREXIT.

    If you have questions about the correct procedure, please contact the Diocesan Registrar, Stuart Jones (telephone 01603 756501, email for advice.