What Happens If You Actually Try To Break Up A Wedding?

Can you really burst into somebody's wedding and declare your undying love?

What Happens If You Actually Try To Break Up A Wedding?

by Nell Frizzell |
Published on

From Renault Clio adverts to Hollyoaks episodes, running into a wedding, tears streaming, clutching a telegram or skidding down the aisle on your knees is one of those great cultural tropes that almost never actually happens in real life. Thank god.

But what actually happens if someone were to shout out a lawful impediment to a marriage? In fact, what even counts as a lawful impediment? We spoke to a registration officer to get the skinny.

How often do people actually try to stop a marriage halfway through the ceremony?

‘You see it happening a lot in soap operas, but in my experience it happens very little in real life,’ she says. ‘I’ve been a registrar for nine years and it’s never happened to me.’

Although, of course, she says there is, with irritating and frequent regularity, some clown at the back who calls out something just to get a laugh.

What actually counts as a legal impediment to a marriage?

‘Legally, the main objections would be a pre-existing marriage that hasn’t been legally dissolved or mental capacity.’ Mental capacity? What does that mean? ‘Someone might allege that a party might not have mental capacity to know what it is that they’re doing. In either of those cases a caveat can be lodged.’

What, in these circumstances, is a caveat?

If you’re going to get married you have to give notice of that marriage. Any registrar then has a legal duty to display your details in the registrar’s office for a total of 28 days (although it can be up to a year in advance). Or you will have the bans read in church. That gives anyone 28 days to step forward and say, ‘Hold on, he’s already married to me and we have 17 children.’

Or that the person doesn’t have the capacity to know what they’re doing. In which case a caveat would be lodged before the paperwork is issued that enables someone to get married.

What if it’s a sham marriage?

‘A lot of people think that a sham marriage is an impediment but in fact it isn’t,’ the registration officer explains. ‘You can’t stop a marriage on that basis.’

What if the couple turn out to actually be related?

‘There are permitted degrees of kinship. Legally, you can marry your first cousin. You have to be separated by two bloodlines. But that’s one of the questions you’ll get asked when giving notice of the marriage. We ask them to confirm that their fiancé and they are not related by blood, marriage, surrogacy or adoption.’

Are there any other circumstances under which a marriage could get halted halfway through?

‘If the celebrant felt that the person was so incapacitated by drink or drugs that they couldn’t go ahead with it they may stop the marriage.’

Apparently, when it comes to bursting into a wedding in a flurry of sweat, tears, Prosecco and legal allegations, the onus is on the person making the objection to prove their case, rather than the couple to defend their innocence.

Also, did you know that marriage has to be conducted with open doors? So anybody is allowed to enter the room during the ceremony, for that very reason? That’s right – you are legally compelled to keep the door open. And if that’s not a metaphor for a successful marriage, I don’t know what is.

For lots more information about marriages and civil partnerships in the UK, you can always check on the Government website.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

Ask An Adult: How To Go To A Wedding When Your Ex Will Be There

How Not To Be A Big Fat Dick To Your Bridesmaid

Belgian Prince Abdicates For Love

Follow Nell on Twitter: @NellFrizzell

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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