Many years ago, I had cause to petition a previous archbishop of Canterbury, for a marriage licence.
Under a law dating back to 1533, they have the authority to grant permission for a marriage to take place at any time and at any place within England or Wales, amongst other powers previously with the Pope.
The pre-nominals and styles on the handwritten address on the envelope took up two lines of hand writing and were longer than his actual name. Then came the post-nominals: mostly letters denoting academic degrees, symbols of a distinguished academic career which I carefully transcribed, after consulting three or four sources as to the correct protocol.
Colloquially termed ‘special licences’, the range of possible venues includes those not ordinarily registered for solemnization of marriage – hospitals, school and college chapels, mostly – and these licences are not often issued, as there are often other more appropriate legal preliminaries.
But much more regular is the publication of ‘banns of marriage’, which at my church happens towards the end of the Sunday service, after all the regular notices.
In this digital age it seems almost quaint, but it is a tangible connection between the couple to be married and the special place in which it is to be solemnized – hallowed by generations of prayer of souls like me, who worship there Sunday after Sunday.
In the towns and villages which surround Abingdon, it is also the season of weddings, the arrival of which seems to herald better times to come and a much-welcomed boost to the income of the small-town taxi driver.
Two weekends ago, I was kept busy for hours into the early hours of Sunday, transporting a group of friends to and from a popular wedding reception venue in the middle of nowhere, and hotels in Wantage and rail stations in Oxford and Didcot.
Superficially it helps that there are no longer rail stations serving Abingdon or Wantage directly, although strategically and economically, it would be much better for taxi business if these principal towns in the district did have them.
It can sometimes be time-consuming to retrieve the correct guests from a wedding at the end of the night, when some have been drinking as one guest proudly told me last weekend: “For 13 hours, Bruv.”
Although intoxicated, he was no trouble and was happy. Wedding guests invariably are, having spent their day in the company of friends and family they may not have seen for years.
That night I returned from the wedding to the taxi rank in Abingdon for one last fare, only to witness a fracas - a taxi driver out of his car, arguing and pushing and shoving with a potential passenger.
A good wedding can avoid the ever-present danger of working the taxi rank in Abingdon on a Saturday night.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 25 April 2018
- Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Special Licences & What You Need To Know About Marriage Law, retrieved 24 April 2018
- Lambeth Palace Library, Archbishops' Archives, Faculty Office, retrieved 24 April 2018