Marriage is both a sacrament of the Church and a legal transaction of the state. Clergy of the Scottish Episcopal Church are approved celebrants under the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977, and are permitted by both civil and ecclesiastical law to officiate at weddings only in conformity with this Act or any subsequent legislation which may be in force at the time. Clergy are bound also by the Canon Law of the Scottish Episcopal Church, of which Canon 31 concerns The Solemnisation of Holy Matrimony.
Clergy are permitted to officiate only at weddings in church buildings, unless the permission of the Bishop has first been obtained. This is granted only in exceptional circumstances.
Because of the legal processes which need to be concluded before a marriage can be solemnised, it is important that notice be given not less then three months in advance. A Marriage Notice (Form M10) must be obtained, either on-line (with guidance notes) or from the district office of the General Register Office for Scotand. St Aidan's is in East Renfrewshire, and the office of the District Registrar is located in the East Renfrewshire Council Offices in Eastwood Park, Rouken Glen Road, Giffnock G46 6UG.
It is important to contact the Rector at an early stage, at least three months before the proposed date of the wedding. The Marriage Notice should not be returned to the Registrar, or invitations issued or a venue for the reception booked, until advised by the Rector that the proposed date is feasible. Nor should any arrangements be made for video-recording, flowers, music, etc. be made without the prior consent of the Rector.
The Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 requires that both parties be at least sixteen years of age on the day of the wedding, and that they not be related within prohibited degrees of consanguinity, affinity, or adoption. Neither party may be married or in a civil partnership, and evidence of the dissolution of any former union must accompany the Marriage Notice. The law requires that both parties consent to the marriage willingly and without duress, and that both be legally capable of understanding the nature of the wedding and of giving that consent, either in English or through an approved and disinterested interpreter. The Law also required that there be two witnesses over the age of sixteen years present throughout the ceremony. Clergy are under a legal obligation to ensure that these conditions are met before officiating at a wedding.
Christian teaching is that marriage is in principle lifelong and indissoluble. Nevertheless, it is also recognised that there are circumstances in which relationships break down and marriages end in divorce. People who have been divorced are able to remarry, but there are special procedures to be followed if they wish to be married in church during the lifetime of a former spouse. It is therefore important that the Rector be approached as early as possible. The Rector is required to collect the necessary information, and apply to the Bishop for a decision as to whether the wedding can take place in church. Clergy are not permitted to officiate at weddings for which such consent has not been obtained, nor are they permitted to bless a civil marriage if such marriage would have required episcopal authorisation to be solemnised in church.
It should be noted that, if one or both parties is domiciled outside the United Kingdom, the Registrar is required to take additional steps to ensure that there is no impediment to the marriage, and that it would be recognised in the country of domicile. These procedures need to be completed before the Marriage Schedule is issued. It is therefore particularly important that the Marriage Notice and supporting documentation be submitted timeously in such circumstances.
The Church has long recognised that there are men and women, within its membership and beyond, who are of homosexual orientation, and that such people are entitled to enter faithful and loving relationships, in principle exclusive and lifelong, with partners of the same sex. The congregation is committed to being open, inclusive, and welcoming. Marriages between couples of the same sex became legal in Scotland on 31st December 2014, in terms of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014. At its 2017 session, the General Synod of the SEC amended its Canon Law to permit the marriage in church of couples of the same sex. Guidelines were issued by the College of Bishops shortly thereafter to ensure that this would be implemented with sensitivity to each pastoral context. The Vestry has followed these Guidelines in its consideration of the matter, and agreed in principle that marriages between couples of the same sex might be solemnised in St Aidan's, and the Rector has been nominated by the Bishop and authorised by the Registrar General as an officiant at such marriages. Clergy are not officiants for civil partnership ceremonies, but may bless a union which has been entered before a civil Registrar.
The change in the Canon on marriage followed a long process of consultation, about which further information can be found here. The Doctrine Committee of the SEC produced a document to inform the Synodical process, which may be downloaded here.