Our October meeting – “Hatch, Match & Dispatch” – sounded as though it was to be a rather formal lecture, all about the work of a lady Registrar, but as it turned out it was a light-hearted talk followed by a fun quiz.
Jane Parker was the Registrar, and she began by giving us some background information about the profession in general.
Up until the Birth & Deaths Registration Act of 1837 all written records concerning births, marriages and deaths were generally kept by the Church or the Parish, but after this time everything became formalised, and local District Registry Offices were set up around the country.
The basic work has changed little since then. In spite of the computer age, certificates and registers are still completed using fountain pen and ink, but this is no ordinary Quink ink! At £40 a bottle, it is a special permanent ink which on paper changes colour slightly over time, and which cannot be written over or fraudulently defaced when used in record-keeping. One reason why registrars tend to dress formally in dark colours is in case of ink spillage – and it is every registrar’s nightmare to spill ink on a newly-wedded bride’s dress!
On a personal note, Jane told us that in her work she has dealings with all sorts of people, from the rich and titled to the homeless and illiterate, and at very emotional times in their lives. She regards it as an honour and a privilege to be included at these special times alongside each of her clients.
According to Jane, September this year has been the busiest ever in Suffolk for weddings! The average number of marriages per day is 8, although Jane has attended 13 in one day before now! She told us she worries about getting names muddled up, or being late through traffic problems or bad weather. On more than one occasion she has known a bridegroom to faint, (probably through being over-dressed with tight shirt-buttons, cravats and waistcoats), brides who have forgotten their bouquets and rings which don’t fit! She has been aware of “incontinent” bridesmaids who have been waiting a long time for the ceremony to end, and she herself has had to do running repairs on clothes and pin on buttonholes. Sometimes the groom has turned up without the money to pay the registrar’s fee, and there has to be a whip round amongst the guests!
She has known several occasions of “sham” marriages, which need to be reported to immigration officials in the hope they can catch the “fixers” who exploit the couples involved.
Last year there were 2500 civil marriages and 1200 church weddings in Suffolk, held at a total of 90 approved and registered wedding venues, including Registry Offices, of course.
To have a venue approved it needs to be registered with the local council, be assessed for fire-risk, and a fee of £1800 paid. Then it must be inspected by a senior registrar to check the space, number of chairs available, facilities for music, waiting room and toilets. Notice must be published in a local newspaper to let people know – and if everything is satisfactory a licence is sent through the post. Licences must be renewed every 3 years. Two popular venues in Suffolk are the Theatre Royal, (Bury St Edmunds) and Southwold Pier, and the most popular times for weddings are July, August and September at 2.00pm!
Church of England Ministers are allowed to marry people, but other denominations have to have a registrar present. Sea Captains can only marry couples if their ship is registered outside the UK.
Jane also attends naming ceremonies, renewals of vows and citizenship ceremonies, of which there are about 700 a year in Suffolk, the participants being welcomed by the High Sheriff or his deputy. Much of her paperwork includes family history data, reproducing birth and marriage certificates from the past of which some 8000 were needed last year.
Altogether, a most interesting talk, and at the end Jane set us a short quiz all about famous marriages which was won – after a tie-break – by Beryl Grant.
Forthcoming meetings include a make-up demonstration, a shopping trip, a craft evening and a Christmas social. For more information please see our web-site: http://www.capelladies.com or ring 01473 311870.