LIFESTYLE

Marriage Certificates Only Require Your Father's Name: Here's The Petition Aiming To Change That

31/01/2014 14:36 GMT | Updated 03/02/2014 08:59 GMT

A wedding is a celebration of love and for many, a celebration of family.

So why then, are we not permitted to give the details of our mothers, (for many of us, the person who has supported us to adulthood), on our marriage certificate?

In Scotland and Northern Ireland you will be asked to provide the names of both of your parents for marriage documentation. You will also be given the opportunity to provide details of both parents in any civil partnership.

marriage certificate uk

However, in England and Wales, only a father's name is legally required on their children's marriage certificates; mothers are forbidden from providing their details. 6.7 million people were part of a household headed by a mother in 2012. Isn't this wedding tradition then, a little archaic?

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling on Equalities Minister Maria Miller and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to update the marriage documentation so that a mother’s name can be on there too.

B.J. Epstein, a lecturer in literature and public engagement at the University of East Anglia, agrees that current legislation is outdated: "I think it’s important to list both mothers’ and fathers’ names. It’s disturbing that even in this contemporary era, people are more concerned about paternity and about proving who the father is, when the mother is just as important. Both parents should be listed.

Epstein went further suggesting that birth certificates could also be more flexible: "They should allow for, say, a mother, a father, and a second mother. Or two dads and a mom. Or biological and adoptive parents. And so on. They should have the space for all the parents who help make and raise a child. Today’s families are ever more complex and birth certificates should reflect that," she said.

The petition, started by Ailsa Burkimsher Sadler, states: "This seemingly small inequality is part of a much wider pattern of inequality.

"Marriage should not be seen as a business transaction between the father of the bride and the father of the groom."

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From the virginal white dress worn by the bride, to the tradition of fathers "giving" their daughters away, it's easy to see why many consider some wedding traditions a big old punch in the face to feminism.

Bridesmaids are expected to remain silent while the best man makes a speech and brides still, more often than not, take the name of their husband's family.

So will a change in legislation allowing mothers to be included on marriage certificates actually make a difference to "the sisterhood"?

bride

Actually yes, it will. Because while women can choose to wear red or keep their maiden name, they are prevented from including their worthy mothers on marriage documentation.

There is no definite right or wrong when it comes to wedding ceremonies; the events of the day should be chosen by the bride and groom.

But chosen being the key word. Don't we deserve to choose whose name we scribble when behind the alter?

The only, rare, exception to the marriage documentation legislation, is if a mother has been authorised by a court as the ‘sole adopter’, then a person is permitted to make a special request to have the mother's name included. This can only happen with court papers.

Sarah McAlpine, who signed the petition, explained why she wants change: "I'm getting married next year. I won't have seen my Dad in four years. My mum has supported me for my entire life and if I choose to be escorted down the aisle it will be by her. Yet I am obliged to have the man who is practically a stranger on my wedding certificate but not the actual parent. This is outdated, patriarchal nonsense and needs updating immediately."

Specialist Family Lawyer Richard Adams explained the history of this "patriarchal nonsense" to the Huffington Post UK:

"The requirement to provide the details of the name and occupation of the bride and groom’s father dates back to 1837, when civil registration of marriages was introduced in England and Wales, which also allowed couples to marry in register offices. While there have been various changes to laws relating to marriage since that date, the details required have remained largely unchanged since that time.

"There are no real wider legal implications of the inclusion of the fathers’ details rather than the mothers’, although it’s understandable that many have objected to the exclusion of the mothers in terms of the wider social message it can send," he said.

The petition argues that women are routinely silenced and written out of history. The form introduced and used for the registration of civil partnerships includes the names and occupations of both the mother and father and so could easily be adapted for marriage to change this social injustice.

Adams is skeptical about the government taking action following Burkimsher Sadler's petition though, saying: "The marriage certificate was last amended in 2005 when the terms ‘bachelor’ and ‘spinster’ were removed. However, this change was a provision included as part of the introduction of civil partnerships, and it may be unlikely that the Government/Registrar General would be willing to consider this particular change on its own."