ANECDOTES OF A LIVERPOOL REGISTRAR
A review of our June talk - by Mike Chitty
On 21st June, Carole Codd gave us a talk based on her 30+ year career at Liverpool's register office. She took us briskly through the legislation, from 1653 when Cromwell took away the Church's sole right to perform marriage, to 2005 when Civil Partnerships were introduced. She explained the popularity of Gretna Green as a wedding venue for the under-21s, a result of Hardwicke's Act of 1753 which required marriages to be solemnised in a church after the obtaining of parental consent - but didn't apply to Scotland. Even now there are differences; for example north of the border you can still get married out of doors.
The biggest changes were in 1837, when civil registration of marriages was introduced, and 1995, when marriage in 'approved premises' was allowed. Liverpool now has about 35 approved venues, including Sefton Park Palm House, the Athenaeum and both Liverpool and Everton football clubs. Carole told us that Liverpool weddings sometimes take place in fancy dress, appropriate to the venue, for example safari outfits in the Palm House, and a Cinderella bride and Prince Charming groom (accompanied by 7 dwarves) on stage at the Empire Theatre. The registrars are not allowed to dress up, however - or even to wear Mickey Mouse ears as had once been requested!
Carole's particular memories included bridegroom Ricky Tomlinson who asked his friend Ken Dodd to 'Help me out here, Doddy' when she asked whether anyone knew of any lawful impediment. That wedding resulted in her picture appearing in both O.K. and Hello magazines - the only time a Registrar has achieved that feat.
Carole explained that there are some exceptions to the normal rules. For example patients in the Marie Curie Hospice can be married at any time of day (not just during 'daylight hours' which are defined as 8am-6pm during both summer and winter) if a Registrar General's licence has been obtained, and prisoners in Walton or Altcourse can be married 'inside' - a concession introduced largely to avoid the previous situation, whereby grooms had been known to escape over the Register Office wall into a waiting car.
Registrars are also involved in other activities, including naming ceremonies ('like baptism but without the water'), citizenship ceremonies, and civil funerals (which focus on the life of the person who's died, with or without hymns and prayers). Carole has officiated at all of these but, she explained, it's the weddings - the people 'married in the eyes of Codd' - who have tended to provide her with the best stories!