The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.In addition, B31 specifies impediments which invalidate an alleged marriage. If one of the partners is below the age of 16 the purported marriage is void. The same applies if the two partners to the purported marriage are closely related to each other as defined by the table of kindred and affinity published with this canon. B32 specifies "certain impediments to the solemnization of matrimony", presumably distinguishing these from "impediments to marriage" itself (B31) which suggests to me that the minister who contravenes B31 may face consequences but the marriage would not be void.
This understanding obviously differs vastly from the understanding of marriage held by any who are prepared to contemplate human-animal marriage-like arrangements. But it also differs to a greater or lesser extent from the understanding of those who
- allow not only for the betrothal of minors but for actual marriages involving children, e.g. in Ethiopia, Niger, Mali, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and other places, including some provinces in Canada, if the bride is with child and written parental permission is given
- allow for the marriage, e.g., between an aunt and her nephew which is apparently the case in Austria, France, Argentina, Brazil and Australia (see avunculate marriage)
- allow for a man or woman to enter into more than one concurrent marriage, e.g. in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other places
- allow marriage-like arrangements between more than two people (although practised, such group marriages do not seem to be legally recognised anywhere)
- deny that marriage is designed to be permanent and lifelong*
- deny that marriage requires a complementarity of sexes
- deny that marriage demands sexual exclusivity
- deny the desirability of linking procreation with marriage
The Church of England's understanding of marriage differs also from the understanding of those who
- enter marriage with the hope and plan that they will not have children
- enter marriage with the intention of refusing sexual intercourse
- enter marriage without the aim of caring for one another
- enter marriage with prenuptial agreements
It shall be the duty of the minister, when application is made to him for matrimony to be solemnized in the church of which he is the minister, to explain to the two persons who desire to be married the Church’s doctrine of marriage as herein set forth, and the need of God’s grace in order that they may discharge aright their obligations as married persons.