Marriage by Registrar's Certificate or Licence in England and Wales
From 1 July 1837 it has been possible for a marriage to take place, without banns, in a District Register Office or in a certified building (usually a Roman Catholic or Nonconformist church or chapel), either by Certificate or by Licence issued by the Local Superintendent Registrar:
Registrar's Certificate: if both parties have resided in the same registration district for seven days one of them can give notice to the Registrar. If they reside in different districts then notice must be given to both Registrars. After 21 days a Certificate is issued, which is valid for three months from the date of the notice. The marriage must take place in one or the other of the districts of residence. The Certificate is occasionally found being used for Church of England marriages.
Registrar's Licence: regardless of where the parties live, one of them can give notice to the Registrar that both have resided in those places for fifteen days, or if only one has done so the other must be resident in England or Wales. After one weekday a Licence is issued, which is valid for three months (but not for a Church of England marriage).
The notices are entered in Marriage Notice Books and those for Certificates are displayed on a public notice-board for 21 days. A marriage by Registrar's Licence costs more and receives virtually no publicity. The Notice Books are preserved in perpetuity. There is no public right of access to them but in a very few areas they have found their way into county record offices.
[Adapted from Anthony Camp's article 'The history and value of genealogical records: marriage by licence' in Practical Family History (UK), no. 53 (May 2002) pages 34-36].