Marriage Customs and Traditions – Reading of Banns – Chiti Vaschyo




The word “Banns” is simply a “proclamation” traditionally announced and published in the home parishes of both the girl and the boy on three Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation before the marriage.  This law was decreed in 1215  and is commonly associated with the Catholic Church and the Church of England. The purpose of announcing the ‘Banns’ was to enable anyone to raise a canonical or civil legal impediment to the marriage so as to prevent invalid marriages.  Impediments vary but would normally include a pre-existing marriage that has been neither dissolved nor annulled, vow of celibacy, lack of consent or the couple being related within the prohibition degree of kinship. This act was meant to prohibit clandestine marriages and elopements by the underage. Reading of marriage banns was an important rite without which a marriage was considered null and void, unless a marriage licence was obtained instead.

marriage-licenseMarriage Licences began to be issued by a Church or a State Authority in the 14th century, to permit a marriage which would otherwise be illegal. There were always people who were in a hurry to marry for various reasons and didn’t wish to wait for the usual period for the three banns to be read; in such cases and with special approval and payment of a higher fee a marriage licence was issued giving the couple the necessary permission to be married.

In early days most of the people shared personal bonds with their neighbours, their communities and members of their parish and knew anyone and everyone in their neighbourhood but in later years with people becoming increasingly mobile, changing their domicile and emigrating to newer lands for jobs or other purposes, it became increasingly difficult to “know” all the people living around you or to be acquainted with all the people belonging to the same parish. Therefore, in 1983 the requirement of reading the banns was abolished by the Church as it’s usefulness in determining whether there were impediments to a marriage became limited for reasons stated. But many parishes still continue to publish marriage banns and it is still one of the requirements for marriage.


Before the Mudi  both parents of the bridegroom and bride would have approached the priest and informed him of their mutual intention to marry and would then fix the marriage date with the priest who records the names and details of the bride and groom and instructs the young couple in the duties of married life and tests their knowledge of the Christian faith and the prayers. The fee given to the priest was a banana bunch, a cock and some money.  Reading of the banns is an important rite following the engagement. The banns are read on three consecutive Sundays before the wedding date and the two persons concerned are present when the banns are read out. It is a matter of pride for the couple and their families.  If the wedding is to take place in an emergency an exception was made and the banns were read on one Sunday only.  Of course this required special permission from the priest or bishop and also higher fees!!

The formula for reading the banns :-

Devache Kurpen kazar zata puth avnkar Gregory, Balthuzar Saldanhanaso and dhu Juliana, Juze Almeida d’ Sachi Hi zavnasa (poli, dusri, thisri) chit. Konichi adkol asa pirge-jecha vodilank tilsunk.


By the grace of God, the bachelor son, Gregory, of Mr. Balthuzar Saldanha, is going to marry the daughter, Juliana, of Mr. Joseph Almeida. This is the (first, second, third) reading of the banns. In case anyone has any objection to this marriage he had the obligation of informing the ecclesiastical authorities.



Once the couple informs the priest of their mutual INTENT to marry, they must register and attend the marriage preparation course and prepare the required documents which are sent to the respective parishes.  Gone are the days when a church wedding could be performed within a week of the girl and boy meeting and accepting each other. These quick weddings used to be quite common prior to the 80’s and mostly between a foreign returned boy and local girl in India.

Curch notice board bannsBanns now are read/published on one Sunday only.  In Kuwait the banns are just put up on the church notice board for a week or two without any formal announcement during mass.


Today, the procedure from registering of INTENT to marry until the marriage dossier is complete, is a protracted and lengthy one between both the parishes of the couple. If the marriage is to take place in a church other than the parish then that Church too is to be involved in the required procedures. A minimum of three months to a maximum of one year is required depending on the rules of the respective Churches  involved, to complete all formalities and necessary paperwork like Registration, NOC, Marriage preparation course certificate, Proclamation of banns certificate, etc.

07-3004banns-6Once the banns are published and the results of the banns obtained, the Banns Certificate is issued to proceed.



In that it is worthwhile accessing the respective church website and checking out the marriage FAQs and procedures before approaching the church. The basic documents required to register are:-

  1. Baptism certificate (not older than six months)
  2. Your Passport copy or photo ID
  3. 2 Witnesses
  4. Boy must be not less than 21 years and girl not less than 18 years of age.

It is interesting to note how the wording on the Banns have evolved over time:

  1. 16th & 17th Century, only the names of the couple and the parish were mentioned.

2. 18th Century, fathers names were included (but not the mother as all women were considered fathers’ property even if they were married).

Example of the wording was as follows:-

  • By the grace of God, the bachelor son, Gregory, of Mr. Balthuzar Saldanha, is going to marry the daughter, Juliana, of Mr. Joseph Almeida. This is the (first, second, third) reading of the banns. In case anyone has any objection to this marriage he had the obligation of informing the ecclesiastical authorities.

3. In today’s time, names of both parents are stated.

Banns RaoulCharm







Reading of Banns is therefore an important rite and does not apply to mangalorean catholics alone but to all communities that follow the catholic or christian faith.

Previous Post : Engagement Mudi                      Next Post: Bachelor/Bachelorette Party


References: Severine Silva and Stephen Fuchs & Victor D’sa, S.V.D.: The Marriage Customs of the Christians in South Canara, India. Introduction source, Wikipedia.



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