I once married a sex worker. Sort of.
There are always two Registrars at every wedding; the celebrant does the talking and the other Registrar does the writing. The 'writing' Registrar actually registers the wedding. They listen to the words the celebrant, and the bride and groom say and if the wedding has been conducted legally they then complete the Register entry. Once the marriage has been registered the Registrar can then write out the marriage certificate. This is presented to the bride and groom at the end of the ceremony.
Before the ceremony, they also have the important job of ensuring that the information being entered into the register is correct. Names must be spelled correctly of the bride and groom, and both their fathers names (no space for mothers - the rules for this were introduced in the much more sexist 1800's). Their addresses must be correct and up to date, as well as their marital status (I did once marry a groom who forgot that he was previously married, but that's a whole other story). And of course, the couple's occupation must be recorded.
The questions must be asked in a very specific way in order to elicit the correct answer. For instance, you can't just ask what someone's name is and how to spell it. You have to ask what name the bride and groom are currently using, and if they have they ever been known by any other name.
This is because people don't always have one name that they stick to for their entire life. They may have been married once or more times before. They might have changed their name through adoption or through a change of name deed (but rarely through deed poll - but that's another post entirely). Some people don't formerly change their name but are known by one they choose, so they effectively have two identities running side by side. It's often the case with celebrities - the public knows them by one name but their documents show a different name entirely.
The questions are designed to give the bride or groom every opportunity to answer the question correctly. Of course, they could choose to lie, but then they have perjured themselves and could face up to six months in prison and a £5000 fine.
One of the questions often confused the couples and they gave funny answers.
I had to ask 'Have you been through any form of marriage before?' If the answer was yes, I then had to ask 'How did that marriage end?' The answer I was looking for was death or divorce. I absolutely wasn't interested in the detail of what happened to their previous marriage. But I often got it.
In an early wedding I had a very nervous couple sitting in front of me. They were squeezed up against each other, holding hands and almost trembling, in the way that those pointless little dogs do when they are scared.
I asked the question and the groom indicated that he was married before.
'How did that marriage end?'
He blinked furiously.
'I had an affair,' he said sheepishly. 'With her,' indicating his bride to be. Not an auspicious start to married life.
Another question was 'What is your occupation?' A fairly straightforward question you might think, but it elicited some odd replies.
'What's an occupation?' was a depressingly common response. 'A job?' I'd reply. 'I don't work,' was the inevitable reply. 'What was your last job?' 'I've never worked.' 'Did you train in anything? Do you have a trade?' 'Nah.' 'I can just put a line through the box.' 'Whatever.'
There were also the comedians.
'I'm a zeppelin engineer.'
'A Kamikaze pilot. I left because there was no future in it.'
'A sumo wrestler.'
'A weasel sexer.'
'A smoke wrestler.'
Non of those occupations made it onto the marriage certificate.
The Sex Worker
The most unusual occupation I can remember being recorded was 'sex worker.'
The bride was a young woman in her mid-twenties. She was intelligent, articulate, and well presented, everything a sex worker stereotypically shouldn't be. You could pass her in the street and think she was a regular office worker. The issue of her occupation had come up earlier in the process when she gave her notice of intention to marry, and despite being interviewed by senior managers she insisted upon being called a sex worker.
She worked as a high end escort, was self employed and paid taxes, and was in total control of her career. She was educated and had plenty of options, but this is what she chose to do. All of her family and friends knew what she did, so she had nothing to hide. Of course her husband to be knew exactly what she did too, so there was no issue there.
My manager was worried about any future children she might have. How would she explain her job to them? To be fair it was an honest concern. Once the details are recorded in the register it is very difficult to change them, so you have to get things right first time. Many people regret the information they include in the register, especially regarding births and deaths, but once it is recorded it can't be changed.
Her response was that she would be open and honest with her children if and when they arrived. I believed her.
Sex worker went on her notice information but she still had the option of changing it on the day of the ceremony, but when I asked the question her reply was the same: sex worker.
This wedding took place several years ago. I wonder if she ever did have children?
Creative Commons image from Sarah Scicluna