Banns of Marriage
The publication in the parish church for three successive Sundays of an intended marriage. It is made after the Second Lesson of the Morning Service. To announce the intention is called “Publishing the banns,” from the words “I publish the banns of marriage between ... ” (Anglo-Saxon, ge-bannan, to proclaim, to announce).
“And a better fate did poor Maria deserve than to have a banns forbidden by the curate of the parish who published them.” —Sterne: Sentimental Journey.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894