UK Wedding Law
In all areas of the UK the minimum age you can legally marry is 16. In England, Wales, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Northern Ireland you will need written parental consent if you are under 18. In Jersey parental consent is required if you are under 20. In Scotland, however, you can marry at 16 without the consent of your parents.
There are fees involved for marriage ceremonies and these will be subject to regional differences. Typically you should expect to pay between £90 – £100 for a Civil Ceremony (this excludes any fees that might be charged if you book an alternative venue), and between £150 – £250 for a Religious Ceremony (variable factors will include items such as the use of church bells, church organist etc.). Check with your local Registrars Office or Parish Priest for more details.
A Civil Ceremony is conducted by a Registrar, either in a Registry Office or a venue that holds a Civil Licence. The ceremony is not allowed to contain religious elements, although you may choose to include music, poetry or readings to accompany the ceremony. You can also discuss the vows you intend to take with the registrar and customise them to suit.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland a Civil Ceremony can take place in an approved venue (such as a hotel, castle etc.) that holds a Civil Licence. The law states that you cannot marry outside, or in a temporary or movable structure (such as a marquee). A Civil Licence is not required for alternative venues in Scotland, but different laws apply.
Many establishments that hold a Civil Licencel offer a full wedding service and will be able to provide you will a lot of advice and support.
These will differ depending on your faith, but will generally take place in a church, or place of worship. However, in Scotland it is the local Minister who performs ceremonies in alternative venues, not the Registrar.
If you are intending to have a Religious Ceremony you will need to contact the Minister of your faith in the locality you wish to be married in.
England and Wales
A Civil Ceremony can take place in a Registry Office, or a venue that holds a Civil Licence. If you intend a Civil Ceremony in England or Wales the procedure you need to follow is: You both need to give formal notice of your intention to marry to the Registrar in the district you live in. If you live in the same district you should attend the Registry Office to give notice together, although you do not have to by law. You must have lived in the district for at least 7 full days before you can give notice.
Once you have given notice you can marry within a year, but not before 15 clear days have passed.
You need to book your date with the Registrar in the district you wish to marry.
The Registrar will require you to produce certain documents for evidence of your identity and the correct spelling of your name etc. A current UK Passport is a preferred document, but chequebooks, credit cards and birth certificates are also acceptable. Your Registrar will advise you on this.
If you have been married before you will need to provide evidence of your divorce.
If you intend to have a Civil Ceremony in a venue that holds a Civil Licence you will need to discuss this with the Registrar and the venue as early as possible to ensure availability.
If you are marrying in a district that is different to the one you live in, your local Registrar will issue a Certificate of Authority to Get Married.
This must be collected and taken to the Registrar performing the ceremony prior to the wedding taking place.
Additional evidence of identity may be required if you, or your partner, are resident overseas.
On the day you need to make sure you have at least two people to accompany you, witness the marriage and sign the marriage register.
Further information can be obtained from your local Registry Office or from:
Tel: 01704 569824
These differ from ceremonies in England and Wales in the following ways:
You can marry by Registrar’s Certificate or by Registrar’s Licence.
You must give notice to your local Registrar’s Office and you will be able to marry in 21 days (by Certificate) or 7 days (by Licence).
If you marry by Licence at least one you should have been living in the area for at least 15 days. Proof of residency is usually required for all marriages in Northern Ireland.
A Certificate or Licence allows you to marry in the Registry Office, Church or any other approved venue.
For details of Religious ceremonies you should contact the local Minister of your faith. For some faiths the local Registrar may not be involved.
Further information should be obtained from you local Registrar’s Office or from:
The Registrar for Northern Ireland
49 – 55 Chichester Street
The Law in Scotland is different to the rest of the UK in the following ways:
You can marry without parental consent at 16.
You do not need to be resident in the district you intend to get married in.
A Civil Licence is not required for ceremonies at alternative venues. In theory you can get married anywhere, outside or inside. The local Minister needs to conduct these ceremonies (not the Registrar), so make sure you check for availability and willingness to attend your chosen venue!
If you choose to be married by a Registrar the venue will need to hold a civil licence
Ceremonies can also be conducted by a humanist celebrant
Further information can be obtained from:
The General Register Office for Scotland
New Register House
From March 2015, the notice period for all marriages and civil partnerships in the UK will increase from 15 to 28 days, with the potential rise to 70 days in the future if further investigation is necessary.
If you’re planning a wedding after the start of March 2015 then you must give notice at least 28 days before the date of your wedding. Ensure you factor this date into your wedding planning schedule early!
Depending on your nationality and the type of wedding you are planning you’ll need to adhere to the following:
- British nationals / EEA citizens planning a civil ceremony or partnership need to make an appointment with their local registrar to give notice. You’ll need to bring along evidence of: full name, date of birth, place of residency, nationality and, if applicable, the ending of a previous marriage or civil partnership.
- British nationals / EEA citizens wishing to marry in the Church of England or Church in Wales must provide the church with evidence of their nationality; guidance on the requirements you’ll need can be found on gov.uk.
- Non-EEA nationals who would like a civil ceremony or partnership must give notice at their local register office together. Before attending the appointment, check for information on the documents required. Couples subject to further investigation will have their notice period extended from 28 to 70 days.
- Non-EEA nationals looking to marry in the Church of England or Church in Wales are now required to complete civil preliminaries before the marriage. Once these specifications have been completed, the superintendent registrar’s certificates must be presented to the church minister.
- Couples wishing to get married in the Anglican Church where one party is a non-EEA national will now need to give notice at the register office before they make any arrangements with the church.
Speak to your local register office in advance to ensure that it is not too late to give notice on your marriage!