GETTING MARRIED IN THE UK
All the lEgal bits you need tO know
GETTING MARRIED IN THE UK
IN 2023 – All the legal bits you need tO know
How to get married in the UK in 2023
THE LEGAL BITS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Engaged to be married? Get ready to plan your wedding with confidence!
This step-by-step guide will take you through the three essential things you need to know before starting the detailed planning process.
1. Types of weddings
2. Styles of venues
3. How to book a registrar to attend your legal wedding ceremony, and how to give notice to marry
As a seasoned wedding industry professional with 30 years of experience designing, planning, and hosting hundreds of weddings, I created this guide to help couples understand their options and legal requirements.
HOW TO GET MARRIED
If you prefer listening or watching, Caroline explains everything to you on our YouTube channel.
(16 minute video)
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#1 - The different types of wedding
Legal weddings must be officiated by a government-appointed Registrar, or a clergyperson authorised to register marriages.
They are conducted either in a Registry Office, an approved premises, or a religious building.
Each wedding requires two witnesses and a registrar/clergyperson alongside the couple. All parties must sign the wedding schedule (formerly known as the Wedding Register in England and Wales).
Marriage v Civil Partnership?
You can choose either a marriage or a civil partnership. Both will give you next of kin status in law and protect you should your partner pass away.
A Marriage contains a statement of intent, and spoken vows said to each other in the presence of witnesses. Both are part of a ceremony, which can include the optional exchanging of rings. Readings, poems, and music can also be added.
A Civil Partnership is a signed contract that does not require any spoken words but does still require witnessing. You cannot divorce on the grounds of adultery in a Civil Partnership.
These are celebrant-led ceremonies, sometimes referred to as Humanist-style weddings. They are held in any location, such as your home or a non-licensed or licensed venue. Smaller elopement-style weddings can be held somewhere wild and wonderful, such as up a mountain! Non-legal weddings cannot be carried out in a religious establishment. There is more freedom in the choice of words and promises and the ceremony can include more personal background information about the couple. Other pagan-style rituals, such as hand-fasting, can also be included.
Celebrant-led weddings are NOT legal weddings. You still need to marry in either a registry office or licensed venue at a different time to be legally married.
#2 - The different styles of Venues
LICENSED VENUE OR RELIGIOUS BUILDING
LICENSED VENUES include Register Offices and local authority-licensed venues, also known as approved premises. These are generally hotels, private venues, or stately homes.
Once you have decided on a location, request a list of licensed venues by contacting the County Council of that region.
RELIGIOUS VENUES include Churches of England or Wales.
To marry in a religious venue you may need to be a practicing parishioner and reside in the parish of your chosen church.
This may involve being a local resident for a period of time prior to the wedding and attending Sunday service for a few weeks before the wedding day. This is when your Marriage Banns will be read out in church.
These rules can make marrying in a church other than where you live quite challenging, but not impossible.
Each parish or diocese can have different requirements, so it is always best to ask the church in question.
OUTDOORS v INDOORS
Some licensed venues have outdoor ceremony spaces where you can marry completely outdoors, weather permitting. During the Covid pandemic, the law regarding licensed outdoor spaces was relaxed. Couples can now marry in an outdoor space that is adjoining a licensed room, provided the venue has added this to their license.
BENEFITS OF A LICENSED VENUE
For church weddings, couples often host a reception in a nearby hotel or other venue. With Civil Weddings in a licensed venue, you can have both your ceremony and reception in the same place.
#3 – BOOKING THE REGISTRAR to attend your Civil Ceremony
A clergyperson will arrange all of the following for you if you are having a church wedding.
For a Civil ceremony in a licensed venue, you need to book the registrar to attend your wedding. This is done personally, as your venue cannot do this on your behalf. Fees also apply and are paid directly to the local council relative to the venue. Fees vary from county to county and depending on which day of the week you marry. Sundays are the most expensive.
Your venue will advise which registry office to contact. Registrars are then booked to attend the venue on the day of your wedding.
GIVING YOUR NOTICE TO MARRY
All civil ceremonies in England and Wales require you to GIVE NOTICE TO MARRY. This is done in the registry office where you live.
You both need to give notice in person a minimum of 29 days before your intended date of marriage.
The notice expires after 12 months.
If you live in different counties you need to give notice independently in your own county. This can be done on different days. The appropriate fees are paid directly to the local authority by the couple.
You must be resident in that county for a minimum of 7 days prior to giving notice to marry.
Here is a handy postcode checker to find your nearest offices:
British citizens living abroad are required to be in England for 7 days before giving notice.
If you are not a British Citizen, you will be required to hold the appropriate visas to allow you to marry in the UK.
Proof that you are free to marry.
If you are divorced you will need your Decree Absolute.
If widowed or a widower, then your spouse’s death certificate.
Proof of your address such as a utility bill
Identity card or Passport
If you have changed your name, then proof, such as a Deed Poll
If you are not a British National you will need the correct visa
Link to the Government website for up-to-date details
ON YOUR WEDDING DAY
Once all of this is in place you can plan the rest of your wedding and look forward to the wedding day.
On the day you will both be interviewed by the registrars, either together or separately if you are having your first look on the aisle.
If you are having a destination wedding and the venue of your choice is not local to where you live, the registrars will have been sent the relevant permissions and paperwork from your local authority.
The registrars will check all of the details are correct on the wedding schedule ahead of the ceremony starting, and go through the ceremony particulars with you. This usually takes 10 minutes per person.
MUSIC and READINGS
The registrars will also need to see any readings and approve your music ahead of the day.
For Civil Weddings you are not permitted to use any references to the church. This includes any mentions of a religious nature including hymns, bible readings and blessings.
You can have poetry, readings and music, provided it is non-religious.
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