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The Legal Aspects of Getting Married in the UK

If you’re getting married in the UK, there are some fairly strict marriage laws that you will need to meet.  I see a lot of couples asking about the process so hopefully this will help to clarify things for you.Getting Married in the UK - The Legal Process

These rules apply to marriages in England and Wales.  Different rules apply in Scotland and you can find more information here about the differences.



In the UK you can get married or have a civil partnership if you’re over 16.  However if you’re under 18 you will need your parent’s written permission.

You must be single, divorced or widowed to be eligible to get married.


Same Sex Couples

The laws have changed in recent years and you now have a few options.  You can choose to:
·   form a civil partnership in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
·   get married in England, Scotland and Wales
·   convert your civil partnership into a marriage in England, Scotland and Wales

You can’t get married in an Anglican Church as a same sex couple. You can, however, get married in other religious buildings if:
·   the religious organisation allows the marriage of same sex couples to take place
·   the premises has been registered for the marriage of same sex couples


Religious Ceremonies

If you want to get married in an Anglican church, the first thing you need to do is contact your local church.  Your church will then talk you through the process and explain what you need to do.

There is a legal requirement for banns to be read out in church before your wedding.  This takes place on 3 Sundays in the 3 months before your wedding.

You can read more about this here and your church will be happy to explain the process fully to you.

If you’re getting married in an Anglican church you don’t usually need to give notice with the register office.  However, if you or your partner are from outside the EEA or Switzerland then you will also need to give notice at a register office.


Church Wedding - Getting Married In the UK

Image: Shutter Go Click Photography



Civil Ceremonies

If you don’t want to get married in church, you have plenty of options for a Civil Ceremony.  A civil ceremony is a legal marriage but it’s a non religious ceremony and is conducted by a legal official.

A few years ago your only option for a civil ceremony was a register office but many places are now licenced for civil ceremonies.
This therefore, gives you lots of flexibility to find the perfect venue for you.

Many of these venues allow you to get married there and hold your wedding breakfast and reception there so you don’t need to worry about moving your guests part way through the day.


Giving Notice

To have a civil ceremony you must first give notice of marriage at your local register office.  You have to do this at least 28 days before your wedding date.

You will need to tell the register office where and when you are getting married so you must have your venue booked before you do this.

Your notice of marriage will be displayed publicly in the register office for 28 days after your appointment.

You must have lived in the district of the register office for at least 7 days before you can give notice there.  And you must get married within a year of giving notice.

There are different rules if you or your partner are from outside the EEA or Switzerland.  You can find more info on this here.


Pretty Notebook


What To Take With You To Give Notice

When you go to give notice, you need to take some documents with you.

You will need proof of your name, age and nationality.  Documents such as:
·   passport
·   birth certificate
·   national identity card from the EEA or Switzerland
·   certificate of registration
·   certificate of naturalisation
·   biometric residence card or permit
·   travel document

If you’ve changed your name, you will need to take proof of this – e.g. a copy of the deed poll document.

The registrar will also need proof of your address, for example a:
·   valid UK or EEA driving licence
·   utility bill from the last 3 months
·   bank statement from the last month
·   council tax bill from the last 12 months
·   mortgage statement from the last 12 months
·   current tenancy agreement
·   letter from your landlord confirming you live there and including your landlord’s name, address and their signature dated within the last 7 days

You should check with your local register office if they require photo ID.  You might need other documents if you don’t have a valid passport and were born after 1983 – again check with the register office.

If you’ve been divorced or widowed you will also need to take either:
·   a decree absolute or final order
·   the death certificate of your former partner

You will need to pay a £35 fee each when you attend the register office to give notice. It can be more if you or your partner are from outside EEA or Switzerland.

During the appointment, the registrar will also ask you questions about each other.  Many couples worry about this appointment but it’s nothing to be afraid of.  The process is there to ensure that you’re not being persuaded to get married when you don’t want to.


The Ceremony

Civil ceremonies can include readings, songs or music, but must not include anything that’s religious, e.g.hymns or readings from the Bible.

You’ll need to have at least 2 witnesses at the ceremony. Your witnesses must be aged 16 or over.

You, your partner and your 2 witnesses must sign the marriage register or civil partnership document.


Signing the register. Getting Married in the UK - The Legal Process

Image: Katie Dervin Photography


Cost of registering a marriage or civil partnership

You have to pay a fee to register a UK marriage or civil partnership. This is £46 if you have the ceremony at a register office, but will usually be more at other venues.

Always check this cost when you give notice as it can be quite a high cost and you need to factor this into your budget.

The marriage or civil partnership certificate costs £4 on the day of the event or £10 after. You will need a copy to prove your marital status in the future.  Most places, such as your bank, will ask for the original certificate before they will change your name.

Marriage Certificate. Getting Married in the UK - The Legal Process


I hope this has helped you with the legal process of getting married. Whilst the rules are strict, they’re not too complicated and as long as you allow enough time you should be fine.

If you need some help to guide you through your wedding planning, remember I have a number of ways to help you from a few hours consultancy right through to full planning.  Get in touch to find out more and see how I can help you.


Louise Wearmouth, Founder of Your Fabulous Wedding