It’s Official

UK Marriage Laws - Marriages and civil partnerships in the UK

Overview

  • What you need to do
  • Giving notice at your local register office
  • Documents to take to the register office
  • Religious ceremonies
  • Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies

IMPORTANT: All information and fees listed in this article are correct at the time of posting. Click the link at the end of this posting to check for all updates and links the article refers too.

1. Overview

  • You can get married or enter into a civil partnership in the UK if you’re: 16 or over
  • free to marry, or form a civil partnership (single, divorced or widowed)
  • not closely related

You need permission from your parents or guardians if you’re under 18. You don’t need parental permission if you’re under 18 to get married in Scotland.

Marriage in Scotland and Northern Ireland

There are different rules for getting married in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

2. What you need to do

There are usually 2 steps to getting married or entering into a civil partnership in England and Wales.

  • Give notice at your local register office.
  • Have a religious ceremony or civil ceremony at least 16 days after giving notice.

There may be different steps for some religious ceremonies.

Getting married abroad

Find out about who to contact and which documents you may need to get from the UK authorities if you want to get married or enter into a civil partnership abroad.

Marrying in England or Wales if you live abroad

You may be able to give notice in the country where you’re living if that country has signed up to the ‘British Subjects Facilities Acts’. Your partner must be a resident of England or Wales. Contact the register office for the district in England and Wales where you intend to marry.

Countries signed up to the ‘British Subjects Facilities Acts’

Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Bermuda
Botswana
Canada (Newfoundland only)
Cook Islands
Cyprus
Dominica
Fiji
The Gambia
Ghana (former Gold Coast colony only)
Gibraltar
Grenada
Guernsey (including Alderney)
Isle of Man
Jamaica
Jersey
Kiribati
Kenya
Leeward Islands
Lesotho
Malawi
Malaysia (former Straits Settlement of Labuan, Malacca and Penang only)
Mauritius
Nauru
New Zealand
Nigeria
Pitcairn Islands
St Lucia
St Vincent
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Solomon Islands
Sri Lanka
Swaziland
Tanzania (Zanzibar only)
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tuvalu
Uganda
Vanuatu
Zambia
Zimbabwe

3. Giving notice at your local register office

For most marriages or civil partnerships you must give notice at your local register office. Your notice will be publicly displayed in the register office for 15 days. Contact your local register office to make an appointment. You need to give the register office at least 16 days’ notice of your marriage or civil partnership. You can only give notice at a register office if you have lived in the registration district for at least the past 7 days. There are different rules for religious ceremonies.

Foreign nationals

You must go together to one of the register offices in England or Wales if you or your partner are foreign nationals (non European Economic Area nationals) and subject to immigration control. You must have the correct entry clearance before you travel to the UK to marry or register a civil partnership. Find out more on the UK Border Agency website.

4. Documents to take to the register office

When you go to the register office, you need to take proof of your name, age and nationality, eg your:

  • passport
  • birth certificate
  • driving licence
  • national identity card
  • immigration status document

You should bring at least 2 of these. The registrar also needs something with your address on it, eg your driving licence or one of the following dated within the last 3 months:

  • gas, water or electricity bill
  • bank statement
  • Council Tax bill

If you don’t have a valid passport and you were born after 1983, you might need other documents - check with the register office.

At the time of posting this article, you each need to pay a £35 fee when you attend the register office to give notice. (Check the official website linked at the bottom of this article for the latest fees)

If you’ve been divorced or widowed or if you’ve been married or in a civil partnership before, you need to take either:

  • a decree absolute or final order
  • the death certificate of your former partner

A foreign divorce will usually be recognised in England and Wales if it was valid in the country where it took place. The registrar will check your overseas divorce documents and may have to get in touch with the General Register Office to confirm whether your marriage can go ahead.

5. Religious ceremonies

A religious wedding can take place at a church, chapel or other registered religious building. Religious blessing can take place after a civil ceremony in a register office. Anglican marriages To get married in an Anglican church, contact your local church in:

  • England
  • Wales

You don’t usually need to give notice with the register office if you’re getting married in an Anglican church. Officials performing Anglican marriages will register your marriage.

Jewish and Quaker marriages

You need to give notice with the register office at least 16 days before the ceremony. Officials performing Jewish or Quaker marriages will register marriages.

Marriages in all other religions

You need to give notice with the register office at least 16 before the ceremony. Ministers and priests of other religions can be authorised to register marriages. If the official performing the ceremony is not authorised, either a Registrar must attend the religious ceremony or you need to have separate religious and civil ceremonies.

6. Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies

Wedding vows

You must exchange some formal wording if you’re getting married. Discuss any other wording you want in the ceremony with the person conducting the wedding. You don’t need to exchange vows for a civil partnership, but you can do so if you wish. Civil ceremonies can include readings, songs or music, but must not include anything that’s religious - eg hymns or readings from the Bible. You will need to have at least 2 witnesses at the ceremony.

Signing the register

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

Cost of registering a marriage or civil partnership

You will have to pay a fee to register the marriage or civil partnership. This is £45 if you have the ceremony at a register office, but may be more at other venues. Ask the registrar or religious minister for details. The marriage or civil partnership certificate costs £4 on the day of the event or £7 after. You may need a copy to prove your marital status in the future.

Venues You can have a civil ceremony or civil partnership at:

  • a register office
  • any venue approved by the local council - eg a stately home or hotel

The Home Office has a list of all approved civil marriage and civil partnership venues.

Click here for the official UK government guide, and to check the latest fees https://www.gov.uk/marriages-civil-partnerships

It’s Official was last modified: May 6th, 2016 by Gabriella

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