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Marrying Couples In The Uk (What The Law Says)

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A GUIDE TO WEDDINGS IN ENGLAND AND WALES

If you wish to marry in England or Wales you may do so either by civil or religious ceremony.

A civil ceremony can take place at a register office or other premises approved by the local authority for marriages (for example, hotel, stately home, See our Wedding Venues section for a vast Selection).

A religious ceremony can take at a Church or Chapel of the Church of England or Church in Wales or at any other place of worship which has been formally registered by the Register General for marriages.
Who do I contact to make arrangements?

This will depend on the type of ceremony and where you wish to marry.
Civil Ceremony

If you wish to marry by civil ceremony, that is at a register office or other building approved for civil marriage, you should first contact the superintendent registrar of the district where you wish to marry. You may marry at any register office or approved premises of your choice in England or Wales. However, for a marriage in an approved premises, you will also need to make arrangements at the venue in question. In addition you will need to give a formal notice of your marriage to the superintendent registrar of the district(s) where you live.
Church of England or Church of Wales

If you wish to be married in the Church of England or Church of Wales - and generally you will be able to do so only if you or your partner live in the parish - you should first speak to the Vicar. If he is able to marry you he will arrange for the Banns to be called on three Sundays before the day of your ceremony or for a common licence to be issued. The marriage will also be registered by the Vicar and there is generally no need to involve the local superintendent registrar.
Other Places of Religious Worship

If you wish to marry by religious ceremony other than in the Church of England or Church of Wales you should first arrange to see the Minister or other person in charge of marriages at the building. However, the church or religious building in question must normally be in the registration district where you or your partner live.

It will also be neccessary to give formal notice of your marriage to the superintendent registrar of the district(s) where you live. A registrar may also need to be booked.
The Legal Formalities

Unless you are marrying in the Church of England or Church of Wales by Banns or Common Licence you and / or your partner must attend personally at the register office for the district(s) where you live and give a notice of your marriage to the superintendent registrar.
Notice of marriage can be given in one of two ways:
By Certificate

Both of you must have lived in a registration district in England or Wales for at least seven days immediately before giving notice at the register office. If you both live in the same district you only need to give one notice. If you live in different registration districts then each of you will need to give notice in your own area. After giving notice you must wait a further twenty-one days before the marriage can take place, (for example, if notice is given on 1 July the marriage may take place on or after 23 July 1997).
By Licence

To marry by this method, which is often known as 'special licence' and is more expensive, one of you must have lived in a registration district in England or Wales for at least fifteen days before giving notice at the register office. Your partner only needs to be resident of, or be physically in England or Wales on the day notice is given. After notice is given the marriage can take place after one clear day (excluding a Sunday, Christmas Day or Good Friday). For example you can give notice on a Tuesday and be married on the Thursday.
How far in advance may I make a booking?

A notice of marriage is valid for three months only. You may therefore not give notice of marriage to the superintendent registrar more than three months before the date of your marriage. However, it should be possible for you to make an advance (provisional) booking with the superintendent registrar of the district where you wish to marry twelve months before the ceremony. The sooner you arrange to book the marriage the more likely it is that you will get the date and time of your choice. The superintendent registrar will be able to give you more precise information in this respect.
Documents you may need to produce to the superintendent registrar or to the Vicar

When you attend before the superintendent registrar or Vicar to make the formal arrangements you will need to produce certain documents, for example, if you have been married before a decree absolute of divorce bearing the court's original stamp, or if your husband or wife died a certificate of their death.

It would also be useful if your birth certificate or passport (or some other identity document) could be produced. Photocopies are unlikely to be acceptable. Other documents may also be needed depending on the circumstances, for example, the consent of parents to a marriage where one of the couple is under the age of 18.

If you are not able to provide any of the above documents the superintendent registrar will explain what other documents may be acceptable.
Please Note

Your marriage cannot go ahead unless the legal formalities have been completed.

Notice of marriage must be given in person to the superintendent registrar by you or your partner. No one else can do so on your behalf.

Where an advance booking for a marriage has been made it is essential that a formal notice is given to the superintendent registrar once its within three months of marriage.
Other Information

There are nationally set fees for giving notice to the superintendent registrar and for the registrar's attendance at a marriage at a register office or religious building. However, the fee for the attendance of the superintendent registrar and registrar at a marriage in an approved premises (for example, at a hotel) is set by the local authority. The superintendent registrar of the district where you wish to marry will be able to provide you with details of the fees payable.

On the day of the wedding you will need to bring with you at least two other people who are prepared to witness the marriage and sign the marriage register.

If you wish to know more about marriage ceremonies at register offices or at approved premises please ask the superintendent registrar for details. While a ceremony of marriage in the presence of a superintendent registrar cannot, by law, contain any religious aspects, it may be possible with the agreement of the registration officers attending the ceremony, for you to include non-religious music and/or poetry readings and for the wedding to be videoed.

This guide is issued for general guidance and is not a complete statement of the law. For further information on any aspect of the formalities to, or the ceremony of marriage, please seek the advice of the superintendent registrar at the local register office. His/her telephone number and address can be found in your local telephone directory under 'Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages'.

details taken from:http://www.weddings.co.uk/info/england.htm

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There is a pinned topic in the legal FAQs for non-US marriages.

Please note that Scotland has different laws (see http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/regscot/getting-married-in-scotland/index.html)

In Scotland a religious marriage (which includes other belief
systems) may be solemnised only by a minister, clergyman, pastor, priest
or other person entitled to do so under the Marriage (Scotland) Act
1977. If it is a religious marriage (which includes other belief
systems) you are planning and your family friend is not already
authorised to act as a celebrant, the Registrar General can grant a
temporary authorisation for a particular marriage. A temporary
authorisation can only be granted to someone who is affiliated to a
religious body and who is supported by office bearers of that body or
other belief system to conduct a marriage ceremony on its behalf.

Please note that an application for a temporary authorisation cannot
be considered any earlier than 3 months before the date of a proposed
marriage. Anyone applying for a temporary authorisation should forward
the following information on the first occasion they apply to Marriage
Section at New Register House. The address of New Register House is on
our Where to find us page.


  • A copy of their religious body's or other belief system's
    constitution or statement of faith, which should contain the aims and
    beliefs of the group together with details on the appointment of office
    bearers.

  • Details of membership, both locally and throughout the United Kingdom
    if applicable, and how often the local body meets for public worship.

  • A copy of the wording of the proposed marriage ceremony.

  • Their full name and the designation they would use when signing the Marriage Schedule eg Minister, Pastor or Lay Preacher.

  • Letters from two office bearers of the religious body or other belief
    system supporting their application and testifying to their status
    within the group.

  • The full names of the couple, the date and place of the marriage.
Edited by Seeker

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