Marriages and Civil Partnerships in the UK
Whilst I am an expert in planning a wedding that not just meets but exceeds your expectations, without the legal bit, a wedding, well, isn’t a wedding! Just like any legality in the UK, the jargon that goes hand-in-hand with legislation can be rather confusing. Whilst a Wedding Planner cannot take these legal steps on your behalf, I do want to ensure you have the facts you need to make your big day official.
The first step that must be completed to get married or form a civil partnership in England and Wales is to give notice at your local register office. At least 28 days’ notice must be given and during this time the notice showing your intention to marry will be displayed publicly in your register office.
For couples planning to marry or form a civil partnership abroad, notice must be given in the country where you intend to marry in accordance with local law. You will also need to enquire with the overseas authority to find out whether you will need a certificate of no impediment.
To give notice simply contact your local register office to make an appointment, please note you can only give notice if you have resided within the registration district for at least 7 days.
Your appointment with the Registrar
Your appointment will be used to confirm your name, age and nationality and both of you must attend. Your register office will accept a valid passport, birth certificate, national identity card, certificate of registration, certificate of naturalisation, biometric residence permit or travel document as proof. You will also need to provide proof of address, so take along your driving licence or a recent utility, bank, council tax or mortgage statement.
If you have been married or widowed then you should also attend your appointment with a decree absolute or the death certificate of your former partner. If you or your partner is a foreign national, i.e. from outside the European Economic Area or Switzerland, or are subject to immigration control, a valid visa will be required to give notice and to officiate the ceremony at a later date.
Please note that there is a notice fee of £35 per person that must be paid at your appointment. Additional charges may apply if one of you is a foreign national.
What happens next?
Once you have given notice of at least 28 days, you must marry or register your civil partnership within one year in England and Wales.
The notice period can be reduced to 15 days if you or your partner is a resident outside of the UK, you want to give notice and get married or form a partnership in one visit on or after 2nd March 2015, or you have already made arrangements for your ceremony before 2nd March 2015.
Organising a religious ceremony
For couples looking to have their ceremony at a church, chapel or other registered religious building, it is important to remember that you will have to give notice in the same way couples wishing to have a non-religious ceremony do with the exception of those wishing to get married in an Anglican church if the couple are British citizens or from the European Economic Area or Switzerland. The Anglican Church is an association which includes the Church of England.
Marriage as a same sex couple
In England and Wales, same sex couples can form a civil partnership, get married or convert a civil partnership into a marriage. As with heterosexual couples, a same sex couple must give at least 28 days’ notice at their local register office. Same sex couples cannot get married in an Anglican Church, however they can get married in other religious venues as long as the premises is registered for same sex marriages and the religious organisation in charge permits this.
During the ceremony
The legalities also define the ceremony itself, whether you are entering into a marriage or civil partnership. By law, formal vows must be exchanged during a wedding ceremony, whilst any other wording you want to include should be discussed in advance with the officiant. There is no legal requirement for the exchange of vows during a civil partnership ceremony, so choosing to include vows is entirely up to the couple. You are allowed to include readings, songs or music in a civil ceremony, however these cannot be religious.
At least two witnesses are required at weddings and civil partnership ceremonies. To complete the ceremony, you, your partner and your two witnesses must sign the marriage register or civil partnership document.
The cost of registering a UK marriage or civil partnership is £45 if you have the ceremony at a register office and may cost more at other venues. Authorised officials performing religious ceremonies, including ministers and priests, are able to register marriages.
A marriage or civil partnership certificate costs £4 on the day or £10 thereafter. It is advisable to get more than one as you will need certified copies to prove your marital status in the future.
Whether you intend to have a civil or religious ceremony, and regardless of whether you are a heterosexual or homosexual couple, getting the legalities right is vital to the success of your big day. To find out more about the legalities please contact your local register office. For any other advice or assistance with planning your wedding celebrations, please get in touch with Orange Blossom.