Rules and requirements
England & Wales ~ More English info.
Northern Ireland & Scotland below
Legal Formalities for Marriage
Unless you are marrying in the Church of England or Church in Wales by Banns or Common Licence, notice of marriage has to be given personally to your local superintendent registrar(s) at the Register Office in the district in which you and your partner reside. A notice of marriage states the names of the parties to the marriage, age, marital status, address, occupation nationality and the intended venue for the marriage. It is a legal document
covered by the Perjury Act 1911.
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 should both attend your local register office together to give your notices of marriage. If you live in different registration districts then each of you will need to give notice separately in your respective district. After giving notice you must wait a further sixteen days before the marriage can take place, (for example, if notice is given on 1 July the marriage may take place on or after 17 July).
Your marriage cannot go ahead unless the legal formalities have been completed.
Notices of marriage must be given in person to the superintendent registrar by you and 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 you are legally able to do so.
Registration Officers have a statutory duty to report any marriage they suspect has been arranged for the sole purpose of evading statutory immigration controls.
There are nationally set fees for giving notice to the superintendent registrar and the registrar's attendance at the 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 marriage ceremony in the presence of a superintendent registrar cannot, by law, contain any religious aspects, it may be possible, with agreement, to include non-religious music and/or readings and for the wedding to be videoed.
This information 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. The telephone number and address can be found in your local telephone directory under 'Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages'.
HOW FAR IN ADVANCE MAY I MAKE A BOOKING?
A notice of marriage is valid for twelve months. However, you may be able to make an advance (provisional) booking with the superintendent registrar of the district where you wish to marry. The superintendent registrar will be able to give you more precise information on this.
Two unmarried people of opposite sex and at least 18 years of age are free to marry, provided they are not closely related members of the same family. Persons between the ages of 16 and 18 may marry under the same conditions, but with the written consent of their parents or other lawful guardians (or, in the final instance, of an English court of law. If the parents or guardians are overseas, their signatures should be witnessed by a notary or consular officer).
When giving notice of marriage, proof of identity is required in the form of a passport or birth certificate. Those who have been previously married will be required to produce documentary evidence of the death of their former spouse or of the dissolution of the marriage, in the form of a certified copy of a death certificate or divorce decree.
Under the Marriage Act, 1994, which came into effect in 1995, a marriage may take place in a place of religious worship, register office or public premises officially registered for marriages by the Registrar General for England and Wales. Civil marriages may now therefore occur in "seemly and dignified venues," such as stately homes, civic buildings or hotels (but not open-air venues) which have been officially registered for the purpose. Lists of such premises are available from the register office in the area of interest.
One of the following certificates is required for marriage to take place in a register office (the office of a Superintendent Registrar), a building approved for civil marriages or a place of religious worship registered for the solemnisation of marriages by the Registrar General. Although a period of residence is required in the district of registration, the marriage may take place at a venue in a different part of the country if it is specified at the time of registration.
Superintendent Registrar's Certificate
Both parties are required to give notice and must have been resident in the district where notice is given for the seven preceding days. A period of 21 clear days must then pass before the Superintendent Registrar can issue the certificate, after which the marriage can take place any time within twelve months.
Superintendent Registrar's Certificate and Licence
Although only one party is required to give notice, both must be in England or Wales on the day it is given. One of the parties must have resided in the registration district for 15 days immediately preceding the giving of notice. The notice must also specify the building in which the marriage is to take place. One clear day must pass before the Registrar can issue the certificate and licence, after which the marriage may take place any time within the following twelve months.
Further information about these procedures can be obtained from: General Register Office, P.O. Box 2, Southport, Merseyside PR8 2JD Tel: (0151) 471 4448
Church of England Ceremonies
A Church of England marriage may be solemnised after either of the preliminaries listed below:
The Publication of Banns
Application for the publication of banns should be made to the clergyman of the parish in which each party is resident. Banns must be published on three consecutive Sundays, after which the couple are free to marry at any time within three months.
This procedure dispenses with the need to have banns published. One of the parties must sign an affidavit that there is no legal impediment to the marriage and that one of the parties has been resident in the parish where the marriage will take place for at least fifteen days prior to the licence being issued. The marriage may then take place at any time within the next twelve months.
N.B. Church authorities advise that marriage in a Church of England between two foreigners or between a foreigner and a British subject should be by licence and not after banns.