There are more types of wedding ceremony than you might think. So, over my next few posts, I’m going to look at some of the options available to you in saying your ‘I do’s’, and the legal requirements and process for each. In this first post we’re looking at civil wedding ceremony legalities and process…

Civil Wedding Ceremony Venues

A civil wedding ceremony is a marriage ceremony which is entirely secular (non-religious) in content, and conducted by a registrar either at a Register Office in England and Wales or in an approved wedding venue. Around 65% of all weddings in England and Wales are civil, so it’s by far the most popular choice, with the majority of those couples choosing to marry in an approved venue.

Venues licensed for civil ceremonies are plentiful, ranging from hotels, barns, restaurants, stately homes and museums, to name but a few. One constant however is that the venue must be permanent in nature (a permanent structure with a roof), so open-air and marquee weddings are out. You can see a list of all venues approved for civil marriages and partnerships here.

Bride and Groom Laughing During Civil Wedding Ceremony

Giving Notice of Marriage

You may marry or form a civil partnership in the UK if you’re 16+ (although you need permission from your parent/guardian if under 18), not already married/in a civil partnership, and not closely related. Only same-sex couples can form a civil partnership.

It’s best to find the right venue and date first and then check the availability of the registrar in that district to marry you. You then need to post notices in your own district Register Office. This is the office of where you each live, so that could be two offices if you live in two different areas. You have to be able to prove residency in that district for a minimum of 15 days – on the 16th day you can ‘post your notices’. For most people this is simple as they have household bills etc to prove where they live. It’s more complicated if you’re living abroad at the time.

You usually need to book an appointment and bring relevant paperwork. Some proof of residency such as a utility bill, your birth certificate and passport are usually needed, but check what each office requires before attending your appointment. After the appointments, notice paperwork is drawn up and put on display in the Register Office giving anybody relevant a chance to object to your future marriage. Assuming this goes ahead without difficulty (phew!), you then receive permission to marry after 28 days have passed, so on the 29th day.

When available, the Notice papers can either be collected and taken by you, or are posted directly to the registrar in the district you wish you marry and who will conduct the ceremony.

The Next Steps

Usually after this you receive vows, declarations and guidance on choosing wedding readings and music. Often the registrar is in touch – sometimes they arrange a phone call or meeting to personalise the ceremony, sometimes it’s conducted entirely by form and paperwork – it depends on the office and area.

It’s very important to get the civil wedding ceremony procedure right. You should allow plenty of time for the paperwork and to ensure a registrar is available to marry you on your chosen date and time.

For further information take a close look at www.gov.uk/marriages-civil-partnerships.

Guest post by Kelly Chandler of The Bespoke Wedding Company

Image from Anna Hardy Photography