Make your day a Milestone and not a Millstone!
The Milestone guide to civil wedding law in England and Wales
Legal requirements for weddings in England and Wales are based on
those of the Established Church (i.e. the Church of England/Wales) with
layers of civil law on top - therefore things can get a bit complicated.
This section applies to all civil weddings and all religious weddings
that are not Church of England/Wales.
- You must both be over sixteen - but if one of you is under eighteen
(and have not been married before!) you need written permission from
the relevant parent or guardian.
- Both parties must be free to marry, and not too closely related.
- You must both be capable of understanding the nature of the
ceremony, and be acting of your own free will.
- Civil - Performed by a Registrar.
Can take place in a Register Office or any other premises approved for
marriage by a local authority (a stately home, theatre, zoo etc).
Ceremonies can only legally take place between 8am and 6pm.
- Religious - Performed by a clergyman (but usually legitimised by a
Can take place in various places of worship, but only if they are
within the Registration District where you or your spouse live, and
then usually only with the involvement of a Registrar.
- If you are both European residents, you and your partner both have
to visit your own local Register Office in person to give notice of
your intended marriage to the Superintendent Registrar. Although you
don’t need to attend together, you will be encouraged to do so!
- If either one of you is a non European Economic Area passport holder
(ie if you are NOT from the EC, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland or
Switzerland), you will both have to give notice together at one of 76
Designated Register Offices situated around England and Wales, rather
than at your local Register Office. Any non EEA passport holders will
also only be allowed to marry if entry clearance has been granted
expressly for the purposes of marriage (contact your UK consulate or
embassy to apply for a ’Marriage Visitor Visa’), or you
have a written ’Certificate of Approval’ from the UK Home
Office Immigration and Nationality Department (contact your existing
UK IND office), or you already have official settled status in the UK
(such as Indefinite Leave to Remain).
- You will both be applying for a Superintendent Registrarís
Certificate, at a current cost of UKP 30 each. Although you can apply
for more than one certificate, each must state the exact place where
the proposed marriage will take place.
There is a residency requirement for each of you of seven days (or
more exactly eight full nights) in your own Registration Districts.
A public notice will be displayed for fifteen days to allow anyone to
A certificate of marriage (not THE Marriage Certificate!) is produced
for each of you, and arrangements need to be made to ensure that both
are collected as two are needed in order for the ceremony to take
The marriage must take place after the end of the 15 day notice period
and before twelve months have elapsed from the date you gave notice.
- The Registrar will now always ask to see your passport, ID card, UK
visa etc and/or other documents as evidence of nationality, name,
address, age, divorce etc. Remember to take anything that you think
may be relevant along with you. Any documents not in English will need
to be officially translated.
- You will also need to make arrangements with a Registrar to actually
perform the ceremony, whether it is in a Register Office, or in a
licensed building elsewhere. If you are not marrying in your own
Registration District, remember you will be giving notice to one set
of Registrars, but making your ceremony arrangements with another.
- If you travelling from outside the UK to marry in England or Wales,
the law means that 23 days is the shortest period required in the UK
before you can marry. It is permissible, though, for both of you to
spend a week’s holiday in the UK, give notice of your proposed
wedding, go back home, and then return sometime over the following
year to actually get married within a couple of days.
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