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  • Jess Hawkins

How to get legally married in the UK.

Updated: Jan 31

Are you engaged and wondering what your options are for your wedding ceremony? Look no further, I have the answers!



groom holding up his new bride with confetti pouring over them

There are 3 options for your wedding ceremony:

  1. A religious ceremony in a place of worship or registered religious building

  2. A registrar ceremony in a licensed venue or registry office

  3. A fun, personal and memorable celebrant ceremony taking place anywhere, anytime and in any way that you like!


Now here comes the elephant in the room...

Only two of these are legal (well, sort of.... It's complicated)


Whilst religious and registrar ceremonies ARE legal, celebrant ceremonies are mostly non-legally binding (although this varies depending on which region of the UK you are getting married in).


In England and Wales, celebrants are not yet authorised to conduct legal marriages. However, in Scotland, if the celebrant has been trained and nominated by a belief body - such as Humanist or Agnostic Scotland - they will be able to conduct a legal ceremony. Independent celebrants will not be able to conduct a legal ceremony, but will still be able to conduct a beautiful, fun, memorable and personal symbolic ceremony - a fabulous celebration of your love!


Don't let this put you off however! Getting the legal bits done is actually pretty easy, and why should the absence of a legal contract deter you from having an incredible celebration of your love and commitment? The joys of a celebrant ceremony are that there are zero rules and restrictions, so you have complete creative control and freedom to have a ceremony which is perfectly and unapologetically YOU! If the legal stuff has already been taken care of, that's one less thing to worry about! There are a tonne of reasons why you should have a celebrant ceremony, but more on that later...


a light, bird ornaments and mirror on a table, with a shell that says 'we do'

How to get legally married if you're choosing a celebrant ceremony


First and foremost, excellent choice on choosing a celebrant! But now you're left wondering how to actually do the legal part. The process may initially sound a tad daunting, but really, it's fairly simple. Grab a cuppa and get reading...


  1. CONTACT YOUR LOCAL REGISTRY OFFICE

Phone up your local registry office and enquire about a 2 + 2 ceremony: its official name is a statutory ceremony.  This is a brief, basic, legal ceremony in a registry office which involves you signing the legal papers, with 2 witnesses standing by.


Ask about the processes involved, when and where they are available, and the documents you will need to provide. Ask if you can make a booking! Most couples prefer to do this a week or two before their celebrant ceremony, but you can do it after too.


Because statutory ceremonies are affordable, they can be a popular option, so the times they are available may be limited.


All registration districts are legally required to offer a statutory ceremony, but the information isn’t often readily available, so you will need to phone or email and ask your relevant district. It is worth noting that whilst every district must offer this, it is possible that not every registry office within the district will, so you might have to do a bit of digging to find out where it is possible. You don’t need to do the ceremony at your local registry office, you can travel to any office in your district that offers them.


a bright yellow telephone

2. GIVE NOTICE

With all marriages, regardless of how you are getting married, you must sign a legal statement or form to say you intend to get married or form a civil partnership, and that you are legally free to do so. This is known as ‘giving notice’, and has associated costs.


This should be done no later than 28 days before your planned ceremony, but 10-12 weeks before is preferable. There will be certain documents that you need to provide, but these should all be listed clearly for you.


In England, you need to do this in the district where you live and pay council tax. If the district you intend to be married is different from this, you must have lived there for the past 7 days and be able to provide evidence of this.


In Scotland, you need to fill out an M10 form, which you can either send into the registry office along with the relevant documents, or arrange for them to check it all over at an in-person appointment (I would recommend this - check with your local office).


coupons that say 'in love', 'kiss me', 'love me', and 'hug me' on a pink and purple background

What documents might I need to give notice?

As a general guide:

  • A valid passport

  • Birth certificate

  • Proof of your address (driving license, utility bill or bank statement etc.).

  • A decree of divorce, dissolution or annulment if one or both of you have been previously married or in a civil partnership

  • The death certificate of your previous spouse if widowed

  • Proof of any name changes if applicable

  • If any of your documents are not in the English language, you will be required to provide a certified translation in English

  • If you live abroad, you will need to provide a certificate or no impediment issued by the competent authority to the effect that you are free to marry

  • If you are a non-UK national, you may be required to submit further documentation

a female couple about to kiss after having got married

3. THE CEREMONY

Get dressed up or go super casual - this is the day you legally become married (but not the main, personal, fun celebration... that’s your celebrant wedding!)


You will need to bring along the 2 witnesses you have previously volunteered - make sure you have asked in advance if they are available on your date and time! These are usually close friends or family members.


Make sure you bring along any documents the registry office has asked for.


In no time at all, you’ll have said the magic words, signed on the dotted line and will be officially married! Hooray!


3 letter balloons spelling out yay

4. TIME TO CELEBRATE (IF YOU WANT TO!)

Whilst this isn’t your proper wedding day, you should still celebrate, right!?


Go out for a meal, a drink, have a little party... Or do nothing at all!


For some, this is simply a contract, a necessary legal transaction. For others, this has huge importance. Depending on what significance this has for you, celebrate in a way that you see fit!


It’s usually a pretty nice idea to do something like book a meal at your favourite restaurant, as you will more than likely be flying high on cloud nine!


popcorn, love coupons, a bottle of wine labelled 'love drunk' and 2 empty champagne flutes on a red and pink background

How much does a statutory ceremony cost?

The total price differs depending on each district, with some also charging for room hire. Check with your local registry office for exact details.


As a general guide (although prices are subject to change):

Scotland:

  • Marriage Notice - Partner 1 - £45

  • Marriage Notice - Partner 2 - £45

  • Statutory civil marriage fee - £55

  • Marriage certificate - £10

  • Total - £155


England & Wales:

  • Marriage Notice - Partner 1 - £35

  • Marriage Notice - Partner 2 - £35

  • Statutory civil marriage fee - £45

  • Marriage certificate - £11

  • Total - £126


Bear in mind: the only extra cost you are incurring is the statutory marriage fee - you would incur the other costs even if you were having a registrar ceremony. Plus, you would be required to pay additional costs if the registrar were to perform the ceremony at a licensed venue.


Possible additional fees set by each local authority for:

  • Having more than 2 guests

  • Use of marriage rooms (the venue)

  • The time and day of the week (weekends are usually more expensive)


multiple love heart balloons on a peach background

So how does all that sound?

A fun, heartfelt and personal celebrant-led ceremony is so much more special and meaningful than a generic and impersonal ceremony that you would receive from a registrar (in my opinion anyway). Choosing a celebrant means you can put your stamp all over the ceremony. Why let ancient traditions (and the government!) dictate what you can and can't do, what you can and can't say, and how you show your love and commitment to your partner? You're unique and your relationship is unique, so why have a cookie cutter wedding which has been heard a million times before? Your story is important, so make it personal, make it YOU!


Don't let the boring legal stuff put you off! It's all a matter of perspective: think of the legal paperwork and the celebration (your wedding!) as two completely separate entities. Once you've got your head around that, the possibilities are endless, and your wedding ceremony will be magic!


a bride and groom going underneath their guests' arms at their wedding

If this blog post has tickled your fancy about having a celebrant ceremony, then get in touch to arrange a chat! Alternatively, if you're still super confused, send me a message and I'll be happy to help.


Happy wedding planning you beautiful people!










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