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The legal requirements for getting married in the UK are slightly different depending on which country you wish to be married in. They also vary according to whether you want to wed in a church or have a civil ceremony or same-sex civil partnership in a register office. Since 1995, you can also marry in stately homes and hotels licensed by the local authority.
Non-Religious or Civil Ceremonies in England and Wales
Register your intent to have a civil ceremony by 'giving notice,' the term used for the instigation of civil marriage proceedings. You give notice to the superintendent registrar at your local register office. Both of you must do this in person, even if you live in the same district. You can find a list of register offices on the Directgov website.
Details Needed to Give Notice
Supply the following information when giving notice for a civil ceremony in England and Wales: full name, age, address, nationality, occupation, intended ceremony venue and current status--for example whether you are single, divorced or widowed. You will need to show legal notice of divorce or death if relevant. You may also be asked for documentary evidence of your details, so take along your birth certificate, passport or ID card.
Gaining Your Certificate of Authority
This notice of intent to marry in a civil service in England and Wales is publicly displayed in the register office for 15 days during which time anyone can object if they so wish. After this time, the registrar can grant permission for your marriage and issue a Certificate of Authority to get married.
If You Are Subject to Immigration Control
If you are not a UK national, you must give notice of marriage or civil partnership at one of 76 special 'designated' register offices in England and Wales. You must attend with your partner.
You will need to show either a visa giving permission to enter the UK for the marriage or civil partnership, a certificate of approval with written permission of the Secretary of State or evidence that you have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. All documents must be translated into English.
Getting Married in Church
If you want to be married in a Church of England or Wales, church law dictates that you can only be married in a parish where at least one of you resides, unless one of you attends a church outside your parish.
The minister will call Banns on three Sundays before the day of your ceremony. These are the traditional declarations of intent to marry. You will not need to speak to your local register office. The minister will register your marriage after your ceremony.
Marriage or Civil Partnerships in Scotland
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To marry in Scotland, submit marriage notice forms to the registrar of the district in which you wish to marry up to three months, and no later than 15 days, before the wedding. You can obtain the forms from any registrar office.
Once checks are completed, the registrar will issue a Marriage Schedule no less than seven days before the ceremony. If you are having a religious marriage, you must pick this up in person and give to the person conducting your marriage.
After the ceremony, it must be signed by both parties, the two witnesses and the person conducting the ceremony and be returned to the registrar within three days so he can register the marriage. In a civil ceremony, the schedule will also be provided, signed and the marriage registered by the registrar.
Marriage or Civil Partnership in Northern Ireland
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To marry in Northern Ireland you must both complete the Marriage Notice Form, available from any Registrar's Office. If you are having a religious ceremony, the Officiant must also complete the form to say they are willing to carry out the ceremony.
You must submit the form to the Registrar of Marriages in the area in which the ceremony will take place, ideally up to six to 10 weeks, and no less than 14 days, ahead of the wedding.
You must provide your full birth certificate and passport. The Marriage Schedule cannot be issued more than 14 days before the wedding and must be returned to the registrar within three days after the ceremony for the marriage to be registered.
- Wedding bouquet the bride on background of wedding dress image by Aliaksandr Zabudzko from Fotolia.com