A guide to the different types of wedding ceremonies available to couples throughout the UK
Wedding Ceremonies in the UK: An Introduction
The starting point in any wedding planning journey is always difficult to determine, although it’s usually dictated by the type of day you and your partner envisage. Either way, it is probably best to sit down together at the beginning of your wedding planning to discuss exactly how you both wish to get married. Here’s everything you need to know, from logistics to legalities, when it comes to getting married in the UK...
Religious Wedding Ceremonies
Church of England
In recent years it has become far more flexible for couples wishing to marry outside of their Parish church. You may have to attend a number of Sunday services beforehand if you, your parents or your grandparents do not have any particular connection with the church you’re intending to marry in. Most marriages will require banns to be called for three consecutive Sundays immediately before your wedding, signifying your intention to marry. If there isn’t enough time for this, you can obtain a common license, which you may also need if one of you isn’t British or lives outside England.
Church of Scotland
There is no residential requirement for marriages taking place in Scotland but notice of marriage must be given at least 15 days prior, at the office of the Superintendent Registrar in whose district the marriage is to take place. Unlike the Church of England or Wales, Church of Scotland and Scottish law allow couples to be married anywhere, religious or not, providing the ceremony is conducted by a minister, clergyman, pastor or priest.
A Roman Catholic Wedding Ceremony
At least one of you will need to provide proof of your baptism and confirmation certificates to wed in a Catholic church. These will need to be presented to the priest at least 6 months beforehand and you will need to attend marriage preparation talks and Mass for 6 weeks before your wedding day. Unlike the Anglican Church, couples planning to be married in the Roman Catholic Church will need to give notice and obtain a marriage license from the Civil Authorities.
A Jewish wedding fulfills a religious and civil purpose but you’ll need one application for both your local register office and for the local authorities. The marriage can be performed in any building and at any time of day but cannot take place on a Saturday (the Sabbath). Sarah and Jan celebrated a civil ceremony and a Jewish blessing at Bijou's Notley Abbey. Read their full wedding story here!
Civil Weddings in the UK
Register Office and Approved venues
In the UK, a civil marriage can be performed in any building that has been approved for that purpose. To be able to legally marry in a register office or an approved venue, you and your fiancé must both give notice in person to your local superintendent registrar at least 28 days prior to your wedding. This is then valid for one year, after which time, you will need to give notice again. It costs approximately £35 each to give notice.
A registry office wedding will cost you approximately £45 however, if you decide to marry at an approved venue, you will need to pay for the registrar to come out to conduct the ceremony. Contact the register office closest to your venue to book. Registrar fees will be paid directly to the registrar's office and not your wedding venue.
Same Sex Weddings
Same Sex Partnership
Same-sex couples are entitled to legally register their relationship as a civil partnership. This will give your relationship legal recognition, added legal rights as well as responsibilities.
As with a civil marriage, you will need to give notice of your intention to marry in person at your local register office at least 28 days before.
Same Sex Marriage
As of March 2014, same-sex couples are legally entitled to marry in the UK. The process is exactly the same as for heterosexual couples and you are granted the same rights as every single married couple in England & Wales (and now Scotland!).
Converting your Civil Partnership into a Marriage
Since the change in law many couples have decided to convert their civil partnership into a marriage. The conversion itself is a very simple process involving one meeting with a superintendent registrar, however you can opt to hold a ceremony at the register office or in an approved venue of your choice.
Getting Married in the UK: The Legalities
You must over 18 to marry legally (16 year olds are able to marry with parent’s permission)
You must both be eligible to marry – if it is your second marriage, you will need to provide proof that your previous marriage has legally ended.
The marriage must take place in a legally approved venue.
Ceremonies can now take place at any time of day.
Two witnesses must be present at all times during the ceremony
Getting Married Abroad
Providing you follow the correct process according to the local law in the country you wish to hold your wedding, your marriage or civil partnership should be recognised in the UK. Contact the local authorities to find out what you need to do and the steps you’ll need to take.
Read our guide to getting married in France if you plan on saying 'I do' on French soil.