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Marriages and civil partnerships in England and Wales


1 Jul 2022

Who, how and when can get married or form a civil partnership in England and Wales? Under English law, anyone who has reached the age of 16 (in this case, the parent's consent is required) or anyone who has reached the age of 18 can marry or legalise a civil partnership.


Who can get married or form a civil partnership

Under English law, anyone who has reached the age of 16 (in this case, the parent's consent is required) or anyone who has reached the age of 18 can marry or legalise a civil partnership. In addition, single, widowed and divorced people will get permission to get married. Also, note that marriages or civil partnerships with closely related persons are not allowed in the UK. Since kinship can be interpreted in various ways, therefore, for correct determination, we state that closely related people are mainly:

  • Children, including adopted children

  • Parents, including adoptive parents

  • Brothers or sisters, including stepbrothers or stepsisters

  • Parents' brothers or sisters, including stepbrothers or stepsisters

  • Children of a brother or sister, including a half-brother or half-sister

  • Adopted children, their biological parents or their biological grandparents

  • Grandparents

  • Grandchildren

  • Cousins

Great Britain is a very tolerant country; therefore, same-sex couples will also get permission to get married. In other words, they can form a civil partnership. Mainly in England and Wales, civil partnerships can be entered into by same-sex couples and transgender persons who have received a full gender recognition certificate. To rephrase it, transgender persons can obtain such a certificate in the form of a new birth certificate that reflects their acquired gender. It does not mean that if a transgender person does not have such a gender recognition certificate, they would not be granted permission to marry. Of course, they will get permission to do so; nevertheless, they will legally be considered the gender that appears on their original birth certificate.

Speaking of diversity and tolerance, you are probably interested in how the weddings and marriage procedures are set for foreigners in England and Wales?

If one of the partners is from outside the UK, you will need to apply for a visa to get married or form a civil partnership in England or Wales. Most often, people who are not British or Irish citizens, do not have permanent residence in the UK or do not have settled or pre-settled status must apply for a visa or permits to later obtain a marriage or civil partnership acceptance letter.

Another critical point for foreigners is obtaining the appropriate visa or permit depending on where the partner comes from and whether you intend to live in the UK afterwards. The most common applications are:

  • Marriage Visitor Visas are for partners not intending to reside in the UK after the wedding ceremony. This visa allows you to get married or form a civil partnership in England and Wales and accompany your partner on the British Isles for no longer than six months.

  • Family visas are for partners intending to stay in the UK permanently with a partner who is a British citizen, has settled in the UK, has refugee status, or has UK humanitarian protection.

  • Family permits or family reunification for partners and family members from the European Union, EEA or Switzerland.

There are also marriage and civil partnership opportunities for people who do not have any permits or visas. Such persons still can obtain a marriage or partnership permit, but the procedure is different. First of all, partners intending to get married or registered in the UK without any authorisation must notify the Home Office of their intention to legalise their relationship.

Obtaining such permission from the Home Office can take up to 72 days from submitting the inquiry, and it will be necessary to provide evidence of your relationship for the last three months before notifying the immigration authorities.

If the immigration authorities are not satisfied with the evidence presented or your responses to your relationship, then the Home Office has the right to decide to refuse your possibility of getting married or form a civil partnership in the UK.

Please remember that the above guidelines are for getting married or forming a civil partnership in England and Wales only. While these rights are similar in Scotland and Northern Ireland, this does not mean that they are precisely the same. Therefore, it is imperative to check all marriage and civil partnership information in regions not included here (e.g. Scotland and Northern Ireland).

How to plan your ceremony

Plan the place and type of marriage or civil ceremony in advance. The couple should specify the kind of ceremony they want and choose one of two traditional types. The first alludes to a wedding through a religious ceremony, and the second takes place through a civil route. If you intend to enter into a civil partnership as a same-sex couple, the ceremony will be civil - unfortunately, such unions do not have the option of choosing a religious ceremony unless there are churches that allow same-sex couples to have a religious ceremony.

When you have chosen the place and type of ceremony, you should take care of the official "give notice" in the registry office (find the nearest register office here) about the intention to enter into a marriage or civil partnership. It is a form of a legal declaration of voluntary and free will to marry or form a civil partnership. When submitting such a declaration at the registry office, persons intending to get married have 12 months to legalise their relationship and finalise the marriage ceremony.

Religious ceremonies are held in registered sacred buildings, that is, in churches. If there is a church that celebrates religious weddings for same-sex couples, then nothing prevents same-sex couples from enjoying the religious ceremony of that church. Note, however, that Anglican churches do not allow same-sex couples to marry. It is probably related to the faith of a given religion.

In traditional religious weddings, the marriage schedule or the wedding document is signed in the presence of a person authorised to do so - in this case, by a pastoral minister. The clergyman must also attend the religious wedding ceremony.

Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that such an authorised person is in the place where we want to get married in the form of a religious ceremony. If there is no person authorised to sign the schedule or marriage document in the selected church, it is the responsibility of the future spouses to book a registrar from the registry office. Such registration is payable, and the cost is £86.

Civil ceremonies are traditionally held at the registry office or any other location approved by the local council (e.g. restaurants, hotels or community houses).

Civil ceremonies are held in the presence of a civil registrar and at least two witnesses appointed by the future spouses.

A civil registrar must conduct and be present at the ceremony. If the wedding is to take place in a place other than the registry office, and the local council approves this place, then, as in the case of a religious ceremony, you can ask for an official to arrive at a location designated by the wedding planners.

The costs associated with the civil ceremony vary depending on the place of the ceremony. If the wedding takes place in a registry office, the cost of this service is £46. However, if we want the civil registrar to come to the place designated by the applicant, the price will be the same as in the case of a religious ceremony, i.e. £86.

However, please remember that if the civil ceremony is to be held in other approved venues, there may be a difference in these costs. Therefore, it is crucial to plan your ceremony location before registering with the registry office. In this way, the registered office worker will be able to calculate the total cost of the civil ceremony.

The entire ceremony is held traditionally. The future spouses take a marriage vow, usually officially formulated, confirming their intention to enter into a marriage or civil partnership. There are also situations in which couples express their words, usually in the form of love confessions and marriage promises. Civil offices accept their own interpretation of the marriage oath, but the condition is that this type of oath is not religious and does not have examples from the Bible or the Torah.

After the marriage vows are taken, the clerk declares the couple married, and they both sign the marriage certificate at the ceremony. Witnesses also sign the document.

The signed marriage document is sent to the local registry office after the wedding ceremony and is added to the marriage register. Such a procedure ends with the receipt of a marriage certificate. There is no rule regarding the waiting time for a marriage certificate, while there are cases in registry offices where the spouses receive a handwritten marriage certificate that the registry officer approves on the day of the wedding ceremony.

Who and when need to "give notice"

Notification of the intention to enter into a marriage or civil partnership is made by submitting a legal declaration to the local registry office. Such notification is called "give notice".

The notification must be made at least 29 days before the planned marriage ceremony. Additionally, please note that the marriage ceremony must occur within 12 months from filing the notification with the registry office. Please also note that the process of notifying a religious ceremony in Anglican churches can be utterly different from that in the registry office. Therefore, if the planned marriage ceremony occurs in an Anglican church, the couple should ask for the details at the selected church.

To make such a notification, you should first make an appointment with your local registry office. Please remember that a person submitting a notice of intention to enter into a marriage or civil partnership must live for at least seven days in the relevant registration district before submitting the notice to the registry office. If a couple lives in 2 different registration districts, each of them must, separately, submit a notification to the local registry office assigned to each partner's place of residence (such notifications do not need to be submitted on the same day).

If one of the partners intending to marry or form a civil partnership is from outside the UK, such notice must be given in the presence of the couple as a whole, unless one of you has British or Irish nationality or settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. The couple must submit this type of notification jointly to the registry office in the district, where at least one of the partners lives for seven days or more.

Due to Brexit regulations, you should bear in mind that if one of the partners submitted the notification himself before July 1, 2021, then, unfortunately, you will have to "give notice" again, this time together and not separately.

Documents you'll need to give notice

When you make an appointment with the registry office, the clerk will ask you to bring the following original documents to the meeting:

  • Details of the venue and the planned date of the wedding and marriage ceremony

  • A valid passport as an alternative, a British birth certificate is also allowed for those born before January 1, 1983

  • Proof of address, preferably a Council tax bill or statement bank

  • Confirmation of any changes to personal data (if there was a change of name, you should provide a copy of the legal act confirming this state of affairs)

Proof of address can be documented by presenting a valid UK or Irish driver's license, a gas, water or electricity bill for the last 3 months, a Council Tax bill for the last 12 months, and a bank statement for the last month. The rental agreement or a recent letter from the landlord confirming that the person submitting the notification has lived at this address for at least 7 days will also be helpful. Such a letter should not be older than 7 days and should contain the name and surname of the apartment owner, the address, and his handwritten signature.

Where the home address is outside the UK, that person must provide a UK correspondence address, for example, the address of their partner, friend or family member.

Additional documents will be required from people who were previously married or entered into a civil partnership. In this case, they will have to submit an absolute or definitive decree declaring the invalidation of the marriage by divorce, annulment or dissolution - whether the divorce was granted in or outside the UK. Please note that if your marriage dissolution were awarded outside the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, you would need to have your document checked at your local registry office, and the cost is £50. The registry office will often require a general check by the general registry office, and here the prices will reach £75. In the case of widowed persons, you must present the former partner's death certificate.

For foreigners, another requirement is to bring a passport photograph for each partner, even if only one of you is from outside the UK. Foreigners also needs to proof a current immigration status - for example, granted and valid visa or other permit, and all documents in a language other than English should be sworn translated.

If you come from the European Union or the Schengen area and have settled or pre-settled status, you will need to prove that fact. For this, you will need a unique code obtained after logging into the EU Settlement Scheme in the "View and prove your immigration status" tab. Please note that this code is only valid for 30 days. Persons waiting for status should bring a certificate of a submitted application to the Home Office.

If you need additional information or consult you marriage in England and Wales feel free to contact our specialist via email Alternatively, you can book your free 30 minutes telephone consultation here.

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