Planning 101 28th October 2013

Organising the Ceremony

Organising the ceremony can seem like a daunting task. There is a lot of legalities and paperwork to sort beforehand! Use this timeless piece of advice to help you gather what paperwork you need and introduce you to the rules and regulations of marriage.

If you are getting married in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you have 2 choices: a religious ceremony in a church, synagogue or chapel: or a civil wedding in a licensed building or register office. In Scotland, you can get married wherever you like and have either a religious or civil ceremony in a place of your choosing, including outside, as long as you have the officiate and 2 witnesses!

The Legal basics

To be legally married you need to comply with the following:

Legally speaking, the minimum age to marry is 16. Those under 18 must have written consent from their parent or legal guardian before a marriage can take place.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the marriage must take place in premises where the ceremony can be legally solemnised (register office, premises licensed for marriage or a parish church or other place of worship registered for marriage). In Scotland, you can marry anywhere providing there is a minister or witness present
The Ceremony must take place in the presence of a registrar or another authorised person such as a priest or rabbi.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, marriages can take place between 8am and 6pm any day of the week, but restrictions apply in individual churches and register offices. Once you have decided on your venue, check what times they will allow! In Scotland, there is no time restriction.
Your 2 witnesses have to be old enough to appreciate the significance of their responsibilities, so usually over 18
You must be free and eligible to marry.

Notice of Marriage

Organising the CeremonyExcept for people getting married in a Church of England or Church in Wales, each person has to give a formal Notice of Marriage at the register office in the registration district where they live. They must have lived in the registration district for at least seven days immediately before giving Notice of Marriage. 15 days later a “Marriage Authority” is issued. The Marriage Authorities must be given to the registrar or minister conducting the marriage. Notice of Marriage is valid for 12 months and therefore cannot be given until within 12 months of the wedding date. The current fee is £30 per person.

Documents needed to give Notice of Marriage

Proof of Identity - birth certificate, and or passport. (Non-British subject a passport or identity document must be produced).
Evidence of residence, drivers licence, utility bills
If divorced, the Decree Absolute
If widowed, the death certificate of spouse
If under 18, written consent from parent or legal guardian.
If applicable, name change deeds.

(Depending on individual circumstances, other documents may be required. Photocopies are unlikely to be accepted. Certified translations into English will be required).

Church of England and churches in Wales

You can marry in the bride or groom’s parish church. Clergy are authorised registrars so it is not necessary to give Notice of Marriage. Instead, banns are read on three Sundays before the wedding to announce your intention to marry. If one of you lives in a different parish the bands must be read there too and a certificate produced and given to the church where the ceremony is taking place to prove the banns were legally called. Once the banns have been read your marriage can take place within three months. Marriage in another church, outside your parishes may be possible as long as certain requirements can be fulfilled. Your minister will be able to help and advise you.

Tel: 0207 898 1000

Church of Scotland

Provided your minister is in agreement, a Church of Scotland ceremony can take place anywhere as long as it has a fixed address. There are no residency requirements but 15 days’ notice must be given at the register office in the district in which you want to marry. This also applies to civil weddings.

Tel: 0131 225 5722

Roman Catholic

Priests are authorised to solemnise marriages, but you must give Notice of Marriage to your local superintendent registrar(s) as well. To marry in a Catholic Church at least one of you needs to have been baptised in the Catholic faith. For Catholics wishing to marry in another Christian church, or who wish to marry someone not baptised, a dispensation must be obtained.

Tel: 020 7371 1341

Baptist Union

Tel: 01235 517700


Tel: 0207 4865502

United Reformed

If you are marrying in a Baptist, Methodist or United Reformed church you will need to give Notice of Marriage at your local register office(s). If the minister is not authorised to solemnise your wedding, you will need to arrange for the registrar to attend.

Tel: 0207 916 2020

Jewish Weddings

You must give Notice of Marriage at your local register office(s). At least three weeks before the wedding you should apply to the chief rabbi for authorisation. You will be asked to provide your parents’ marriage certificate and your birth certificate. Apart from in synagogues, the wedding can be solemnised anywhere provided the service is held beneath a Chuppah (wedding canopy). Weddings can be held on any day outside the Sabbath (from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday).

Tel: 0208 203 6311

Sikh Cultural Society

Tel: 0181 952 1215

Muslim Council

Tel: 020 8903 9024

Hindu Association

Tel: 01384 243244

Islamic Centre

For Asian weddings, notice of Marriage must be given at your local register office(s). The mosque or temple may be officially recognised to conduct weddings, but generally there is a civil ceremony at either a register office or in approved premises and then the religious ceremony can take place in the mosque, temple or hall, etc.

Tel: 020 7724 3363

Humanist Weddings

Notice of Marriage must be given at your local register office(s). To be a legal marriage it has to take place in a register office or a building licensed for weddings where the registrar officiates.

Tel: 0207 430 0908

Service of Blessing

After a civil wedding you may wish to have your marriage blessed in church, but it is at the discretion of the individual minster. Ask also about the code of dress, number of guests and guidelines on floral and music arrangements.

Overseas weddings

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Tel: 0207 270 1500
The ONS General Register Office Tel: 0151 471 4200

Contact your local travel agent, the consulate of the country where you want to marry or The Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ascertain the laws and documentation required. They will also tell you if your marriage will be recognised in the UK. You may feel it worthwhile to double check details with your solicitor.

Marriages solemnised abroad in accordance with the laws of a foreign country cannot be registered in the UK. However, it may be possible to record the marriage with The ONS General Register Office.

Other Timeless advice you might like to read:
‘Deciding on the Date of Your Wedding’
‘Countdown to a Perfect Wedding’