Getting married in the United Kingdom

Getting married in the United Kingdom
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Updated 2021-09-02 14:41

Meeting that special person to tie the knot and spend the rest of your life with is such a huge milestone. Many meet that special person in their home country, while others find them abroad. The tiresome bureaucratic marriage procedure many are subjected to in the UK makes it feel impossible, but here are some guidelines.  

Marrying legally in the UK has various terms attached to it. Good enough, with the correct information, the dream of getting married in the UK can soon become a reality. It is essential to seek the correct information and carefully follow the terms and proceedings.

First things first: The notice

In order to get married or form a civil partnership in the UK, you must visit the local register office to sign a legal statement declaring that you intend to get married. Known as ‘giving notice,' the statement, which is valid for 12 months, must be signed at least 29 days before the ceremony.

Attention:

You must have lived in the registration district where you will give notice for the past seven days or more. If you and your partner live in different registration districts, you must give notice separately, each in their respective register office. If one of you is from outside the UK, you must give notice together.

At your notice appointment, you must bring originals of several documents, including details of the venue for the ceremony, a valid passport or birth certificate, and proof of home address (e.g., UK driving licence, a recent utilities' bill, bank statement, Council Tax bill, tenancy agreement, etc.). If you don't have a permanent UK address, you will need to give details of a UK contact (e.g., your partner, friend, etc.).

Attention:

If you have been married or in a civil partnership before, you will need also to show a copy of a decree absolute or final order of a divorce or your former partner's death certificate.

Important:

In the period between the notice and the ceremony, objectors to the marriage can raise their objections.

Useful links:

Register offices in the UK

Required documents to give notice

Copy of a decree absolute or final order

Marriage or civil partnership in the UK

What is the legal status of your relationship, and what are the legal differences between living together, getting married, and entering a civil partnership?

Civil and religious marriage ceremony

You can choose between civil or religious marriage or both in the UK. Conditions and procedures generally depend on the selected religious institution. Some of the documents you will sign are the marriage register, a civil commitment document, etc., and you will need two witnesses. The overall fees depend on the location where the wedding ceremony will be held. You will be required to pay £45 to the civil status division to obtain your civil marriage certificate, issued either the same day of payment or the next day.

In the United Kingdom, opposite-sex couples over 16 years can marry in a civil or religious ceremony. A marriage can take place in a Register Office, premises approved by the local authority (e.g., a hotel), a church, a synagogue, a Meeting House if one or both partners are members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), the home of one of the partners if the partner is housebound or detained, in hospital, and a licensed naval, military or air force chapel.

A civil marriage ceremony at the local Register Office takes about 15 minutes. Even though the couple can exchange their own vows, after repeating the standard set of vows, religious words or hymns aren't permitted. At the end of the ceremony, the marriage register is signed by both partners, the registrar, and at least two witnesses. At the time of the marriage, you will obtain one copy of the entry of the marriage in the register.

Attention:

Before signing the marriage register, double-check the information on it. It is possible to correct mistakes at the time of marriage. Corrections at a later stage will require additional bureaucracy and may be time-consuming.

Good to know:

Rings' exchange isn't mandatory during a civil marriage ceremony.

Important:

If the registrar has a reason to believe that the marriage is happening merely for immigration purposes, it is their duty to report it to the Home Office.

A religious marriage can be registered during the religious ceremony conducted by the Church of England and the Church in Wales. The 29-day notice at the Register Office is necessary if one or both partners are non-UK nationals or if the religious marriage isn't conducted by the Church of England or the Church in Wales. Couples that are married in a Register Office can have a religious ceremony too.

Important:

If you want to marry in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you must obtain information on the procedure and law followed there.

Civil partnership

A civil partnership gives legal recognition and legal rights and responsibilities to a relationship. To register a civil partnership, you and your partner must give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership (see the dedicated subheading above). After a minimum of 29 days and within 12 months, you will need to appear in front of a registrar and two witnesses and sign the civil partnership schedule at any register office. There's no need to have a ceremony, but if you wish to have one, you can.

Important:

If you and your partner have registered a civil partnership abroad, you can be recognised as civil partner in the UK without registering again in the UK. However, certain conditions have to be met.

Attention: You cannot legally bring a civil partnership to an end until a year has passed since you signed the civil partnership document.

Marriage for same-sex couples

Civil partnerships are available to same-sex couples. Same-sex couples who registered their civil partnership in England and Wales can convert it into a marriage. A religious premise is not obliged to host a civil ceremony between same-sex partners. On the other hand, a religious ceremony can be held if the religious organisation has agreed to marry same-sex couples.

Good to know:

Same-sex marriage was legalised in the UK in March 2014, including Wales, England, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. However, the Church of England and the Church in Wales do not marry same-sex couples.

Important:

If you and your same-sex partner have been married abroad legally, your marriage is recognised in England and Wales.

Attention:

A transgender person who doesn't have a gender recognition certificate is legally considered to be the gender that is stated on their original birth certificate.

Legal requirements

Visit the British High Commission either in your country or your country's embassy or consulate in the UK. You can also visit the official government website for more information.

For UK residents, whether they are marrying a foreigner or a British national, they must be at least 16 years old. Anyone below the age of 18 has to obtain their legal or parental guardian's approval.

Documents required

To be legally eligible for marriage in the United Kingdom, you will need the following documents:

  • Your ID
  • Birth certificate
  • Nationality
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of your immigration status

Information on English and Welsh marriage certificates

  • Date of marriage
  • Name and surname of both partners
  • Age of each partner
  • Condition (marital status)
  • Rank or profession of both partners
  • Residence at the time of marriage
  • Fathers' names
  • Rank or profession of fathers
  • Name and surname of both witnesses

Changing your name upon marriage

There's no legal obligation in the UK for one partner or the other to change their surname upon marriage. However, some partners find it convenient to have the same surname, especially when they have children or substantial financial agreements to make. A woman who wants to change her surname to her husband's doesn't need a Deed Poll. She can send her marriage certificate along with a cover letter to all government bodies and organisations (e.g., the Passport Office) that need to update their records with her new surname. However, if the husband wants to take his wife's surname, he will have to make a Deed Poll.

Another option is to incorporate your partner's surname in your surname, resulting in three names: Name - Middle Name - Surname. On this occasion, you will need to make a Deed Poll in order to get your personal records, including your passport, revised. A third, more modern option is to get a double-barrelled name, thereby combining your and your partner's surname in one hyphenated version (the order of mention is up to you and your partner to decide). For a double-barrelled surname, you will need a Deed Poll. To make the process faster and less bureaucratic and avoid two Deed Polls, the husband can make a Deed Poll for the double-barrelled surname before the wedding. After the marriage certificate is obtained, the wife can use it to have her records changed.

Good to know:

A deed poll is a legal document proving a change of name.

Tip:

Name-meshing is the new trend. Couples put their surnames together and come up with a new, creative surname.

Important:

There are two types of a Deed Poll: an unenrolled and an enrolled through the Royal Courts of Justice, meaning you have to put your new name on public record.

Useful links:

Deed Poll

Marriage Visitor visa in the UK

You will be required to apply for a Marriage Visitor visa if you want to give notice of a marriage or civil partnership, and therefore marry or register a civil partnership in the UK. A Marriage Visitor visa costs £95, and the earliest you can apply for this visa is three months before you travel to the UK. The application for this visa is online, and the decision will be communicated to you within three weeks. The Marriage Visitor visa is valid for a short stay and doesn't give you the right to stay or settle in the UK after your marriage or civil partnership takes place (which should happen within six months of the visa holder's arrival to the UK).

Attention:

The Marriage Visitor Visa cannot be extended or switched to another visa.

Good to know:

If you want to convert a civil partnership into a marriage, you will need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa.

Important:

If you wish to remain in the UK permanently after marriage and your partner is a permanent resident in the UK, you can apply for a Family visa.

Useful links:

Marriage Visitor Visa

Family visa

Family visa in the UK

If you are already married legally to a British resident and wish to move to the UK, you will be required to apply for a Family visa. To qualify for this visa, you will need proof of your marriage, to be more than 18 years old, and be able to show that you have plans to live together permanently. You and your partner must also provide evidence of financial stability to support yourselves and prove that your sponsoring partner (i.e., the UK resident) has a stable job and earns at least £18,600 per annum. The approved Family visa allows you to work and study in the UK.

Attention:

If you have been given a six-month visa for an engaged partner, you aren't allowed to work or study in the UK.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.