Legal Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married

January 9, 2015

Legal Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married

He proposed, and you said Yes! She proposed, and you said Yes! One way or another, you’re getting married. Yay!

What happens now?

For many couples it’s the start of a thrilling roller-coaster ride to venues, dress makers, florists, stylists, coordinators, photographers and, well, you get the idea.

But apart from all that, there are some proper, grown-up Legal Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married. Here is my rough and very unofficial guide to help you understand that essential part of getting married.

A marriage can take place in:-
•    a Registry Office
•    a place approved by the local authority such as a hotel
•    a church of the Church of England, Church in Wales, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian or Roman Catholic Church in N. Ireland (opposite sex couples only)
•    a synagogue or any other private place if both partners are Jewish
•    a Meeting House if one or both partners are either members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) or are associated with the Society by attending meetings
•    any registered religious building (England and Wales only)
•    the home of one of the partners if the partner is housebound or detained, for example, in prison
•    a place where one partner is seriously ill and not expected to recover, for example, in hospital
•    a licensed naval, military or air force chapel.

Church Weddings.

You can marry in a Church of England church if you can show that one of you has at any time lived in the parish for a period of at least 6 months, or was baptised in the parish, or was prepared for confirmation in the parish, or has at any time regularly gone to normal church services in the parish church for a period of at least 6 months.

Also if one of your parents, at any time after you were born, has lived in the parish for a period of at least 6 months; or has regularly gone to normal church services in the parish church for a period of at least 6 months. This also applies if one of your parents or grandparents was married in the parish.

If you move house, you’re immediately connected to the church there. That means you can marry in the church of your new parish.

You can get married in a church on any day of the week, including Sundays.

So, step 1: Find a church that you want to be married in.

Step 2: Call the vicar to discuss the dates you have in mind. He or she may also suggest meeting up to discuss the weighty responsibility of what you are about to undertake.

Step 3: Arrange to get the Banns read. Banns are announcements in church of your intention to marry and a chance for anyone to put forward a reason why the marriage may not lawfully take place. Banns need to be read in the parish where each of you lives as well as the church in which you are to be married, if that is different. The banns must be read out in church for three Sundays during the three months before the wedding. This is often done over three consecutive Sundays but does not have to be.

Step 4: You vicar may suggest a rehearsal in the church a day or two before your wedding day. It should include parents, the bridal party and anyone who is involved in the wedding service at the church.


Civil Ceremonies.

You can have a civil ceremony or civil partnership at:
•    a registry office
•    any venue approved by the local council, for example a stately home or hotel
•    a religious place where permission has been given by the organisation and the premises approved by the local authority

Step 1: Choose a wedding venue. You can have a civil marriage ceremony in any registry office, or at any approved venue.

Step 2: Book the registrar. Registrars get booked up well ahead of time, just like venues and photographers.

Step 3: You must give Notice of Intention. A notice of intention is a formal declaration of your intention to marry or form a civil partnership. It is a legal requirement and must be completed well in advance of the ceremony. The notice states the intended venue for the ceremony, so you must know the venue before you give notice. In most cases you must give notice at your local registry office. The notice will be publicly displayed there for 15-21 days.

You will need to telephone the registry office to arrange a booking, in order to give notice of intention. You need to give notice up to 12 months before your ceremony, and no less than 16 days before your ceremony.

An update to the law coming into place from 2 March 2015 will mean that any couples giving notice on or after this date will need to do so at least 28 days before their ceremony.
Step 4: You can personalise the ceremony and the words you choose to say to each other, but certain legal phrases will have to be included. You can have music and readings of course too.
On the day of your ceremony the registrar has to interview you both, in private, immediately before the ceremony commences, in order to ensure that all your details are correct. You should arrive with your witnesses and guests at least 15 minutes before the time of the ceremony.
You can be seen by the registrars separately, so do let them know in advance so that they can inform you of different times to arrive. In my experience, the groom is interviewed first, about thirty minutes before the ceremony, and the bride is interviewed ten minutes or so before. You will need two witnesses who must be over the age of 16 and able to speak and understand English.
Once the formalities with the registrar have been completed, you can either choose to start the ceremony informally with your guests, or the registrar can announce your entrance into the ceremony room. Two registrars are required for a civil marriage or civil partnership. One registrar will conduct the ceremony, while the other will register the marriage or civil partnership, record the details in the register and prepare the certificate to be presented to you after the ceremony.


That’s about it, I hope you’ve found this helpful. There is no way to paraphrase the details here, so well done for reading this far. This is not a definitive guide, this is meant in good faith as a general overview, and I apologise if there are any incorrect elements. Let me know! I haven’t included details concerning same sex ceremonies, nor have I included details about multi-faith or mixed race ceremonies. There’s a whole other blog post right there. Please do your own checks too.  Now go and get married!


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