Getting Married in England

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Getting Married in England

If you are planning on getting married in England here are some things you need to know.

Getting married is a very exciting time.  Once a proposal has been accepted it is time to start thinking about the big day and making it legal.  If you have never been married before than this is likely to be a topic you have no clue about and you may not even know where to start.

I spent five years working as an events planner in London during which time one of my specialities was weddings.  I had to gain or amend licences for ceremonies for more than one venue and in the process I had to learn the ins and outs of the legalities surrounding marriages.  

I would often have wedding couples asking a ton of questions on how it all works and here I hope to help you out by going through the important things you need to know about the legalities of getting married in England.

Let’s look at the steps you need to take for a non-religious wedding ceremony in England.

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First things first, congratulations!  You’re engaged!  Now what to do?

You probably want to think about where you want the ceremony to be held.

In England you can get married in a register office or you have your ceremony at a licenced venue.  In England, at the time of writing, you cannot legally get married anywhere you like eg. on a beach or in a temporary structure, like a marquee.  It has to be a fixed space that has been approved by the local council, at least for the official vows that is.

If you are set on having a ceremony in a particular place that is not an approved space why not consider doing the official part separately?  I have worked with wedding couples who have been to a register office with just the witnesses for the vows (only two witnesses are required to make it legal) and then had the big event in front of all their guests on their actual wedding day in a Humanist ceremony, for example.  


In England you can’t have a spontaneous wedding ceremony that is legally binding.  Each local council is slightly different, so you will need to look at your local council specifically, but as a general overview:

You must decide on where you will be having your ceremony first and foremost.  Once you have secured where you will be having the wedding ceremony you have to give notice to your local council.  For this you will need to book an appointment.  Notice is essentially a public declaration of your intention to marry and this is available to the public 28 days ahead of the date of the wedding.  Some council website state ‘you must contact the Register Office at least three months but no more than 12 months before you intend to marry’, so take this into consideration.

NOTE: You can only give notice at a register office if you have lived in the registration district for at least the past 7 days.

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Weddings are notoriously expensive, but the actual legal side of it doesn’t have to be very costly at all.  You will need to pay to give notice – this is currently £35 per person and the marriage certificate is £4 on the day of the event.  As far as the cost of the ceremony itself, this can vary considerably depending on day of the week, time and location but can be as low as £49, so you don’t have to break the bank.

If you or your partner are foreign nationals there may be differences in the details provided on this page.

For a general overview of what is required to get married you can check out the government website here but you will need to go to your local council website for specifics.

Wishing you a happily ever after…

Are you recently engaged?  Where will you hold your ceremony?
Let us know in the comments below.

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