The Legal Formalities of Getting Married in England

April 30, 2023

If you are planning to tie the knot, you will need to attend a “Notice of Marriage” appointment at a registery office in your local borough to comply with the legal formalities of getting married. During this appointment, you will need to provide proof of identity, nationality, and residency, as well as your freedom to marry. It is important to note that both parties must have lived at their current address for at least 7 days. You can find more information about the documents you will need and the qualifying period on the government’s website.

During the appointment, you will also need to tell them where you plan to carry out your civil marriage, as the notice that you give is for the venue you state. If you need to change the location, you will need to notify the register office and pay another fee. After the appointment, your details will be on display, to the public, in the district that you have registered for 28 days. As long as there are no objections, your marriage authorities will be issued, and they will be valid for 12 months from the date of issue.

If you are looking for a low-cost, low-fuss option (because after all you are going to have a celebrant led ceremony); you can opt for a “Statutory Ceremony.” This ceremony can be held at any Register Office for a minimum fee and only includes the declaratory words and contractual vows legally required to marry in the UK. You will need to have two people (over the age of consent) as your witnesses, but there is no need to have any music, exchange vows that you have written, exchange your wedding rings or wear your fancy wedding clothes. Note that some Register Offices only offer Statutory Ceremonies on certain days of the week/month and at a certain time, so be sure to check availability before giving your notice.

The declaratory words you will say are “I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, ‘Alex’, may not be joined in matrimony to ‘Jordan’.” or “I declare that I know of no legal reason why I, ‘Alex’, may not be joined in marriage to ‘Jordan’.” Alternatively, you can simply say, “I am” to the question “Are you ‘Alex’ free lawfully to marry ‘Jordan’?”

The contractual vows are: “I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, ‘Alex’, do take thee, ‘Jordan’, to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband).” or “I ‘Alex’ take you ‘Jordan’ to be my wedded wife (or husband)” or “I ‘Alex’ take thee ‘Jordan’ to be my wedded wife (or husband).”

The total fee to legally register your marriage in the UK is £120, which includes the Notice of Marriage fee of £35 per person and the Statutory Ceremony fee of £46 (+£4 for your marriage certificate). 

“The law provides that a couple in England or Wales can be married by a Superintendent Registrar in a minimal ‘two-plus-two’ ceremony, in the presence of a Registrar and two witnesses, for £127. This represents the fees currently prescribed for giving notice (£35 each for UK citizens), the ceremony (£46), and a marriage certificate (£11).”

Dr. Stephanie Pywell

If you are having a destination wedding (whether that’s in England and going abroad or in another country and then marrying in England) my advice would be to complete your legal formalities in your home city.

Once you have completed these legal formalities, you can move on to planning your joyous celebrant ceremony and marriage celebration. 

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