A marriage can take place in England and Wales at a register office, or a building approved for civil marriage, in an Anglican church or in any other religious building that is registered for marriage ceremonies. The General Register Office website has details.
– A religious wedding: speak to your vicar or see the person in charge of marriages. The church must normally be in the registration district in which you, or your partner, live. People of all denominations have a right to be married in their parish church. If you are Church of England and your partner is a Catholic, it doesn’t matter.
If you want to marry in a different church and you are a regular worshipper, then it is usually possible. Otherwise, you would normally be expected to attend services for some time before becoming eligible to be married there. The Church of England in 2007 voted to relax the laws on where couples can get married, giving them new rights to marry in a parish where they have a link. An engaged couple has to demonstrate one of seven ‘connections’ (such as if you were baptized at the church, confirmed there or previously lived in the area’ or regularly attended the church). More details are on the Church of England website.
– A civil marriage: A civil marriage ceremony can take place in any register office in England or Wales, or at any venue that has been approved to hold a civil marriage (such as stately homes, hotels or restaurants).
In February 2011 the Coalition government announced plans to allow same-sex couples to register civil partnerships in church. Currently there is a ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious settings in England and Wales. Same-sex couples are not allowed to use hymns or Bible readings in civil ceremonies.
There are a number of requirements you have to satisfy before you can get married the General Register Office has more details), such as:
– Residency: You can get married in England and Wales as long as you have both lived in the area for at least seven days before giving notice of marriage. This applies to all couples, including those travelling from overseas to marry in England and Wales. There are some exceptions.
– Documentation: You need to show evidence of name, age, and nationality (ideally in the form of your passport). You will also be asked to provide evidence of your address and evidence of the ending of any previous marriage.
– Notice: It is a legal requirement to give notice of marriage and, once given, your notice of marriage is displayed on the notice board at the register office for a period of fifteen clear days. The Notice is valid for 12 months and is a legal document required by the Marriage Act 1949 giving the couple’s name and surname, age, address, occupation, nationality, and marriage venue.
Thanks very much to Punam Denley, a partner at the International Family Law Group LLP for reviewing and to David Hodson, also partner at the International Family Law Group LLP, who reviewed an earlier version which appeared in A Parent’s Guide to the Law by Jon Robins (LawPack , 2009). Stephen Lawson, a litigation partner at Forshaws Davies Ridgway LLP assisted with the section on the CSA.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award