Don’t Forget the Legal Formalities!

This is one of those things that can be easily forgotten amongst all the other things you have to keep in mind…but without a marriage license you can’t actually get married, so it’s important that you get all the paperwork done in time.


So where to begin? If you are getting married in England or Wales you can do so in a district register office, a Church of England Church or an approved building. Most wedding venues have the relevant licenses to hold a wedding service, but it’s still worth checking (if you’re getting married in a beautiful field though it’s likely that you will need to get a license which is pretty expensive (over £1,000) but is valid for 3 years and you will need some sort of roof that covers the bride and groom during the ceremony).


There are two parts to the process:



 1. Giving Notice

  • Contact your local council and found out where your Superintendent Registrar is based. You have to have lived in your district (the same thing as a borough) for at least 7 days.
  • If you both live in different areas that aren’t governed by the same council you will both have to give notice in your respective areas. This is done by attending an interview with the Superintendent Registrar.
  • It’s best to bring a council tax bill to show that you are from the borough and is also proof of address and a passport.  These both have all the relevant information needed by the Superintendent Registrar
  • The interview will be held by the Superintendent Registrar and you will be interviewed separately. It’s nothing scary; you are just asked basic questions about you and your fiancés name, address, how long you have been living in the borough (district), nationality, occupation, your marital status and whether you are related to your partner. They will also ask for the details of where you will be having your wedding.
  •  If you are divorced or widowed don’t forget to bring your decree of divorce or a death certificate (originals only). If these aren’t English documents make sure you bring translated and certified copies. Also if you are under 18 make sure you have the relevant documents showing your guardians consent.
  • After you’ve had your interview and paid the fee the notice of marriage is entered into a notice book and the marriage notice is displayed for 21 days usually on a notice board in the registry office. The 21 days is the equivalent period that banns are published in the Church of England. You need to give notice so it gives people an opportunity to object to the marriage…but I’m sure you’ll be fine.
  • This marriage notice is valid for 1 year. You also can’t get one earlier than a year before you get married, but you’ll definitely enough time to do it before things get to hectic.
  • If no one objects then a certificate of marriage is issued (this is different to the Marriage Certificate which is issued after the wedding). If you are getting married in a different district, the certificate of marriage has to be collected and given to the Registrar who will be marrying you. You can always do this a few weeks before the day, perhaps when you meet the Registrar for the usual pre-ceremony chat.
  • If you are getting married in a Church of England the publication of the banns is similar to the marriage notice. The banns are read aloud during the service on the successive Sundays. The congregation has an opportunity to object. If you live in different parishes, the bans need to be published in both parishes. The church will then issue a certificate which states that banns have been published. You will need to give the certificate to the officiating minister before your ceremony. The only big difference is that the certificate is only valid for 3 months from when the banns were published.

2. The Wedding Day

  •   You can only get married during the day (until about 6pm). The old school reasoning behind this was to avoid men from abducting girls and marrying them under cover of darkness (how times have changed).
  • Don’t forget to bring at least 2 witness who are over 18 with you and this doesn’t count the minister or Registrar (and your cheque book so you can pay the Registrar).
  • Once you have said those special words you and your witnesses will sign the Register. The majority of the form filling would have happened before the ceremony where the Registrar takes you aside on your own and gets all the relevant details and confirms you actually do want to walk down that aisle.
  • You will be given one copy of the Marriage Certificate on the day and you will be able to get further certified copies from your registry office which can now be done online. You will be charged for any extra copies you require.


A Few Useful links

  • To find your local register office check out the website
  •  The Church of England have a useful site dealing all the marriage queries you can think of.
  •  Some of the fees that are payable are listed here