How to marry

  • 04 August 2020
  • Reading time: 3 min

You can get married by a civil ceremony or a religious ceremony.

In both cases, the following legal requirements must be met:-

  • the marriage must be conducted by a person or in the presence of a person authorised to register marriages in the district
  • the marriage must be entered in the marriage register and signed by both parties, two witnesses, the person who conducted the ceremony and, if that person is not authorised to register marriages, the person who is registering the marriage.

Civil marriage ceremonies


You and your partner must give notice of marriage in your local Register Office, whether or not you wish to marry in that district. The Superintendent Registrar or Registrar in Northern Ireland then issues authority for the marriage and you may marry in any Register Office or local authority approved premises in any district.


If either you or your partner is from overseas, special rules may apply when giving notice to marry. If so, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

In the period between the notice of intention to marry and the ceremony, anyone with strong grounds for objecting to the marriage can do so. Making a false statement is a criminal offence.

In England and Wales, both partners must be resident in England or Wales for seven days before notice is given (on the eighth day). A notice must state where the marriage is to take place. The marriage can then take place after 15 days have elapsed from the date on which notice of the marriage is entered in the marriage notice book. There is a fee for giving notice. There is no requirement for the 15 day notice period if the one of the partners has been issued with a gender recognition certificate and was previously the civil partner of the person who they wish to marry. In this case, notice of the marriage and the marriage itself can happen on the same day.

In Northern Ireland, a marriage licence is called a marriage schedule. Couples do not need to have been resident in the country before getting married, provided they apply for notice from the General Register Office.

If you and your partner are visiting Northern Ireland to be married and are citizens of a country that is not a member of the European Economic Area, you may need to enclose special documentation.

Couples must submit their completed marriage notice forms and any other relevant documents to the Registrar of Marriages in the district where the marriage is to take place.

It is normal to give eight weeks notice. However, you can give a minimum of 14 days notice, although this may mean that the wedding ceremony will have to be postponed. The registrar will issue a marriage schedule. You won't be able to get married without this. If you are having a religious ceremony, this must take place within 14 days of receiving the schedule. In addition to this, the schedule must be signed at the religious ceremony by the person performing the marriage.

The marriage must take place within 12 months from the date of entry of the notice (three months if one of you is housebound, detained or resident in Northern Ireland). If the marriage does not take place within that time, the process must be repeated.

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