Before you choose your wedding ceremony venue, there are certain legal requirements you need to consider.
The superintendent registrar needs to know your full names, ages, marital status, address(es) and nationality, and will require documentary evidence. (Your intended marriage venue and occupations will also be included.)
Among the many documents you possess, those preferred are:
A current valid full passport (or, if appropriate, a Home Office document, a standard acknowledgement letter or a national identity card). If unavailable, take your birth certificate and a second document such as a bank book/statement, council tax or current utility bill, etc.
If you have been married before but your spouse has died you will need a copy of the death certificate.
Divorcees will need their decree absolute bearing the court’s original stamp. If mislaid, obtain a copy from the county court where your absolute was issued.
If you've changed your name, take along deed-poll documents. Under 18s will need a completed parental consent form.
Dotting the I's and crossing the T's
Hello young lovers - if you’re under 18 you’re going to need the written permission of your parents or guardian before you can tie the knot. Here’s when you start wishing you had kept your bedroom tidy and behaved like a grown up when it came to being home on time… The minimum legal age for getting married in England and Wales is 16.
All weddings must take place between 8am and 6pm. Quirky but true, the 6pm deadline was introduced before electric light was in common use, for fear people might marry the wrong partner in the dark. Imagine being engaged to a Brad Pitt look-a-like and coming out of the dingy lit church married to someone resembling John Prescott…
Unless you’re marrying in the Church of England or the Church in Wales by banns or common license, each of you has to give notice of marriage to your local superintendent registrar(s), although you can be married in a different district if you wish. Both of you must have lived in a registration district in England or Wales for a minimum of seven days immediately before giving notice at the register office.
The notice of marriage is valid for 12 months so you cannot give notice of marriage more than 12 months before the date set for your wedding. After giving notice you must wait a further 15 full days before the ceremony can take place.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND MARRIAGES
A marriage ceremony is a public declaration of your love and commitment to one another, and if you choose a religious ceremony in church you are acknowledging that God cares about your relationship and that you want his blessing and his guidance.
There is now an increasing choice of venues for your wedding, but wherever you live there will be a church near you, at which your family may have shared their joys and celebrated weddings over many generations. By choosing to be married in church you will be following in the footsteps of thousands of people who have recognised the church as a focal point of the community. The doors of the church are open to all who care for you and wish you well; there may be friends and neighbours who you are unable to invite to your reception but who would love to support you.
Who can be married in church? The normal practice is that one of your should live in the parish of the church you wish to be married at. If you are not sure which is your parish church get in touch with a local vicar and ask. If you want to be married in another church, then you will need to worship at that church regularly for six months before the wedding. Again the best thing to do is to approach the vicar of the church and seek her or his advice. Further advice is available on the Church of England website www.cofe.anglican.org/lifeevents/weddings/index.html
How do I go about it? Get in touch with your local vicar, to check that the church is free on the date you desire. He or she will probably wish to meet you to get to know you and discuss your plans. Some churches have an office, in which case the parish administrator will be your first point of contact.
What are banns? Your proposed marriage must be publicly announced beforehand, and the practice for a church wedding is that “Banns” or details of your marriage are read out at the main service on three Sundays in the parish(es) where you both live within three months of your wedding day. This is to ensure that there is no legal reason why you cannot marry one another; such as being too young, already married, or barred from marriage because you are already “related”. If one of you is a foreign national you may need to marry by licence.
What if one of us is divorced? The teaching of the Church of England is that marriage is for life, but it also recognises that sadly some marriages do fail. If one or both of you have been divorced, then do talk to your vicar; the Church accepts that, in exceptional circumstances, a divorced person may marry in church, when their former spouse is still alive. The important thing is to ask to see your vicar to talk through the options.
What does a church service involve? The service will usually last between 30 and 50 minutes; as well as the declarations and vows you will make to one another and the exchanging of rings, it will include an introduction, prayers which you might help to choose, and readings which as well as a passage from the Bible may include something appropriate of your choice. There may be hymns, possibly other music, and a short sermon. You can also choose to have either a modern language service, or one in more traditional language. You may want to involve members of your family in the service, perhaps doing a reading or playing music; the best way is to discuss this in the early stages with your vicar.
At the end of the service, or maybe after the formal legalities, you will sign the registers, which will provide evidence that you are married in the sight of the law. You will need to nominate two people to be witnesses.
Can our children take part in the service? Of course. For example they can be included in the prayers, and be asked to join you for the final blessing.
Marriage Preparation: The church cares first and foremost about you as a couple and your marriage; and for this reason, it is practice within the Church of England that every couple should be offered Marriage Preparation. This will vary from church to church; in some cases it will be a chat with the vicar, in others a day spent with other couples exploring what married life will mean for you; in other words to look beyond the wedding day at this new stage in your relationship. Invariably couples who have taken up this opportunity say how valuable it is.
Practice Makes Perfect: Just prior to your wedding you will normally be asked to come to the church to go through the service, get to know where everybody stands and who will do what. The intention is that if you know what to expect you will be less nervous, and more able to enjoy your special day.
Happy Ever After: You will usually come into the church separately, at the end you will leave together, to symbolise that you are now a married couple. However, the Church’s concern for you doesn’t end with the wedding march. The vicar will also be available to help, support and advise you in any time of need. You may want to celebrate future special occasions at the church, such as the baptism of children, or special anniversaries.
Since 5 December 2005, when the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into operation, same-sex couples have been able to register as civil partners of each other. A civil partnership can be registered in England and Wales in a register office or approved premises. As with marriage, in order to register a civil partnership you must first give notice at the register office. These notices are then publicised by the registration authority for a period of 15 days.
A civil partnership notice states for each person: name and surname, date of birth, condition (marital or civil partnership status), occupation, nationality, place of formation
Once the 15 full days have elapsed, the civil partnership can be registered. Once given, the notice is valid for 12 months. The minimum legal age for registering a civil partnership in England and Wales is 16 years of age but written consent may be required for those under 18.
If you want to register your civil partnership at approved premises, rather than a register office, they come in all shapes and sizes, from castles and stately homes to hotels and restaurants, so there’s plenty of choice.
Once your civil partnership certificate has been recorded in the register you’ll receive your civil partnership certificate. There are two types of certificate:
- one shows all the details of the civil partnership including the addresses of the partners at the time the partnership was registered
- the other shows all the details of the civil partnership excluding the addresses of the partners at the time the partnership was registered
If at any time you require another copy, you can either apply direct to the General Register Office or to the registration authority where you registered your partnership. You’ll need to provide sufficient details of both civil partners to identify the record. If you’re applying for a certificate with addresses you must also provide the addresses of both civil partners as recorded at the time the partnership was registered.