Planning a civil wedding ceremony (in England & Wales )
A civil wedding ceremony can take place in any Register Office or any other any other premises that has been approved by whichever local authority it is governed by. This can be a Hotel, a Restaurant, or any other venue.
Your first port of call should be to the Superintendent Registrar for the registration district where you wish to marry. If you intend to marry at an approved venue, you will also need to contact them as soon as you have decided which venue you wish to marry at.
If the bride and groom to be live in different districts to the district they wish to marry in, they will need to give notice of marriage to the Superintendent Registrar for both relevant Registration Districts as well.
Once you have given notice of marriage, it is valid for twelve months. You cannot therefore give notice of marriage prior to twelve month before your intended wedding date. However, it may be possible for you to make a provisional booking with the Superintendent Registrar of the Registration District where you intend to get married, but you will need to contact the relevant Registrar Office in order to get more information regarding this. Your wedding date must be 15 clear dates after the date on the Notice of Marriage.
It is important to note that a Notice of Marriage is only relevant for the venue that is named on it. Should you change your wedding venue you will need to serve a new Notice of Marriage. However if you change the date, it may be possible to get married under the original Notice.
In order to give notice of marriage, you will need to produce certain original documentation depending on your personal circumstances. Everyone is required to produce:
If you passport is not available, or you simply do not have one you will normally be requested to provide:
a second document such as a bank book/statement, Council Tax or utility bill etc in addition to your birth certificate
If you are divorced:
If your previous spouse is deceased:
If you have changed your name by Deed Poll:
If you have been adopted:
If you are under 18 years of age:
You are required by law to have 2 witnesses present to sign the register.
There are fees involved in registering your marriage and these are set by Parliament and may change each year so it is important to check with your local registrar office as to what the fees are at the time you intend to marry.
The fees are for:
Civil ceremonies can vary greatly from a small intimate affair with just the bride and groom and 2 witnesses to a full traditional white wedding affair and everything in between! Of course some of this is dictated by where you choose to have your civil ceremony as well.
The service can vary greatly from just the basic legally required words from the Registrar and the bride and groom to one that has been personalised with readings and poetry and even personalised vows and promises. It is wise to check with your own Superintendent Registrar as to exactly what they allow and also to remember that as it is a civil ceremony, you will not be allowed to use any religious material. However according to a report by the Guardian in June 2005 by Lucy Ward their social affairs correspondent:
the deputy registrar general recommends that, rather than turning down requests, registrars should relax the rules to allow "readings, songs and music that may contain an incidental reference to a god or deity in a mainly non-religious context".
Again the venue you choose will have an impact on this as when it comes to marrying in a Registrar's Office, there are likely to be other weddings on the same day which can mean that there are more constraints than if you choose to marry at an approved venue.
The venue will also have an impact on the music you are able to play at your ceremony as licensed venues such as Hotels etc, are likely to have an entertainment licence that allows them to play music in a public place that other venues may not have. Some Registrar Offices may allow you to have your own musicians, some may not.
Good luck with planning your civil wedding ceremony!