LEGAL REQUIREMENTS TO GET MARRIED
Any couple may marry if they are both 16 years or over and free to marry, so single, widowed or divorced, or if they were in a civil partnership which has been dissolved.
Opposite sex couples can marry in a civil or religious ceremony.
Since 29 March 2014, same sex couples can also marry. Same sex couples can marry in a civil ceremony, and can get married in a religious ceremony if the religious organisation has agreed to marry same sex couples.
If you are 16 or 17 years old you must get consent from both of your parents (if they both have parental responsibility) before you can get married.
You cannot marry certain relatives, including children (including adopted children), siblings (including half siblings), aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Adopted children may legally marry their adoptive brother or sister.
In all 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.
Unless you are entering into a pre-nuptial agreement, you do not have to share details of your financial situation or past with your partner upon marriage.
CIVIL MARRIAGE: PROCEDURE TO FOLLOW
To start the process, 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 then issues authority for the marriage and you may marry in any Register Office or local authority approved premises in any district.
In England and Wales, 28 days’ notice must be given to the Register Office before the marriage can take place.
Both partners must be resident for seven days in England or Wales before notice is given. A notice must state where the marriage is to take place, and there is a fee for giving notice.
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.
You and your partner will be asked for certain information when giving notice of your intention to marry. Giving false information is a criminal offence. The information which may be required is:
evidence of name and address like a driving licence for example
evidence of date of birth like a birth certificate or passport
if one partner has been married before or in a civil partnership, they must provide documents to prove that the previous marriage or civil partnership has ended, for example, a death certificate or decree absolute. Uncertified photocopies are not accepted. A certified copy of a decree absolute may be obtained from the court which decided the divorce
evidence of nationality.
The marriage ceremony in the local Register Office or other approved premises will take approximately 10-15 minutes.
The Superintendent Registrar (or Registrar in Northern Ireland) will make a short statement about marriage; you can ask the registrar beforehand to indicate what form of words will be used. It is not possible to use religious words in the civil ceremony. However, the ceremony may include readings, songs or music that contain reference to a god as long as they are in an 'essentially non-religious context'.
Each partner is required to repeat a standard set of promises. These may not be changed, but you may add to them, as long as the additions are not religious. Rings are not required but you are welcome to exchange them if you wish.
After the ceremony, both partners must sign the marriage register. Two witnesses, who must be over 16, must also sign at the time of the marriage. Witnesses must understand the language of the ceremony and have the mental capacity to understand the nature of the ceremony. Register Office staff are not allowed to act as witnesses.
Before signing the register, you should check the information in the entry is correct. It is possible to get incorrect information in the register on marriage certificates changed if there is proof that the errors were noted at the time of the marriage. When trying to correct information at a later stage, you will have to explain in writing how the incorrect information came to be recorded at the time of the marriage and may need to provide documents as evidence to prove your statements. The process may take a long time.
A fee must be paid for the ceremony. A certified copy of the entry in the register may be obtained at the time of the marriage for a fee. Additional copies may be obtained for a further fee.
RELIGIOUS MARRIAGE CEREMONY INSTEAD OF THE CIVIL ONE
The Church of England and the Church in Wales are allowed to register a marriage at the same time as performing the religious ceremony. You won't have to give notice of the marriage to the Register Office unless you or your partner are a non-EEA national. If this is the case, you will need to give 28 days’ notice to the Register Office.
Ministers and priests of all other religions can be authorised to register marriages and must have a certificate or licence to do so from the local Superintendent Registrar. For Jewish and Quaker marriages, the rabbi or minister will automatically have authorisation to register the marriage. For all other religions, if the official performing the ceremony is not authorised, either a Registrar must attend the religious ceremony or the partners will need to have separate religious and civil ceremonies.
For opposite sex couples only, instead of going to the Superintendent Registrar before the ceremony, banns (a notice of the proposed marriage) can be read in the parish church of each of the partners and in the church where it has been agreed the marriage can take place. Banns must be read on three Sundays before the ceremony.
In England, in some cases, the vicar may advise that you need to apply to the Church of England for a licence instead of using the banns procedure. You can find out more about getting married in the Church of England on the Church of England website at www.yourchurchwedding.org
ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR CITIZENS OF COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA (EEA)
If you or your partner are not citizens of a European Economic Area country, you'll have to submit evidence of your immigration status when you give notice to marry.
If you are travelling to the UK to marry either a British citizen or an EEA national, you will need a visa. This is called entry clearance.
If you are not an EEA national you will need either a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner visa.
If you are an EEA national you will need an EEA Family Permit.
For more information on coming to the UK to marry, go to the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk/marriage-visa
MARRIAGE FOR IMMIGRATION PURPOSES?
If the registrar believes that a person is entering or has entered into a marriage for immigration purposes, the registrar has a duty to report this to the Home Office.
The registrar must provide the Home Office with certain information, including the marital status and nationality of the person. The Home Office may wish to carry out an investigation to ensure that the proposed marriage is not a 'sham'.
In the case of an investigation the Home Office may extend the notice period to 70 days in order to gather evidence. If you don't cooperate with the investigations you may not be allowed to marry. You also risk being prosecuted and, if you are the person subject to immigration control, you will gain no advantage from the marriage and could be removed from the UK.
GETTING MARRIED ABROAD
If you wish to marry abroad, you must make sure that you comply with the local laws. Marriages that are conducted abroad are recognised as valid in the UK, as long as they are conducted according to the local laws and would be valid in that country.
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