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Lessons in Wedding Planning: the legal stuff

25 Oct 2016

Bride-to-be Jessica Phillipson sorts out the less fun part of getting married... the legalities

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Hi brides-to-be,

By this point in planning, I’m realising there are so many things to think about with this wedding stuff. Annoyingly, the most important part is also the least interesting – the legal bits.

Yes, getting married to the love of your life is a wonderful and romantic thing to do, but it’s actually a big party over a legal contract. And if you don’t get it right, things can quickly go awry – here’s how to stay on track.


Book your registrar before your venue

These things will tend to happen very close together, but there must be nothing worse than booking a date with your venue, only to find out that nobody is available to actually marry you.

My venue and local council made it very easy. The venue agreed to hold the date for one week, giving me plenty of time to fill out an enquiry form with the local council, who then called me back within 24 hours to confirm. Be warned: popular dates (basically every Saturday in peak wedding season) are a busy time for registrars, so get in early. There is a cost for this (£504 in my case) and I was asked to pay £100 (which will be taken off the final amount) to secure a registrar for my date.

I could then go back to the venue to confirm, who of course required a much larger deposit.

This may seem obvious, but make sure you’re booking a registrar with the council local to your venue, so if you’re returning to a childhood home to get hitched, you need to communicate with that council, not the one where you live.

Also, you can only get married in venues approved by the council. I mentioned this in my blog on choosing a venue, but not all venues have a licence and some are cagey about being upfront about this.

Don’t forget to give notice

In the UK, you must attend a meeting to officially give notice of marriage at least 28 days before your ceremony, but you can do it up to six months before. My local council kindly sent me a prompt email to book our appointment.

It involved a short meeting, including separate interviews with my fiancé and I (cue panics about forgetting his birthday and/or job title). You need to take documents to prove your name, address, age and freedom to marry. A valid passport, birth certificate and recent bill should do the trick – the ‘freedom to marry’ part covers documents such as divorce papers if applicable.

Unlike booking a registrar, your notice to marry meeting takes place in the registration district where you live. And, of course, there’s a fee to pay of £35 each.

At some registry offices, this is also where you choose your ceremony wording and readings if applicable, but my local council has a snazzy website so we can take our time choosing what to say (we have up until two weeks before the wedding) – check what you’ll be expected to do on the day when you book your appointment.

Religious ceremonies

If you are getting married in a church or other religious building, the rules are slightly different.

If you’re having an Anglican marriage, you contact your local church, but do not need to give notice (the Anglican officials sort that bit). For most other religious ceremonies, you do still need to give notice, but you should check with the relevant authority.

It’s easier to get married in the church nearest to where you live, but you can get married in a different church if you have one of the below connections to it:

  • You or your partner has previously lived in the parish for a period of at least six months
  • You or your partner was baptised (christened) in the parish
  • You or your partner was prepared for confirmation in the parish
  • You or your partner has at any time regularly gone to normal church services in the parish church for a period of at least six months (you can start doing this ahead of your wedding if you have your heart set on a particular church)
  • One of your parents (at any time after you were born) lived in the parish for a period of at least six months or
  • One of your parents (at any time after you were born) regularly went to normal church services in the parish church for a period of at least six months
  • One of your parents or grandparents was married in the parish

Religious ceremonies also require banns to be published before the wedding can take place. Banns need to be read in the parish where you live, as well as the church you’re getting married if it’s not local. Banns must be read in church for three Sundays during the three months before the wedding, so plenty of notice must be given.

At the ceremony

You, your new husband/wife and two witnesses need to sign the marriage register on your wedding day. You have to pay a fee to register a UK marriage or civil partnership, which is £46 if you have the ceremony at a registry office, but can be more at other venues. Your marriage certificate costs £4 on the day of the event or £10 to get a copy afterwards – the £4 was built in to the cost my registry office gave me, but it’s worth checking. Everyone on the planet ever has advised us to get extras on the day, so it’s a) cheaper and b) quicker to send off for things like changing your name.

It’s a bit boring, but very important, so sign and pay for all the legal bits way ahead of time – another check off the list.

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