Marriage and the law
How to make sure you’re legally married
To be legally married in the UK, you must fulfil these requirements:
- You and your partner must be at least 16 years old. In England and Wales, if either party is under 18, written consent to the marriage must be obtained from the parents or legal guardian.
- You must not be closely related.
- The marriage must take place in premises where marriage can be legally solemnised. These include register offices, premises that have been given a civil licence by the local authority, parish churches of the Church of England and other churches that have been registered by the Register General for worship and marriage. There are exceptions for military marriages or for those who are detained, or housebound.
- The ceremony must take place in the presence of a superintendent registrar, a registrar or an authorised person.
- The ceremony must take place between 8am and 6pm (except for Jews and the Society of Friends).
- Two witnesses must be present to witness the ceremony.
- You must both be free and eligible to marry.
Legal requirements vary widely for marriages abroad, so be sure you know exactly what you need to have. You can find out by searching our Getting married Abroad section but bear in mind that it can take months to organise the paperwork for an overseas wedding. The good news is, though, that if your marriage is considered legal in the country in which it was contracted, then it will be recognised in the UK.
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