What is a Civil Ceremony?

January 6, 2014. Written by

A civil ceremony contains no religious elements or anything with religious connotation.

Civil Ceremony at Dodmoor House

Civil Ceremony at Dodmoor House, Claire and Conal’s Real Wedding

Civil ceremonies can take place in various venues.

Legally, you can get married in the UK if you are:

  • 16 or over (or with permission from your parents or guardians if either of you are under 18 unless you marry in Scotland where you can marry at 16 without parental consent)
  • free to marry  because you are either single, divorced or widowed
  • not closely related

From 29 March 2014, same sex couples can get married in England and Wales. You can only get a civil partnership as a same sex couple.

A civil ceremony is conducted by the superintendent registrar or deputy and can take place in a register office or a licensed venue after 8am and before 6pm, subject to staffing arrangements.

The registrar has to receive an ‘authority’ for your marriage to be able to proceed, which can only be obtained by giving a notice of marriage, which you must do at your local register office (or offices if you live in different areas) at least 15 days before the wedding.

You will need to bring at least two other people to the ceremony who are prepared to witness the marriage and sign the marriage register.

Getting married abroad

If you want to get married or enter into a civil partnership abroad you can register your overseas marriage or civil partnership in the UK if one of you is:

  • a UK national marrying a foreign national before a UK consular officer in a country without legal registration facilities
  • a serving member of, or attached to, the British Armed Forces

Marrying in England or Wales if you live abroad

If you or your partner isr esident in England or Wales you may be able to give notice in the country where you are living if that country has signed up to the ‘British Subjects Facilities Acts’. Contact the register office for the district in England and Wales where you intend to marry.

This article was written by

Kate Thompson
Kate Thompson is Confetti’s Features Editor and a wedding expert with over 12 years' experience. Kate writes regular features for Confetti and the national press and wedding media. She has appeared on BBC TV and radio and been the expert on live web chats and podcasts.  

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