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Where You Can’t Get Married in the UK

21st July 2015 |By | 9 Comments

In an ideal world, you could have your wedding on your terms: in the location you want, at the time you want, reciting the vows you want. Unfortunately, the UK has some pretty strict and strange rules concerning when and where legal weddings and civil partnerships can take place. It all boils down to one frustrating fact: you can’t get married where you may want.

Where You Can't Get Married in the UK |

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Where You Can’t Get Married in the UK

You can fall in love literally anywhere: at the checkouts in a supermarket, on a train, on a beach, in a hospital but the same cannot be said of marriage in the UK. In fact, the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Regulations asserts that weddings cannot happen just anywhere.

Gone is the idyllic notion to mutter your vows in a lush English garden surrounded by roses, wildflowers. In the UK, you may not be able to legally marry with your toes in the sand of a beach, the tide becking at your back (except in Scotland.) Nor can you marry in a tent or a marquee or any other temporary structure. As of 2015, outdoor weddings can occur provided the venue obtain an additional licence. We’re pleased to announce that one of our suppliers Bickleigh Castle in Devon is one of the first UK venues with a licence to host outdoor weddings!

Bickleigh Castle in Devon |

Get married in the great British outdoors at Bickleigh Castle.

You cannot marry in most forms of transport, this means trains, planes and automobiles are out of the question. In fact, the law states legal premises are those that are permanently immovable, comprising of at least a room that is permanently moored. You can get married in a boat or other vessel so long as it, like all other legal venues, is fixed in place permanently.

To further complicate proceedings, current UK law also prohibits civil marriages occurring on premises licensed for religious holdings. Up until 2012, there were even laws that stated marriages had to take place between 8:00 and 18:00! Thankfully, that is no longer law, giving couples the right to marry any time of day they choose (venue, officiant or minister willing, of course.)

What You Can’t Say at Your Wedding in the UK

Writing your own vows is a sweet way to put a unique spin on your wedding. It’s an easy way to keep your wedding about you and the love of your life: you could include inside jokes, promises that matter to the two of you and on and on. The operative word here being could.

In the UK, you cannot write your own vows. Instead, you must choose from a set of pre-written vows either for religious or civil weddings and recite these to your partner. Wedding ceremonies in the UK are not set up to be manipulated or customised. They are viewed as a wholly legal, binding and serious matter, with strict rules, guidelines and requirements.

What You Can't Say at Your UK Wedding |

This realisation can be shocking for newly engaged couples as they set about planning their wedding. Suddenly, they find they must confirm to somewhat archaic rules enforced by government on what may be the happiest day of their life together.

Thankfully, there are still ways to get exactly what you and your soon-to-be spouse want for your wedding day. It does require a bit of finagling and it might mean you end up forking out a bit more for the wedding budget, but you can have the day of your dreams.

How to Get the Wedding You Want

  1. Go to Scotland or
    Head to Europe, America, Africa, pretty much any other developed country has more laid-back marriage laws than the UK and they’ll let you tie the knot on a beach, too.
  2. Do it twice
    You can have a blessing or unofficial ceremony on the beach, in a garden, in a tent or a marquee, so long as you realise it will not be legally binding. To make it so, you’ll have to head to a registrar’s office before or after and do things the proper way.

How to Get the Wedding You Want |

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9 Replies to “Where You Can’t Get Married in the UK”

  1. Lily

    This is not accurate, as a registrar I can confirm as long as you say the legally binding words a ceremony can be personal to each couple, you CAN compose and read your own vows, you can have readings, even performances as part of your ceremony..

    Being married outside is also completely possible, many choose to be married under the cover of a licensed gazebo, pavilion etc it does have to be a fixed and permanent structure by licensing rules although you can choose an outside in or inside out wedding and as long as the legal vows are completed under the cover of a licenced room, a ceremony can then be delivered outside by the same registrar.

    maybe do a little bit more research before publishing next time.

    Reply· Aug 19, 2017 8:58pm
    1. Becky

      Hello, we are getting married in a licensed barn in West Sussex and we understand we need to be stood inside the barn to legally marry, our guests however will be sat in a courtyard looking into the barn. Do you know if the registrar also needs to be stood inside the barn or are they able to stand just outside the barn, facing us inside? Thank you! Advice appreciated.

      Mar 3, 2018 11:24am
  2. Sonia Gould

    I’d like to get married in a local barn, proper rustic wedding and I understand I’d have to pay for the registrar to travel, so is this actually possible? Any advice would be welcomed, thank you in advance. I am happy with the standard vows so no issues there, just the venue

    Reply· Sep 2, 2017 12:11am
  3. chris griffiths

    Hi Lily
    We are fortunate to own our own boat. Would it be possible for us to get married on her?

    Reply· Sep 9, 2017 10:19pm
  4. Kayleigh Simpson

    My dream wedding is to get married in a garden/ woodland area under trees and have my evening event at the same area. Could it be done legally in this event set up, outside not neccessary in a gazebo?

    Reply· Sep 13, 2017 1:10pm
  5. corinne

    So can you not get married on a beach in wales?

    Reply· Oct 6, 2017 9:11pm
  6. Syliva Littlewood

    Whenever you say “Where you can’t get married in the UK” what you mean is where you cannot get married in England and Wales. It is different in Scotland. Anyone wishing to get married in Scotland should look at the NRS website (National Records of Scotland) where you can get information about how and where you can get married in Scotland. From their website under “What form does a marriage ceremony take in Scotland” it states …There is no legally prescribed form of words to be used in relation to ‘marriage vows’ in Scotland. … Whether you are planning your civil ceremony to take place in a registrar’s office, or at a place agreed with the registration authority, you may choose to personalise your civil ceremony. You may incorporate readings, poetry, music or indeed your own personal vows to one another, in addition to the legal declarations you must make… Please check your facts before publishing things like this or at least give them their correct heading. And for all those reading this please check with the Registrar in the area you wish to get married they know exactly what you can and cannot do in their area and will be more than happy to help and advise.

    Reply· Nov 15, 2017 12:55pm
  7. Beth

    My mother is extremely ill and now bedbound, she has just proposed to her dear ex boyfriend who has accepted.
    We dearly want to make this wish of hers a reality. She’s such an inspiring woman who deserves every effort and every happiness.
    How can this be done? Any advice very much appreciated.

    Reply· Feb 26, 2018 9:05am
    1. Kate Thompson
      Kate Thompson

      Yes it is legally possible to marry in the home of one of the partners if the partner is housebound. I’d advise you to contact your local minister or registrar for more information and we wish you all a wonderful day.

      Feb 26, 2018 10:46am

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