Lusty Glaze Beach |

Where You Can’t Get Married in the UK

In an ideal world, you could have the wedding of your dreams on your terms: in the most remote or unusual location you want. There are, however, some rules concerning where you can’t get married in the UK. Here’s the law as it stands today, with some amazing ideas for where you can now marry, such as at a wedding venue in the middle of the sea!

Where you can't get married in the UK |
Lusty Glaze Beach, Cornwall | Image by Sarah Lauren Photography

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 there still remain many places where you can’t get married in the UK legally. In fact, the Marriage and Civil Partnerships Regulations asserts that weddings cannot happen just anywhere.


Can I Get Married on the Beach?

A wedding on a British beach, to the gentle sound of the lapping waves of the sea, against a rugged coastline with the sun setting in the distance might just be the most romantic idea ever. And it is possible – in some places. In Scotland you can legally marry with your toes in the sand, but in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you can only legally wed by the sea if you take your vows in a licensed venue on the beach with a solid roof. You cannot legally marry on the beach without this, nor can you marry in a tent or a marquee or any other temporary structure. The good news is there’s now an amazing choice of beaches and coastal wedding venues where you can tie the knot on the beach or very nearby.

Can I Get Married in the Garden?

You may have always dreamed of getting married outside in your family garden under the tree you so happily climbed as a child but sadly you can’t have a legally binding marriage ceremony there – unless your parents own a venue that has been licensed for civil ceremonies, of course. For couples who want to marry in the great outdoors, the good news is, as of 2015, outdoor wedding venues are now legal, provided the venue obtain an additional licence. The beautiful Bickleigh Castle in Devon was one of the first UK venues with a licence to host outdoor weddings in their stunning Victorian style garden gazebo on a lush green lawn, surrounded by breathtaking countryside views on all sides.

Where you can't get married in the UK |
Bickleigh Castle, Devon

Can I Get Married on a Train?

Train spotters and classic car enthusiasts may be interested to know that another place where you can’t get married in this country is in most forms of moving transport, meaning trains, planes and cars are all out of the question – unless they don’t move. You can, however, have more than a romantic brief encounter with all things trains if you get married at the National Railway Museum in North Yorkshire. In fact, the law states legal premises are those that are permanently immovable, comprising of at least a room that is permanently moored, like a boat…

Can I Get Married at Sea?

You can get married in a boat or other vessel in the UK, as long as it, like all other legal venues, is fixed in place permanently. There are slightly different rules that apply to weddings on a cruise ship that is leaving the UK, as you may marry on the ship but only if the captain is licensed to perform weddings. If you’re considering a wedding at sea then you will need to take advice from the cruise liner directly concerning possible locations in international waters and the additional documentation needed.

There are other ways, however, that you can have your wedding in or near the waves. You can get married at sea on Spitbank Fort, a luxury hotel and spa set in the middle of the Solent, off Portsmouth, or, for a slightly different type of wedding, tie the knot on Brighton Palace Pier, surrounded by the sea, with candy floss and Elvis!

Where you can't get married in the UK |
Solent Forts, Hampshire

Can I have a Civil Wedding in Church?

If you’d like to have a civil wedding and not a religious service but you love your pretty little parish church and think it would look perfect for your wedding day, unfortunately UK law 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.) You can have a civil wedding in the splendid beauty of a historic chapel in several places now including the stunning De Vere Horsely Estate in Surrey, complete with cloisters!

How to Get the Wedding You Want

If you don’t want to be limited by legal restrictions and intend to have a meaningful ceremony your way then these are your options:

  1. Hold your wedding in Scotland or get married abroad where the laws are less restrictive.
  2. Do it twice so you have the meaningful wedding ceremony you really want on the beach, in the garden or on a train as well as a legally binding marriage ceremony in a church, register office or other civil wedding venue either before or after.

Even though it may seem as though there are strict rules and regulations concering where you can’t get married in the UK, the laws have loosened in the last few years. It’s good to know also that there are ways you can have the wedding you want or a very near compromise.

For more wedding planning ideas for your ceremony please visit Alternative Unity Ceremony Ideas.

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