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Everything You Need To Know About Having A Civil Ceremony

Civil Ceremonies

What is a Civil Ceremony?

A civil ceremony is a legal marriage ceremony in which there are no religious links. Civil ceremonies can take place at registry offices and at other locations, such as stately homes and hotels, as long as they hold a marriage licence.

Your local registry office will hold a list of all venues that are licensed to hold civil ceremonies within their area. You may also find that your local registry service will be at local wedding fair, where you can ask them any questions you may have and obtain a list of venues where they can perform your civil ceremony.

Check for Licenses

If there is a particular venue you are interested in, and you also wish to hold your ceremony there, you should always ask if they are licensed for ceremonies. If they are not, then it could be possible for you to have a non-legal ceremony there and then legalise your marriage later in a ceremony at a registry office.

Outdoor Civil Ceremonies

This is also the case if you’d like an outdoor wedding. In the UK, in order for a venue to be licensed for a civil ceremony they must have a permanent structure where the ceremony can take place.

A gazebo that is a permanent structure would be fine, but if you want a real outdoorsy wedding, then you can legalise it at your registry office afterwards.

Notice of Marriage

If you decide to have a civil ceremony you will need to give notice. By law, a Notice of Marriage must be displayed at your local registry office for a period of 15 clear days before your wedding.

This is just a notice to state that you and your partner wish to marry, which is displayed to give others time to come forward if they know of any legal reasons why you should not marry.

You will need to give notice to the registry office in person, as you will also be asked questions, such as your name, age and nationality.

Required documentation

You will also need to take your passport or birth certificate with you, as well as a divorce decree absolute (if you have previously been married), and other certificates or documentation to confirm your marital/civil partnership status, residence, nationality and names.

Getting married outside of your local area?

If you are planning on getting married outside of your local area, then you will need to give notice at your local registry office and the registry office in the area in which you plan to marry. When you contact your registry office, they will setup an appointment for you to give notice and confirm the documentation you will need to take with you.

You have one year to make it official!

Once you have given notice, you then have up to a year to get married. So, if you were to give notice on 1st May, you would be able to marry between 17th May and 1st May the following year. If your ceremony falls outside of this time frame, then you will again need to give notice.

If you’re a foreign national and subject to immigration control, then the process can take a little longer, so you should allow yourself more time for this.

Do you need consent?

If you’re 16 or 17 years of age, you will also need written consent from a parent or guardian in order to marry – so don’t forget to allow time for this too if you need to.


You can personalise your civil ceremony by including some readings. There are lots of readings that can be used in your ceremony and your registry office should be able to provide you with some ideas.