What to know about getting married at a registry office

How do you feel about a registry office ceremony?

There are some incredible registry offices in the UK, and I'm sure they're not what you're picturing.

So, if you're wondering if you should, how to get married at a registry office, how much a registry office wedding costs, and other questions, this page is for you.

It's critical that you have all of the facts before making a decision, so let's get started with some'reasons why' it might be right for you...

There are numerous reasons to marry at a registry office.

Maybe you're not into the traditional white wedding and want to keep your day more casual, or you want more freedom to have a ceremony that is sentimentally meaningful to you.

Are you short on time, non-religious, or need to sort out the legalities before jetting off to an amazing destination wedding?

You can still make it a lovely and personal part of an unforgettable wedding day filled with family, friends, and celebrations.

Here are the answers to all of the frequently asked questions.

If your question isn't answered here, please leave a comment down below. I'll respond and notify you when it's completed.

Most people refer to it as a 'Registry Office.' It is, strictly speaking, a 'Register Office,' which is the term used on most official websites.

Click here for the most recent government guidance on Covid-related wedding restrictions.

A civil ceremony is a legally binding, non-religious marriage or civil partnership.

They are conducted by council-employed registrars, who also issue the legal certificate and maintain the official record of the marriage or civil partnership. It is a non-religious alternative to Church of England marriages for people of other faiths or who have no religion.

Because of the Civil Partnerships (opposite sex couples) Regulations 2019, a civil partnership can be formed by two people of the same sex as well as two people of the opposite sex.

This allows all couples to obtain legal recognition for their relationship and to be treated equally in a variety of legal matters as couples who enter into a marriage.

Are witnesses required at a registry office wedding? Absolutely You will require two

Who can be a witness at a registry office wedding? It could be anyone. You don't even have to know who they are.

It is customary, however, to select witnesses who are extremely close to you - best friends and family come to mind.

It is, after all, a special occasion.

There is no legal age limit for witnesses, but you should check with the registry office to ensure that the witnesses you choose do not have any restrictions - it's up to them, so make sure to check with the registrar.

Your witnesses must understand the ceremony's language and have the mental capacity to comprehend what is going on.

The 'legal bit' is that your witnesses must witness your ceremony before signing at the time of marriage, aside from being there to support you and celebrate your marriage with you.

Giving notice is a legal declaration made at your local register office indicating your intention to marry or form a civil partnership.

You must give notice at least 29 days before your ceremony and hold it within 12 months of giving notice.

To give notice, you usually need to make an appointment at your local register office. You must have resided in that registration district for the previous seven days.

You must give notice separately if you live in different registration districts, but you do not have to do so on the same day.

If you are both British or EU citizens, you will do this at the Register Office for the council area in which you live, even if it is not the one where your ceremony will take place.

If you or your partner are not from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland:

Even if you live in different districts, you must provide notice together at a designated register office.

A 'designated office' is a Register Office that is authorized to accept foreign nationals' notices. If the Register Office for the council area you live in is not a designated Register Office, you will need to find one that is.

Click here for more information on giving notice.

So, how much does a registry office wedding cost?

The fee for giving notice is typically £35 per person.

If either of you is not from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland and:

  1. To live in the United Kingdom, you must have a visa.

  2. You do not have a Visitor Visa for Marriage or Civil Partnership or a Family Visa.

The fee is then £47 per person.

You must also consider the cost of hiring your desired room/registry office, which will vary depending on your selection.

How much does a marriage certificate cost? Registrars usually include this in their fees.

Here are some important costs to be aware of that you may not have considered:

  • Fees for Saturday appointments with advance notice

  • Choosing a ceremony location i e not simply a registry office

  • Paying to have divorce documents approved from outside the UK

  • Making modifications to your application

How long does it take to get married at the registry office? It varies from office to office, but as a general rule, plan on 30 minutes total.

Depending on the registry office you've chosen, you'll be asked to arrive 15 to 30 minutes early.

You'll be interviewed separately before the ceremony (usually for about 5 minutes each, but it can take a little longer). The ceremony itself usually lasts about 15 minutes.

Allow extra time for photos in other areas of the registry office (grand stairways, for example), and check with your chosen registry office that they don't mind (it's very rare that they will object).

Also, remember to leave time after your ceremony for 'exit photos,' particularly your confetti shot if you intend to do so.

  1. The Superintendent Registrar will deliver a brief statement on marriage.

  2. You both say the same vows. These cannot be changed, but they can be supplemented as long as the additions are not religious in nature.

  3. Rings are not required but can be exchanged if desired.

  4. Following the ceremony, you and the registrar sign the marriage register. (Before signing the register, you'll be asked to double-check that the information in the entry is correct; resolving errors later is time-consuming and unpleasant.)

  5. At the time of the marriage, your witnesses must also sign.

  6. Celebrate

You must provide proof of your name, age, and nationality.

Normally, this would include a passport, birth certificate, proof of residence (utility bill), and proof of any name changes, if applicable.

Because registry offices may differ slightly, it's worth a quick call to confirm their requirements.

If you or your partner are not from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you will also need a passport-sized photo of both of you, proof of your current immigration status, and a translation of any documents that are not in English.

More information on the required documents can be found here.

What to wear to a registry office wedding is the big question.

The good news is that there are no limitations. If you want to wear a white wedding gown, go for it. Alternatively, you could use the occasion to deviate from tradition and bring your own distinct style to your wedding.

Registry office wedding rules may differ slightly depending on location, but the following are legally binding and apply to all register offices:

  • You must be at least 16 years old (you will need parental permission until you reach the age of 18).

  • The Registrar General must register the person marrying the couple. That is, they must be a superintendent registrar. If the ceremony is conducted by someone else, the registrar must be present to sign the register.

  • Readings from religious texts are not permitted.

  • There will be no religious songs. g Hymns are permitted (the ceremony may include readings, songs, or music that contain references to a god as long as they are in an 'essentially non-religious context' - consult your registrar ahead of time for advice and approval).

  • No food may be served or consumed prior to or during your ceremony.

As an aside, if you want to have your pet at your ceremony or have confetti (inside or outside), you must check the specific rules of your chosen office.

Different rules apply depending on the country you want to marry in, and it may be necessary for you to get married in a UK registry office first. It may be dependent on whether or not you have residency or have lived in the country in question for a specific period of time.

Use the tool on this page to learn how to obtain the documents you'll require.

The number of guests will be determined by your chosen register office's available rooms and capacity for your chosen date. You will need to consider any limitations imposed by Covid.

Readings, music, and personal vows are the best ways to make your ceremony unique to you both.

The person officiating your ceremony will usually give you some pre-written options for your vows (traditional, modern, or simplified). You may choose one of the options without making any changes, but you can add so much to your vows to make them more personal if you want to.

Make sure to have your wording approved by your registrar well in advance of your ceremony.

Certain legal language, such as the following, must be included:

"I solemnly declare that I am unaware of any legal impediment to my being married to (...)." ”

"I declare that I am aware of no legal reason why I (...) may not be married to (...)." ”

"I call upon these witnesses to bear witness that I (...) do take thee (...) to be my lawful wedded wife/husband." ”

"I (...), take you (...) as my wedded wife/husband." ”

Alternatively, "I (...) take thee (...) to be my wedded wife/husband." ”

Yes, you can get married at any register office, not just the one closest to you.

If your preferred location is not within your district, you should still notify your local office. They can then notify the office that you intend to marry at on your behalf.

After that, you'll need to contact your chosen registry office to schedule an interview, have your identity verified, and fill out a few forms. This interview typically lasts about 15 minutes.

Find a Registry Office

So, while this is a rare occurrence, it is critical that you are aware of it. If you have previously been in a civil partnership or married, you must present a decree absolute or your former partner's death certificate.

This page contains answers to all of the questions I am asked by couples considering a registry office wedding.

I've also summarized some of the key benefits to help you decide if it's right for you.

If you're thinking about getting married at a registry office, the information provided here will help you understand what's involved and make an informed decision between this and another type of ceremony.

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