UK Legal Requirements for Marriage

uk legal requirements for marriage

Weddings are a mixed bag of emotions. It takes a long time like months and even years to plan a wedding. You want everything to be perfect, right from the venue to the decorations to your wedding dress and the reception lunch/ dinner. You’ve got to plan so much; it can be overwhelming and terrifying.

While the preparations and planning go on one side, there is something else you need to add to the list. What’s that you ask?

Well, the UK legal requirements for marriage documents that are required to formalize and make your marriage official, of course. Depending on where you choose to get married, the legal requirements tend to change a bit. Many factors are considered before approving a marriage between two parties.

In this blog, you’ll find the necessary information about the legal requirements for getting married in the United Kingdom. Please note, there are no legal requirements for your wedding vows.

UK Legal Requirements for Marriage – Marriage Location

The marriage can take place in various locations such as-

  • Register Office
  • Church of England, Church of Wales
  • Hotels, Wedding venues, etc. approved by the local authorities
  • A private location or a synagogue if the partners are Jewish
  • Registered religious buildings in England and Wales
  • The Meeting House (if one or both partners are members of the society)
  • Home of one of the partners (if they are homebound)
  • A Hospital (if one the partner is ill and not expected to recover)
  • A licensed Military, naval, or air force chapel
UK Legal Requirements for Marriage – Documents Required for the Marriage

It is important to remember that providing false information is a criminal offence and is taken seriously.

  • Proof of Name and Address
  • Proof of Age and Date of Birth
  • Proof of Nationality
  • Proof of the end of a previous marriage or civil partnership (if one or both partners have been in a legal relationship with others). A certified copy has to be submitted at the office.
  • Immigrants need to submit proof of their immigration status.
  • Overseas partners may have to show the passport, though it is not mandatory. The Birth Certificate, however, is essential.
  • A non-EEA (European Economic Area) national can marry in the UK or Wales after acquiring a travel visa if they wish to marry a British (citizen/ settled citizen) or an EEA national. An EEA national doesn’t require a travel visa.
  • A citizen subject to immigration control should notice only at the Designated Register Office in England and Wales.

uk legal requirements for marriage

UK Legal Requirements for Marriage – Official vs. Religious Wedding Ceremonies

Whether you are to marry in a Register Office or a religious ceremony, you will need to sign the marriage register along with your partner and two other witnesses. The witnesses should not belong to the Register Office and should have the mental capacity to comprehend the event’s implications. The marriage should also be conducted by an authorized person who is registered in the district.

The couple should give a notice about their wedding 28 days in advance at the local Register Office. They have a maximum period of 12 months to get married after giving the notice. The notice-fee has to be paid for the purpose. Also, the couple should be the residents of England/ Wales a week (seven days) before giving the notice.
That said, if the couple has been in a civil partnership with each other or if one of them has acquired a gender recognition certificate, they are eligible to get married without the minimum notice period of 28 days.

While outsiders/ others have the right to raise objections about the wedding (during the notice period), making a false claim will be considered a criminal offence.
Couples of same sex marriage cannot opt for a religious ceremony unless the said organisation has agreed to it. But they can choose a civil ceremony, which is valid and legal in England and Wales. Same sex couples cannot get married in the Church of England and Church of Wales. If the couple has been married in a foreign country, their marriage is recognised in England and Wales.

Couples of the opposite sex are permitted to get married in any of the officially recognised religious places (if they belong to other religions).

UK Legal Requirements for Marriage – Marriages that Are Not Permitted  

The legal age for getting married is 18. If the bride or the groom is less than 18 years of age, they need to provide parental consent (from both sets of parents) to get married! If the parental/ guardian responsibility lies with anybody else, the said person should provide consent for the wedding. Without consent, the marriage is not permitted.

Suppose one of the parties has been forced into the marriage (whether it is due to parental/ family pressure or due to the mental inability of the person to make decisions)! In that case, the Forced Marriage Unit can be contacted for advice. The Forced Marriage Unit can be contacted for advice. Forced marriage is a criminal offence in England and Wales with prison time up to 7 years.

A proxy marriage is not valid in the UK. But if the couple is domiciled in a country that recognizes proxy marriages, then it can be valid in the country. However, it is best to seek legal advice about the same. A proxy wedding is where one or both the partners are not present (physically) at the ceremony.

UK Legal Requirements for Marriage – Marriages that are Deemed Void

A marriage between the following relations is void-

  • With a child or parent (adopted or own)
  • With a brother/ sister (half-relations are also included)
  • With a parent’s brother/ sister (half-relations are also included)
  • With a grandchild/ grandparent
  • With a brother/ sister’s child (half-relations are also included)
  • Between adopted children and genetic parents/ grandparents
  • Bigamous marriage (it is a criminal offence)
  • Polygamous marriage (including domiciled partners in the country)
  • The partner(s) can choose to annul the wedding for various other reasons
UK Legal Requirements for Marriage – Conclusion

Don’t forget to get the marriage certificates from the General Register Office as proof of the wedding. You can check out their official website for more information.


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