Getting married can be a major milestone in your life, full of meaning and emotion. Sometimes planning the actual celebration of marriage can get chaotic with endless details suddenly taking on a new importance. If you are overseas and want to marry or celebrate a marriage in the UK, taking care of the logistics can seem overwhelming.
I get a lot of enquiries from people who live in Australia and want to either get married in the UK, or have already married overseas and now wish to celebrate with a UK ceremony for friends and family. Below are typical questions asked by people who live abroad and wish to celebrate their marriage in the UK.
What’s the difference between a registrar and a celebrant?
A registrar is responsible for keeping records. If you plan to get married in the UK you must have the legal part of the ceremony in front of a religious minister (if it’s a religious ceremony) or a registrar for it to be legally binding.
I am a celebrant which means that the legal part of the marriage must take place with a registrar and two witnesses. This can be before or after your ceremony with me, but to be legally binding the marriage must be registered at the registry office with a registrar, and two witnesses.
Do I have to have a marriage registered in the UK to have a celebrant ceremony?
You don’t have to register your marriage in the UK at all, to be able to have a celebrant ceremony. Some couples might have legally married where they live overseas, and now wish to share a special ceremony in the UK to mark the occasion.
Some couples prefer not to observe the legal part of the marriage ceremony at all, and simply want to confirm their commitment to one another in front of family and friends.
Wedding celebrant ceremonies
As a celebrant I can help you design and enjoy your wedding ceremony so it is personal and memorable. Some examples of ceremonies are included on the Wedding page. It’s important that you and your partner plan a celebration that resonates with you, and the ceremony can be whatever you want it to be.
In religious venues like a church, the ceremony must have a religious basis. A celebrant ceremony can take place absolutely anywhere, and it’s up to you and your partner what words and vows are exchanged.
If you do wish to have your marriage legally registered in the UK before your celebrant ceremony, there are some requirements that it can be helpful to know.
Who can get married in the UK?
You can legally marry someone in England, Wales, or Scotland who is of the same sex or the opposite sex. Both partners must be aged 16 or over, though 16 and 17 year olds have to have permission from all parents.
Giving notice of intention to marry in the UK
In England, Wales, and Scotland, you must give notice to your local register office at least 29 days before you intend to perform the legal binding part of your wedding.
You must have been in the UK for at least 7 days before you can apply to register. The registry office that you apply to must cover the address of where you have lived for those 7 days.
In reality this means that if you live overseas and want to come to the UK to get married, you should plan for either two trips (registration, then return for the marriage), or one long one! There is a cost involved, so check in advance what this is.
If you or your partner is a foreign national
If you or your partner are subject to immigration control and need a visa to enter the UK, you can only give notice at a Designated Register Office in England and Wales. The approval process is a bit longer, so allow up to 70 days. There is a cost involved, so check in advance what this is.