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How do we complete the legal part of getting married?

Updated: Jul 11

Many couples book a simple ceremony at their local Register Office in the week prior or after their ceremony with me (but this can be done at any time). They take two witnesses with them and complete the legal requirements of their marriage. This means that you don't exchange rings or say vows to each other or have music or readings. It's a bit like a trip to a solicitor or when you go to register a birth or death. This costs approximately £50 and is usually available on a specific morning each week so it is advisable to book well in advance to secure your slot. Before you do this you will also need to have given notice (ideally 3 months but at least 4 weeks before). This is where you sign a legal statement at your local register office to say you intend to get married or form a civil partnership. You must hold your ceremony within 12 months of ‘giving notice’. This costs an additional £35 each plus £30 for the appointment and £11 for the certificate. You need to give notice and pay all these fees even if you are being married by a registrar at a venue and not using a celebrant.


Will your guests know your ceremony with me is not legally binding? It is up to you what you tell your guests. A celebrant ceremony is a real and very beautiful wedding ceremony, where couples declare their love and commitment to each other in front of their family and friends. You may also choose to include a certificate signing or a whole host of other symbolic additions. Many couples choose to not tell their guests that it is not a legal ceremony and their guests are none the wiser, in fact regularly guests say after the ceremony that it was much more personalised and beautiful than other weddings they’ve been to!


In the simplest terms think about your birthday - that's the day that everyone gets together and has a party every year - no-one celebrates the day your parents went and registered the birth.


But what do we actually need to do?

You need to register your intent to marry (also known as giving notice). This enables the registration service to prepare your legal documentation and record the details of your marriage. Contact your local office (in the district you live in) and advise them that you want to give notice, and will just require a simple service to complete your paperwork and declarations. You can do this 12 months before, and have to give at least 28 days notice before you go in to complete the legal service (ideally though give at least 3 months). You can choose when this takes place so book your legal signing in when it suits you at your local registry office. You will be asked for certain information when giving notice of your intention to marry. You can view the list HERE When you attend your legal service, you don’t have to exchange rings or vows, (or any other personalisation like readings or music), it is not a legal requirement to do this when you sign your papers. Just inform the registry office that you would like a simple quick service, just yourselves and 2 witnesses. They usually have sessions on a Monday at the registry office where they do this type of service. The registrars might try and upsell you to another day / bigger room / more people / more elements, but it really isn’t necessary.


You will be required to take two witnesses and choose one from each of the following legal statements:


Declaratory Words

“I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, AB, may not be joined in matrimony to CD.”

or “I declare that I know of no legal reason why I, AB, may not be joined in marriage to CD.”

Or By replying “I am” to the question “Are you AB free lawfully to marry CD?” …


This is followed by the Contractual Vows


“I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, AB, do take thee, CD, to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband).”

or “I AB take you CD to be my wedded wife (or husband)”

or “I AB take thee CD to be my wedded wife (or husband)” …


You do not need to say vows or exchange rings or have music.


The Standard UK Fees Notice of Marriage are £35 per person which are payable to the registration service in which both parties live. You will also need to pay £30 for that appointment. You will also need to book the Statutory Ceremony which is usually around £50 plus your marriage certificate which is £11.


It’s entirely up to you when you complete the legals - some people do it in the weeks leading up to the ceremony and some follow.


And what about if we went down the route of having a registrar at our venue instead of Vikki?

The process is exactly the same as the above, you make an appointment (£30), register your intent to marry (£35 each) but then instead of completing the paperwork at the registry office you would get them to come to your venue and do that for you with a simple ceremony (£450 on a Saturday).


The ceremony is quite sterile and would be performed by someone you have never met, and who knows nothing about you other than your names, with very limited options, no real scope for personalisation and a number of restrictions about what can / can't be said.


Vikki Harris is a Lancashire Wedding Celebrant



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