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Guidance on marriage procedures in Northern Ireland

alt="" Couples intending to marry in Northern Ireland have a choice of either a religious or a civil ceremony. The preliminaries are the same for both types of marriage.

Who can be married in Northern Ireland?

Any two persons may marry in Northern Ireland provided that:

  • both persons are at least 16 years of age on the day of their marriage - anyone under 18 will need parental consent, or if appropriate an order of a court dispensing with consent
  • they are not related to each other in a way which would prevent their marrying
  • they are unmarried (any previous marriage must have been ended by divorce, death or annulment)
  • they are not of the same sex
  • they are capable of understanding the nature of a marriage ceremony and of consenting to marriage

However, certain conditions apply for persons subject to immigration control.

Religious marriage

A religious marriage may only be performed by a person (for example, minister, priest, pastor) who has been registered as an Officiant and authorized by the Registrar General to conduct religious marriages. A couple wishing to have a religious ceremony should consult with the Officiant and agree the date and venue. A religious ceremony may, with the agreement of the Officiant, take place anywhere in Northern Ireland.

Civil marriage

A civil marriage may only be conducted by the Registrar or Deputy Registrar for the District in which it is to take place. A civil ceremony may be conducted in the Registrar's Office or in an approved place.

Making arrangements for your marriage ceremony

It is important to make early arrangements for the date and time of your marriage. If you are having a religious ceremony, contact the Officiant who is to take the service before completing the Marriage Notice form.

If you are planning to have a civil ceremony you may wish to make advance arrangements with the Registrar. This is important as certain times of the year are very popular. You may also find that your choice of approved place may have limited availability.

You should arrange for two persons, aged 16 or over, to be present at your wedding to act as witnesses. This is required for both religious and civil ceremonies.

You should let the Officiant or the Registrar know if you change your plans or decide to postpone your marriage.

More useful links

Forced marriage

Forced marriage is regarded as an abuse of human rights and a form of domestic abuse and, where it affects children and young people, child abuse. It can happen to both men and women. The courts now have the powers to prevent forced marriages from occurring or offer protection to those who have been forced to take part in a marriage.