Getting married in a civil ceremony
A civil marriage ceremony can be conducted by a registrar or deputy registrar for the district in which it is to take place.
Before you can give notice of your marriage you must decide when and where you want the ceremony to take place.
You should also arrange for two people, aged 16 or over, to be at your marriage to act as witnesses.
If you are aged over 16 and under 18 years old you can enter into a civil partnership in Northern Ireland but you should note that your civil partnership will not be legally recognised in England and Wales.
The minimum age for civil partnership in England and Wales is 18 years of age and this is the case even if you enter into a civil partnership in Northern Ireland.
This applies to all couples forming a civil partnership in Northern Ireland, where one or both parties are under the age of 18.
It is particularly relevant to couples who have a home address in the England and Wales.
Couples from the Republic of Ireland
If you are aged over 16 and under 18 years old you can marry in Northern Ireland. But, you should note that your marriage will not be legally recognised in the Republic of Ireland.
The minimum age for marriage in the Republic of Ireland is 18 years of age and this is the case even if you marry in Northern Ireland.
This applies to all couples marrying in Northern Ireland, where one or both parties are under the age of 18.
It is particularly relevant to couples who have a home address in the Republic of Ireland.
Couples from England and Wales
If you are aged over 16 and under 18 years old and have a home address in England or Wales the Registrar cannot accept a notice of marriage.
The legal age for marriage in England and Wales is 18 years old.
It is an offence for a Registrar to allow a child under the age of 18, who is habitually resident in England and Wales to marry in Northern Ireland.
If you choose a registrar to conduct your ceremony, remember to make early arrangements with them.
This is important as certain times of the year are very popular and your choice of approved venue may have limited availability.
You should let the registrar know if you change your plans or decide to postpone your marriage.
Choosing a venue
A civil ceremony can be held in the registrar's office or in an approved place.
You can also apply for a temporary venue for a civil ceremony at a place of your own choice, such as your own home.
You should contact the registrar of the council district in which the ceremony will be registered and they will advise you about the fee and how to apply.
If you are marrying in a civil ceremony conducted by a registrar you can expect to pay the following:
- a fee for giving notice
- a fee for solemnisation of the marriage
- a fee for use of the council office/ room or for the registrar to take part at an approved venue
These fees are payable when you present your notice application.
The fee for giving notice is £22.00 per notice form. You will need a separate form for each person.
The registrar’s fee for the solemnisation of the marriage will depend on when the marriage is due to take place (see table).
|Monday to Friday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm||£36.00|
|Monday to Friday, 5.00 pm to 8.00 pm||£162.00|
|Saturday, 9.00 am to 5.00 pm||£162.00|
|Saturday after 5.00 pm, Sunday and bank holidays||£216.00|
If you choose to marry at a registrar’s office you will pay a fee, depending on when the marriage is due to take place and the marriage room you choose.
If you choose to marry at an approved venue, you will need to pay a fee for the registrar to take part.
You’ll need to speak to the relevant council to find out details of the above fees. The solemnisation fee is usually included in the amount charged.
You can find out more about giving notice, including how and when to send in your marriage notice application form:
When the registrar is content that there is no reason why the marriage can’t take place, a marriage schedule will be prepared from the information you have given in the marriage notice form.
No marriage can go ahead without a marriage schedule.
Marriage schedule - registrar
The registrar will make sure that the marriage schedule is available at the marriage ceremony for signature.
The marriage ceremony may only be conducted by a registrar or deputy registrar who has been authorised by the Registrar General.
Nothing of a religious nature may be included in the ceremony. However, music, poetry, exchange of rings and flower arrangements may be included. You should talk about these with the registrar.
It's important that the marriage ceremony should start on time, as more than one marriage may be planned on that day.
The groom, best man (and ushers, if needed) should arrive at the venue for the marriage at least 20 minutes before the ceremony. The bride and bridesmaids should arrive at least 10 minutes before.
The registrar will welcome everyone before the bride enters and give instructions about video recording and photography during the ceremony.
The ceremony will last for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Registering your marriage
If a registrar conducted the ceremony, they will provide a marriage certificate and register the marriage after the ceremony.
A marriage certificate may be ordered after the schedule has been returned to the registrar and the marriage registered.
Find out how to order a marriage certificate: