Getting married in a religious ceremony

A religious marriage can only be performed by a minister, priest or pastor, who has been registered as an Officiant and authorised by the Registrar General to conduct religious marriages. Same sex couples are able to have a civil marriage only.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) marriage/ civil partnership ceremony restrictions 

Be aware that your marriage/ civil partnership ceremony must be conducted under the current NI Executive restrictions. 

Private dwellings

No mixing of households is allowed at a private dwelling, therefore it will not be possible for a ceremony to be held indoors as the registrar would not be allowed to enter the premises.

Outdoor gatherings at a private dwelling (including the garden of the dwelling) is restricted to six people from two different households.  Children aged 12 and under from those two households are not counted in this total. 

If all other participants at the ceremony are not from the same household, the ceremony cannot proceed, as the registrar can be the only person from a separate household. 

If one of the parties is terminally ill

A marriage or civil partnership can take place in a person’s home if one of the parties is terminally ill, with six people in attendance (this includes the couple, two witnesses and the officiant).

Non-private locations

Indoor gatherings in a non-private location (for example a hotel, religious location, registration office) can go ahead. 

The number attending must be discussed and agreed with the venue, which will determine attendance based on the size of the venue and the ability to socially distance.

Outdoor gatherings in non-private dwelling locations can go ahead. 

The NI Executive has stated that certain events can have more than 15 people attending, including marriage and civil partnership ceremonies, as long as a risk assessment is carried out.

The number attending must be discussed and agreed with the venue, which will determine attendance based on the size of the venue and the ability to socially distance. 

Making arrangements

Before you can give notice of your marriage you must decide when and where you want the marriage to take place.

A couple wishing to have a religious ceremony should talk 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.

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

Same sex religious marriage

A same sex couple will be able to give notice of their intent to form a same sex marriage to the registrar in their local district council from 1 September 2020.

The General Register Office for Northern Ireland (GRONI) has written to each religious organisation to confirm if they wish to carry out same sex marriage.

All churches and their officiants are currently registered as not carrying out same sex marriage.

Giving notice

You can find out more about giving notice of your marriage, including how and when to present your marriage notice application form at the link below.

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

The marriage schedule will be issued to either the future bride or groom by the registrar.

The schedule cannot be issued more than 14 days before the marriage and the registrar will advise you when the marriage schedule can be collected.

The schedule cannot be collected on your behalf by a relative or friend, the registrar will issue it only to the prospective bride or bridegroom who will have to sign for it.

The marriage schedule must be produced before the marriage ceremony to the person performing the marriage.

Immediately after the ceremony, the schedule must be signed by the bride and groom, the person performing the marriage and the two witnesses. The bride should sign in her maiden name.

Registering your marriage

Due to the ongoing restrictions as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19), registration offices are open but are all operating on an appointment only basis.

If have been married in a religious service and have not yet returned your marriage schedule to the registrar you should keep this document and make an appointment.

If you need to register your marriage urgently you should return the schedule to the registration office by post.  You should ensure that you keep a copy of the document.

If you do not return the marriage schedule you will not be able to order a certified copy of your marriage.

Marriage certificate

If you are married at a religious ceremony you will not receive your marriage certificate immediately after the ceremony.

You can find out how to order a marriage certificate at this link:

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