Guidance on marriage procedures in Northern Ireland
Couples marrying in Northern Ireland have a choice of either a religious ceremony or civil ceremony. The initial arrangements are the same for both types of marriage.
Who can be married in Northern Ireland
Any two people can marry in Northern Ireland as long as:
- both are at least 16 years of age on the day of their marriage - anyone under 18 will need permission from their parent or guardian, or if suitable, a court order to allow the marriage to go ahead
- they are not related to each other in a way which would prevent their marrying
- they are unmarried or are not in a civil partnership (any previous marriage or civil partnership must have been ended by divorce, death, or annulment or dissolution)
- they are capable of understanding the nature of a marriage ceremony and of agreeing to marriage
If a person is aged over 16 and under 18 years old they can marry in Northern Ireland. You should note that the 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 remains the case even if the marriage takes place in Northern Ireland. This applies to all couples marrying in Northern Ireland, where one or both parties are under the age of 18, but is particularly relevant to couples who have a home address in the Republic of Ireland.
Couples from England and Wales
If a person is 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.
There are certain conditions that apply to anyone who is under immigration control. That means if you are not a UK, EEA (European Economic Area) or Swiss national.
Types of relationships where marriage is unlawful
Marriage may not be possible if the parties are related.
Two people cannot enter into a marriage if they are related to each other by being:
- an adoptive child
- an adoptive parent
- a child
- a former adoptive child
- a former adoptive parent
- a grandparent
- a grandchild
- a parent
- a parent’s sibling
- a sibling (a brother, sister, half-brother or half-sister)
- a sibling’s child
- a commissioning parent (in a surrogate relationship)
- a commissioned child (in a surrogate relationship)
- a surrogate mother or husband/ partner of surrogate mother
- a child of surrogate mother
Circumstances where a marriage may be possible
Two people cannot enter into a marriage if one falls within the following list where it directly concerns the other. However, there are some exceptions.
- child of former civil partner
- child of former spouse
- former civil partner of grandparent
- former civil partner of parent
- former spouse of grandparent
- former spouse of parent
- grandchild of former civil partner
- grandchild of former spouse
- both of them have reached 21 at the time of the marriage
- the younger party has not at any time before reaching 18 lived in the same household as that other person, and been treated by that other person as a child of his/ her family
Making arrangements for your marriage ceremony
It’s important to organise the date and time of marriage as early as possible.
If you are having a religious/belief ceremony, contact the officiant taking the service before completing the Marriage Notice form.
If you're planning to have a civil ceremony you should make advance arrangements with the registrar.
You can find out more about giving notice of your marriage at this link:
Objecting to a marriage
An objection to a marriage may be lodged with the registrar at any time between the marriage notice being sent in and the marriage taking place. You can contact your local registrar for more information.
Making a false statement
Any person who makes a false statement to get married or prevent a marriage, is guilty of perjury and may be liable to prosecution.
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 taking place or offer protection to those who have been forced to take part in a marriage.