Guidance on marriage procedures in Northern Ireland

Couples marrying in Northern Ireland have a choice of either a religious ceremony or a civil ceremony (which is conducted either by a registrar or a Humanist celebrant). 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 (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 agreeing to marriage

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, by blood, adoption, step-parent relationship or surrogacy.

Related by blood or adoption

A man may not marry his:

  • mother
  • adoptive mother or former adoptive mother
  • daughter
  • adopted daughter or former adopted daughter
  • grandmother
  • granddaughter
  • sister
  • aunt
  • niece

A woman may not marry her:

  • father
  • adoptive father or former adoptive father
  • son
  • adopted son or former adopted son
  • grandfather
  • grandson
  • brother
  • uncle
  • nephew

Step-parent and stepchild relationships

A man may not marry his:

  • former wife’s daughter or granddaughter
  • father’s or grandfather’s former wife

A woman may not marry her:

  • former husband’s son or grandson
  • mother’s or grandmother’s former husband

except where:

  • the younger person is 21 years of age or over at the time of the marriage
  • the younger party did not, before his or her 18th birthday, live in the same household as the other party and been treated by that person as a child of the family

Surrogate relationships

A man may not marry his:

  • commissioning mother
  • commissioning daughter
  • surrogate mother
  • daughter of surrogate mother

A woman may not marry her:

  • commissioning father
  • commissioning son
  • husband or partner of surrogate mother
  • surrogate son

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 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 or Humanist celebrant.

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

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.

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