Guidance on marriage procedures in Northern Ireland

Opposite sex couples marrying in Northern Ireland have a choice of either a religious ceremony or civil ceremony (which is conducted either by a registrar or a Humanist celebrant). The initial arrangements are the same for both types of marriage. Same sex couples are able to have civil marriage only.

Same sex religious marriage

You can find out about consultation plans on same sex religious marriage in Northern Ireland at this link:

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

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

Exceptions

  • both of them have reached 21 at the time of the marriage 

and

  • 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 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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