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 religious marriage
Religious same sex marriage will be lawful in Northern Ireland from 1 September 2020.
A 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 this date.
The minimum notice period is 28 days.
If notice is given on 1 September, the marriage can take place from 29 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.
GRONI will be making changes to the officiant database when the replies are received.
You can find out about same sex religious marriage 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
- 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 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.