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How to do the Legal Stuff

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

So, you’ve decided that you’d like to have a personal and unique Celebrant-led ceremony (yay!), but are not sure how to arrange the legal registration of your marriage. Luckily, this is very straightforward, and takes just a few, simple steps:

  • Decide which Register Office you will use to register your marriage, and book your preferred date and time

It is important to do this first as you have to specify the venue when you give notice of your intention to marry. If you give notice and then change the venue, you have to give notice again - and pay again!

This Register Office does not need to be within your local district. It is worth bearing this in mind, as the appointments available for a statutory ceremony are quite limited in some areas, and you may find more choice of day/time in another area.

  • Give notice of marriage at your local Register Office

You must give notice at a Register Office within the district where you live, and if you and your partner live in different areas, then you will need to register at separate offices.

At this appointment a Registrar will speak to each of you separately, and you will both need to prove your identity and nationality; your freedom to marry (eg: any divorce documents etc.); and that you have lived in the local area for the required minimum time.

After you have given notice, there is a minimum period of 28 days before your marriage authorities can be issued and your legal marriage can take place. Once issued, the authorities are valid for 12 months.

Full details of documentation to take with you and residency qualifying period is available at:

  • Register your marriage with a statutory ceremony

This is a low-key, low-fuss occasion where the Registrar will say a few statutory words; you will both be required to say the statutory declaratory and contractual vows; and you will both sign the register.

You will be given a choice of 3 versions of the statutory vows, but you must choose the same set - you can’t mix and match between them. They are:


I do solemnly declare that I know not of any legal impediment why I, AA, may not be joined in matrimony to BB

I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, AA, do take thee, BB to be my lawful wedded wife/husband


I declare that I know of no legal reason why I, AA, may not be joined in marriage to BB

I, AA, take you, BB, to be my wedded wife/husband


By answering “I am” to the question: Are you, AA, free lawfully to marry BB?

I, AA, take you, BB, to be my wedded wife/husband

This will be all be very straightforward, and you don’t need to exchange rings, or wear anything special - and, yes, jeans are absolutely fine!

You must have two witnesses present, who will also sign the register, but Register Office staff are usually happy to step in if you would rather not involve any of your own family and friends (but it may be wise to let the Registrars know this when you make your booking).

And that’s all there is to it!

With the formalities out of the way, you can then enjoy your individual, personal wedding ceremony whenever, wherever and however you choose!

NB: information correct at the time of writing, December 2017, and applies to legal marriages in England and Wales between couples who are both UK or EU/EAA nationals.

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