As soon as a couple have set the date for their wedding and provisionally booked the venue, they need to contact one or more Register Offices to arrange their Civil marriage ceremony. This article takes a closer look at who needs to be contacted and what will happen at the subsequent meeting(s).
Contacting the Register Office
A Civil marriage ceremony will be conducted by a Superintendent Registrar and it is the responsibility of the couple to arrange their attendance.
Whilst couples are free to contact Register Offices for information and advice at any time, they are not able to ‘give notice’ of their wedding, and in turn, ‘book’ the attendance of the Superintendent Registrar till one calendar year before the date of the Civil marriage ceremony. Some Register Offices allow couples to make a provisional booking up to 2 years before the ceremony, but this is the exception rather than the norm - though for those eager beavers among you, it may be worth checking out. In Scotland, the 12 month rule does not apply, and the actual notice period does vary from Register Office to Register Office. In certain cases, Scottish Register Offices do not have a limit at all, so if you are planning a Civil marriage ceremony ‘North of the Border’ we suggest that you contact the relevant Register Office as soon as possible and confirm details with them direct – it is never too early to start!
For those couples whose Civil marriage ceremony will take place in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, it may be necessary to contact up to three Register Offices – let us explain that statement a little more.
If the couple both live in the same district and plan to hold their Civil marriage ceremony within that district, only the local Register Office need be contacted.
If the couple live in different districts and the Civil marriage ceremony is to take place within one of those districts, then the Register Office in both districts must be contacted.
If the couple live in different districts and the Civil marriage ceremony will take place outside both of these districts, then the districts in which both the partners’ reside plus the one in which the Ceremony is to take place will need to be contacted.
In all cases, the Register Office in the district in which the Civil marriage ceremony is to take place should be contacted first as it is this Register Office who will supply the Superintendent Registrar to conduct the proceedings. For those couples whose Civil marriage ceremony will take place in Scotland, only the Register Office in the district in which the marriage is to take place need be contacted.
At the subsequent appointment with the Registrar a couple will be required to meet various pre-conditions. With this in mind, and in order to prevent wasting everyone's time, it is important that the folllowing are met:
So now you know who to contact, let’s look at what will happen during the subsequent appointment with the Registrar.
First things first, unless the following conditions are (will be) met, then the meeting will be pointless. So to prevent couples wasting both theirs and the their Registrar’s time, please ensure that the following conditions are met:
The Civil marriage ceremony must be taking place in the next twelve months (or as prescribed by the Register Office - see above)
Each partner must have resided in the district in which they are giving notice for at least seven nights.
If the partners live in different districts, notice must be given within seven days of each other.
A minimum of fifteen days must elapse after notice has been given before the Civil marriage ceremony can take place.
At the appointment at the Register Office, the initial port of call at the meeting should obviously be to confirm that the Superintendent Registrar can attend. Each Register Office will employ a number of Superintendent Registrars who are able to attend more than one wedding a day so don’t panic if it is only a few weeks till your Civil marriage ceremony and you still have not arranged one. That said, get your finger out! Whilst it isn’t an everyday occurrence for Register Offices to be fully booked, it still does happen so the earlier you book the better.
Once you have verified that a Superintendent Registrar can attend, they will then have some questions for you and you will need to provide them with (answers to) the following:
Once you have verified that a Superintendent Registrar is available on the day, they will then have some questions for you and you will need to provide them with answers to, or evidence of, the following:
Each partner will be asked to give their name, address, marital status, age and occupation.
Proof of identity (passport or birth certificate for example) and proof of residence (such as a recent bank statement or utility bill) must be presented.
You will be asked, and need to prove if necessary that you are legally allowed to marry. For those of you who have been divorced, a court stamped copy of the Decree Absolute must be shown, whilst for those of you who are widowed, the previous Marriage Certificate and your spouse’s Death Certificate must be presented.
In the case of Scottish Civil Weddings, two completed Marriage Notice Forms (M10) must also be returned.
With the paperwork out of the way, it is then time to move onto the fun bit – getting stuck into discussing the nitty gritty of the ceremony. The Registrar will ask you a number of questions surrounding your preferences for the various elements of your Civil marriage ceremony and will either approve or disapprove of your requests, although in most cases the former will apply. For help and advice with each of the ceremonial highlights, check out our civil ceremony music, songs, vows and readings articles.
What happens next?
After the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed, a copy of the notices to marry (one for each partner) will be displayed on the notice board in the Register Office(s) for fifteen days and people have the right to make a legal objection to the impending ceremony. Assuming this doesn’t happen (it normally only happens in the movies, so don’t worry), then you will be grated Authority to go ahead with your Civil marriage ceremony! If the ceremony is to take place in a different district from the one which issued the Authority, then you will need to ensure that the Superintendent Registrar conducting the ceremony receives a copy of the Authority for their records.
For those of you wanting to find out more, we've a whole host of other wedding ceremony articles on our site packed full of expert information and helpful advice, not to mention our online wedding directory that's filled with loads of civil wedding venues, decorations, florists and more.