Regardless of whether you are looking to tie the knot in a civil or religious ceremony, there are a number of wedding laws and ceremonial rules that you will need to abide by. This article takes a look at the regulations surrounding when and where the wedding can take place, alongside who can perform the ceremony and who legally needs to be present.
Wedding Laws: When can the ceremony take place?
Prior to October 2012, wedding ceremonies within England and Wales had to take place between the hours of 8am and 6pm. However, following an extensive public consultation, the 1836 wedding laws were relaxed and round-the-clock weddings were introduced alllowing couples to tie the knot 24 hours a day. Churches and other religious venues are still free to retain the traditional operating hours but civil venues will now follow their Scottish counterparts by offering both day and nighttime ceremonies.
Wedding Laws: Where Can You Marry?
Marriages must take place in premises where they can be legally solemnised. There are a number of options in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, ranging from churches that are registered for marriage through to premises that have been granted a civil wedding license.
There are restrictions on which venues will be granted a wedding license and as such, marriages within private homes, marquees, movable structures (boats, trains for example) and those held in the open-air, do not meet with the current wedding laws. Yet again, in Scotland the rules are alot more relaxed and weddings by the shore of Loch Ness or on the top of Ben Nevis are even allowed! The limitations on whereabouts in the UK you can actually tie the knot are discussed in greater depth in our the Civil Ceremonies and Church Ceremonies articles.
Wedding Laws: Who Can Marry You?
A marriage can be solemnised by an authorised religious person such as a minister or priest or by a Superintendent Registrar or Registrar. Wedding laws state that a Deputy Registrar may also be able to solemnise the ceremony as long as they have been authorised to do so by the Registrar.
Wedding Laws: Who must be present?
In order to make the marriage legally binding, it must be attended by two witnesses as a minimum. The two witnesses will be required to add their names to the marriage certificate, although it is perfectly possible to have more than two witnesses sign the register. The witnesses should be personally known to the Bride and/or Groom, but this does not legally need to be the case. Couples can choose to use willing witnesses off the street, and indeed many elopers in the past have done so! There are no wedding laws concerning the age of marriage witnesses as such, other than that they need to be old enough to function properly as a witness. That said, many officiants may request that one, or both, of your witnesses are over the age of 18 so it's always wise to check first.
Wedding Laws: Marrying Abroad
Many couples these days are choosing to marry abroad, a trend which seems set to increase as time goes by. The wedding laws for getting married vary greatly from country to country and, in order to guarantee that your overseas wedding is above board and legal, you will need to ensure that you fulfil both the requirements of the country you are getting married in, and the legal requirements back in the UK.
Many couples over the years have failed to fully comply with both overseas and domestic wedding rules and regulations, even the rich and famous. Did you know that Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger didn't find out till afterwards that their idyllic Indonesian wedding had no legal binding in the UK? To prevent you making a wedding boo-boo, the travel agent you arrange your trip with, the on-site wedding co-ordinator, or the Foreign Office should all be able to confirm what you need to do and it is worht consulting them all before ploughing ahead with your plans.
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.