What you need to know

1. Overview

You can get married or form a civil partnership in the UK if you’re:

  • 16 or over.
  • Free to marry or form a civil partnership (single, divorced or widowed)
  • Not closely related

You need permission from your parents or guardians if you’re under 18 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Only same sex couples can form a civil partnership.

There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK until 2021. You and your family can apply for ‘settled status (https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families)’ to continue living in the UK after June 2021. The scheme will open fully by March 2019.

Same sex couples

You can:

  • Form a civil partnership in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Get married in England, Scotland and Wales
  • Convert your civil partnership (https://www.gov.uk/convert-civil-partnership) into a marriage in England, Scotland and Wales

Marriages and civil partnerships in Scotland and Northern Ireland

You can read more about the rules:

In Scotland for marriages (http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/getting-married-in-scotland/how-do-i-goabout-it) and civil partnerships (http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/registering-civil-partnership-in-scotland).

In Northern Ireland for marriages (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/guidance-marriage-procedures-northernireland) and civil partnerships. (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/guidance-civil-partnerships-northern-ireland)

2. What you need to do

There are usually 2 steps to getting married or forming a civil partnership in England and Wales.

1. Give notice at your local register office (https://www.gov.uk/marriages-civil-partnerships/giving-notice-at-yourlocal-register-office).

2. Have a religious ceremony (https://www.gov.uk/marriages-civil-partnerships/religious-ceremonies) or civil ceremony (https://www.gov.uk/marriages-civil-partnerships//weddings-and-civil-partnership-ceremonies) at least 28 days after giving notice.

There may be different steps for some religious ceremonies (https://www.gov.uk/marriages-civilpartnerships/religious-ceremonies).

Getting married or forming a civil partnership abroad

Find out about who to contact and which documents you may need to get from the UK authorities if you want to get married or form a civil partnership abroad (https://www.gov.uk/marriage-abroad).

Your overseas marriage or civil partnership will be recognised in the UK if you follow the correct process according to local law – you will not have to register it in the UK.

Marrying in England or Wales if you live abroad

You may be able to give notice in the country where you’re living if that country has signed up to the ‘British Subjects Facilities Acts’. Your partner must be a resident of England or Wales.

Contact the register office (https://www.gov.uk/register-offices) for the district in England and Wales where you intend to marry.

Countries signed up to the ‘British Subjects Facilities Acts’

Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Bermuda
Botswana
Canada
(New found land only)
Cook Islands
Cyprus
Dominica
Fiji
The Gambia
Ghana
(former Gold Coast colony only)
Gibraltar
Grenada
Guernsey
(including Alderney)
Isle of Man
Jamaica
Jersey
Kiribati
Kenya
Leeward
Islands
Lesotho
Malawi
Malaysia
(former Straits Settlement of Labuan, Malacca and Penang only)
Mauritius
Nauru
New Zealand
Nigeria
Pitcairn
Islands

St Lucia
St Vincent
Seychelles
Sierra Leone 
Solomon Islands 
Sri Lanka
Swaziland
Tanzania
(Zanzibar only)
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tuvalu
Uganda
Vanuatu
Zambia
Zimbabwe

3. Giving notice at your local register office

  • For most marriages or civil partnerships, you must give at least 28 full days’ notice at your local register office.
  • You need to include details of where you intend to get married or form a civil partnership.
  • Your notice will be publicly displayed in the register office for 28 days.
  • You may also need to give notice here if you plan to marry or form a civil partnership abroad. Ask the overseas authority if you’ll need a ‘certificate of no impediment’.
  • Contact your local register office (https://www.gov.uk/register-offices) to make an appointment.
  • You can only give notice at a register office if you have lived in the registration district for at least the past 7 days.
  • There are different rules for religious ceremonies (https://www.gov.uk/marriages-civil-partnerships/religiousceremonies).
  • You must get married or register your civil partnership within one year, or 3 months if you’re in Scotland.

Foreign nationals

There are different rules if you or your partner are a foreign national (https://www.gov.uk/marriages-civilpartnerships/foreign-national) from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland (https://www.gov.uk/eu-eea).

4. Documents to take to the register office

When you go to the register office, you need to take proof of your name, age and nationality. For example your:

  • valid passport
  • birth certificate
  • national identity card from the European Economic Area (EEA) (https://www.gov.uk/eu-eea) or Switzerland
  • certificate of registration
  • certificate of naturalisation
  • biometric residence card or permit
  • travel document

If you’ve changed your name, you must bring proof – eg a copy of a deed poll.

The registrar also needs proof of your address, for example a:

  • valid UK or EEA driving licence
  • gas, water or electricity bill from the last 3 months
  • bank or building society statement from the last month
  • council tax bill from the last 12 months
  • mortgage statement from the last 12 months
  • current tenancy agreement
  • letter from your landlord confirming you live there and including your landlord’s name, address and their signature dated within the last 7 days

Check with your local register office (https://www.gov.uk/register-offices) if they require a photo ID

You might need other documents if you do not have a valid passport and you were born after 1983 – check with the register office (https://www.gov.uk/register-offices).

You each need to pay a £35 fee when you attend the register office to give notice. It can be more if you or your partner are from outside EEA or Switzerland.

If you’ve been divorced or widowed

If you’ve been married or in a civil partnership before, you need to take either:

  • a decree absolute or final order (https://www.gov.uk/copy-decree-absolute-final-order)
  • the death certificate (https://www.gov.uk/order-copy-birth-death-marriage-certificate) of your former partner

Overseas divorces and annulments

A divorce will usually be recognised in England and Wales if it was valid in the country where it took place.

You need to take your divorce or annulment documents to the register office if they were granted outside of the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man.

The registrar may need to get in touch with the General Register Office (GRO) to confirm whether your marriage or civil partnership can go ahead. If they do, you’ll have to pay a fee of between £50 and £75. The fee will be confirmed once GRO have seen your documents.

5. Foreign nationals

If either of you is from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland (https://www.gov.uk/eu-eea) and subject to immigration control, you or your partner will need a visa to come to the UK to:

  • give notice
  • get married or form a civil partnership

This includes people who do not normally need visas for general visits (unless you’re already in the UK).

Once in the UK (or if you’re already in the UK), you and your partner must give at least 28 days’ notice at a designated register office (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/designated-register-offices-in-england-andwales) if both the following apply to either of you:

  • you’re from outside the EEA or Switzerland
  • you’re subject to immigration control

The process is different in Scotland (http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/getting-married-in-scotland/my-partnerandor-i-are-foreign-nationals-who-do-not-live-in-the-uk-can-we-get-married-in-scotland) and Northern Ireland. (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/marriagecivil-partnership-and-immigration-control)

There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK until 2021. You and your family can apply for ‘settled status (https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families)’ to continue living in the UK after June 2021. The scheme will open fully by March 2019.

Get a visa if you’re outside the UK

The application process is different depending on your partner’s circumstances.

If your partner is from the UK or settled in the UK

Apply for a family of a settled person (https://www.gov.uk/join-family-in-uk) visa (eg, as a fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner) if you intend to stay in the UK for more than 6 months.

Apply for a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visitor visa (https://www.gov.uk/marriage-visa) for a stay of less than 6 months.

If your partner is from the EEA (excluding UK) or Switzerland

If your partner is a permanent UK resident (https://www.gov.uk/eea-registration-certificate) (ie has a ‘document certifying permanent residence’), you can apply for a family of a settled person (https://www.gov.uk/join-family-inuk) visa.

If your partner is not a permanent UK resident, you can apply for an EEA family permit (https://www.gov.uk/family-permit) to accompany or join your partner in the UK. You’ll usually have to prove that you and your partner have lived together in a relationship for at least 2 years.

If your partner is not from the UK, Switzerland or EEA, and not settled in the UK

Apply for a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visitor visa (https://www.gov.uk/marriage-visa). You’ll have to leave the UK within 6 months.