The choice of where to marry in England and Wales is governed by legislation, and we will cover all the options. Currently there is provision to get married in Church, at a Register Office, an approved premises Venue, or Abroad. You currently cannot marry in your garden or on the beach, but there is a way you can still comply with the law in where your marriage is legally registered (Town Hall Abroad or UK Register Office) but you have the option of a further celebratory ceremony in a location of your choice. This ceremony would be purely celebratory and have no legal status. See Bride-Buddy’s page about Personal Ceremonies for info on how to do this.
Most internet based planning guides or checklists will tell you to contact the Register Office 3 months before the wedding. Trust me, I’m a Registrar! DO NOT EVER LEAVE IT THIS LATE. Venues quite often take bookings two or more years ahead. Popular days like Saturday get booked quickly. If you are on a budget consider getting married on a weekday as many venues offer special rates for midweek weddings. The requirements are that a Registrar must attend to carry out the ceremony. Back in Essex, the Register Office took bookings to attend venues 2 years in advance and if you left it until 3 months before to get a Registrar to come out to your venue on a weekend, a bank holiday or the whole of August, we just wouldn’t be able to as we have already been booked. It’s not about the number of staff, but each office can only have a certain amount of Registers by law, (the book in which your wedding is recorded) and it is not uncommon, as in Essex for 5 teams of Registrars to go out all day with a book and each team may do a wedding at 12.30, then 2.00, then maybe 3.30 and then 5pm all at different venues! So you see, if you leave ringing up to book a Registrar 3 months beforehand for a Saturday in August you will probably be disappointed.
Not all regions take bookings 2 years in advance, some do, some don’t, you need to check, but all take bookings 1 year in advance, so my advice to you would be to phone the Register Office in the district where your Venue is (not necessarily where you live) a year (or two) to the day of your wedding to avoid disappointment. To give Notice of Marriage you must attend the Register Office where you both live between 1 year of the wedding and 28 days of the wedding, but check out Bride Buddy's Giving Notice of Marriage , as this can be complicated depending on your circumstances.
You must give notice at a ‘designated’ register office if you or your partner are from outside the EEA or Switzerland. Check Bride Buddy’s page about Giving Notice of Marriage and the Legal Document Checklist for more information about what you need in advance.
There are some quite lovely Register Offices out there and at the fraction of the price of a venue. If you decide on a Register Office wedding, check what the options are. Most offices have choices for a simple ‘walk in, say the words, walk out’ ceremony and some also offer full ceremonies with provisions to be walked down the aisle, given away etc at an extra cost.
Abroad: Also see Bride-Buddy’s page on Getting Married Abroad
Your marriage or civil partnership should be recognised in the UK if you follow the correct process according to local law - you won’t need to register it in the UK.
You might be asked to get certain documents from the UK government if you’re a
Usually, this involves attending the Register Office where you live and getting a Certificate of No Impediment. This is basically similar to giving notice of marriage as if you were marrying in the UK. You have to show documents to prove who you are, and the country where you are marrying will accept the certificate of no impediment as proof from the Register Office that all the details are correct. See my section Marrying Abroad for more detailed info. Usually, you then have to go through some sort of legal ceremony in your country of choice, maybe at the Town Hall that morning, then opt for a celebration ceremony at your chosen venue, hotel, beach etc. Your legal wedding would be the one at the Town Hall, the other is just a ceremony that looks like a big wedding.
There is an easier way around all these often complicated rules and headaches of getting married abroad, and that is to have your legal wedding at the Register office in the UK for £50 before you go, and then just have a wedding celebration ceremony in your country of choice. This method is becoming more and more popular and also avoids problems if ever you need to get copies of your wedding certificates and it also avoids turning up in a foreign country and discovering they require something you don’t have with you at the last minute. There is a law in the UK where you cannot get married to the same person twice. If you did, it would make one of the weddings null and void which is why when you choose this option, the wedding abroad is just a ceremony and anyone can do it. The legal part has already taken place in the Town Hall, or at the Register Office back home in the UK. See Bride Buddy’s Personal Ceremonies page and Marrying Abroad for more information on how to do this.
Can I get married anywhere? In my garden or on the beach maybe?......Can my friend perform the ceremony?.......
Unfortunately not. The marriage must take place in a licenced building / structure.
But, you can have a simple register office marriage (this is called a ‘statutory marriage’ and then a second ceremony (not a marriage) anywhere you like.
Currently, the law in England and Wales is that marriages can only take place in an Approved Premise. To get a licence to become an approved premise costs several thousand pounds and the venue must meet certain criteria and fulfil certain responsibilities such as health and safety. Even if you are willing to go through all that to get married in your garden, it will also be available to any member of the public to marry there!
A note about outside gazebos and pergolas. If you are outside – what happens if it rains? Will there be an alternative inside? Did you know that in law, once your marriage has started outside, it must finish outside, so what will happen to your guests if it rains?
I have attended many ‘weddings’ in gardens, allotments, on the beach, and I have carried out the ceremonies and even watched friends of the couple carry out the ceremonies. How is this done? By having a simple (statutory) wedding at your local Register Office for around £50 first and then holding a wedding celebration ceremony ANYWHERE……(subject to permission) You don’t even need a Registrar to do the ceremony. A family member or friend can perform it for you, as none of it has any legal standing, it’s just a ceremony. Your legal wedding has already taken place at the Register Office.