In the UK, opposite-sex couples can marry in a civil or religious ceremony. Same-sex couples can only get married in a civil ceremony. Same-sex couples can only marry in a religious ceremony if the religious organisation has agreed to carry out same-sex weddings, and the premises for the marriage is registered to marry same-sex couples.
The couple wishing to have a civil marriage ceremony must give notice of their marriage to their local registry office before it can proceed. You must give at least 28 days' notice at your local registry office which should include details of where you intend to get married. You can contact your local registry office to make an appointment. This notice of intention to marry will be publicly displayed, during which time anyone with strong grounds for objecting to the marriage can do so. Proof of name, age, nationality and address will be required to be able to effectively submit notice. In the case of parties who are divorced or widowed, proof of divorce (eg decree absolute) or death certificate is needed.
Once the 28 days have passed and there are no objections, the civil marriage ceremony can take place which will be in the local registry office or local authority approved premises. The marriage will be conducted by someone who is legally authorised to register marriages and vows will be exchanged, although they will not contain any religious references. Once completed, both partners will need to sign the marriage register which will need to be witnessed by two witnesses over the age of 16.
Partners getting married in the Church of England or Church of Wales are allowed to register a marriage at the same time as performing the religious ceremony. Usually, notice to the registry office is not needed; instead, banns (notice of the proposed marriage) are read out in the parish church of each of the partners and in the church where it has been agreed the marriage will take place.
For all other religious marriages, you need to give 28 days notice of the marriage to the registry officer.
A religious wedding can take place at a church, chapel or other registered building. Vows will be exchanged between the couples and once completed the couple will need to sign the marriage register in the presence of two witnesses over the age of 16.
What is the difference between civil and religious ceremonies?
Religious weddings generally need to take place in churches, chapels or other registered religious buildings, conducted by the relevant religious officials and in accordance with the specific religious rules and procedures. For example, same-sex couples are not allowed to get married in an Anglican church.
Civil ceremonies can take place in a registry office, any venue approved by the local council and certain religious premises. Normally they are performed by a registrar. Although a civil ceremony may include music and readings, it must not include anything of a religious nature (such as hymns or readings from a religious text).