Weddings explained

Important information on marriages, civil partnerships, ceremonies, giving notice, planning your ceremony and other legal information

What you need to know

Deciding to get married or enter civil partnership

What is a civil marriage?

A civil marriage is the union of two people in the eyes of the law.

What is a civil partnership?

A civil partnership is when two people of the same sex enter into a legal partnership. Two people can get married or enter civil partnership as long as:

  • neither of them are under 16. People aged 16 or 17 will usually be required to obtain written permission from their parent(s) or legal guardian(s)
  • neither of them are already in a civil partner or lawfully married
  • they are not related to each other by a degree which is legally forbidden

There are special considerations for:

  • housebound people
  • detained people
  • people who are seriously ill and not expected to recover
  • people subject to immigration control

What happens if one or both of the party is under the age of 18?

A young person who is 16 or 17 will need permission in order to marry or form a civil partnership unless he/she is widowed or a surviving civil partner. He/she needs the permission of a parent with parental responsibility or any legal guardian. There are some instances when a young person aged 16 or 17 will need the permission of someone else as well as a parent or guardian. This will usually be where the local authority is involved in the young person's care.

Sometimes parental consent may not be available, for example, where the young person does not know where one of his/her parents is. In these cases, the General Register Office may waive the need for permission or a court can give the necessary permission. A young person may need to get legal advice. Parental consent may be refused. In such cases, the court can give the necessary permission. If a young person cannot get permission and decides to apply to court for the necessary permission, he/she should seek legal advice.

What are the legal procedures before a marriage?

At least 28 clear days before your marriage, you will each need to give your notice of intention to marry or form a civil partnership. Where you do this will depend on where you live. Find out how to do this and what you will need to bring to the interview here.

How quickly can we get married?

The minimum waiting time between attending for an interview to complete the legal paperwork, (called notice of intention to marry/civil partnership or giving notice) and getting married /forming a civil partnership is 28 clear days. For example, if both notices are given on the first of the month you may marry on the 30th of the month if this is a normal working day for the venue you have chosen. Both parties to the marriage/civil partnership must also have lived in their respective districts for at least eight days before notice of marriage/civil partnership is given.

Each person must attend, in person, the register office for the district in which they live to give their notice of marriage unless they are marrying in the Church of England or Church of Wales. If the marriage is to be by civil ceremony, either in a register office or an approved venue within England or Wales, it is not necessary for either of the parties to live in the district where the marriage/civil partnership is to be held. However, notice of marriage/civil partnership must be given in the district/s in which the couple live.

The only exception is where one of the persons getting married is terminally ill and cannot be moved. In these circumstances the marriage can take place very quickly, sometimes on the same day that the arrangements have been made, and the marriage can take place at home, in a hospital or any other place where the party who is terminally ill happens to be.

In exceptional circumstances the Registrar General can reduce the 28 day waiting period. There is a non-refundable fee to request this reduction in waiting time and this applies to each person giving notice of marriage/civil partnership and there is no guarantee that an application will be successful. Supporting evidence is also required and what type will depend on what grounds the waiver is being requested. The registrar general has made it clear that the reasons for reducing the waiting period will have to be good and has already stated that the fact of persons arriving from abroad and wanting to be married whilst on holiday will not be sufficient reason to reduce the waiting period.

What is the difference between civil marriage and a civil partnership?

Civil partnerships was the government's approach to giving similar rights to same sex couples as those enjoyed by married opposite sex couples.

In 2013, UK Government passed legislation for same sex couples to get married. You can read this in detail on Gov.uk (external website) Couples can still choose a civil partnership instead, if preferred.

Marriage is recognised in a range of legal matters, of which civil partnerships share:

  • tax, including inheritance tax
  • employment benefits
  • most state and occupational pension benefits
  • income related benefits, tax credits and child support
  • duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partner and any children of the family
  • ability to apply for parental responsibility for your civil partner’s child
  • inheritance of a tenancy agreement
  • recognition under intestacy rules
  • access to fatal accidents compensation
  • protection from domestic violence
  • recognition for immigration and nationality purposes.

There are a small number of differences between civil partnership and marriage, for example:

  • a civil partnership is formed when the second civil partner signs the relevant document; a civil marriage is registered when the couple exchange spoken words/lines
  • Opposite-sex couples can choose to have a religious or civil marriage ceremony as they choose, whereas formation of a civil partnership will be a civil procedure.
  • Civil Partners can chose to have both parents details recorded on their civil partnership certificate a married couple can only have their father's details recorded

How is a civil partnership formed?

A civil partnership is formed when a couple have completed a formal registration process. Once the 28 day period has passed, if no valid objections have been made, the proposed civil partners are free to register a civil partnership within twelve months of the first notice being recorded. If they do not do this within this time limit, they cannot register without starting the process again. There are some circumstances where a civil partnership may be formed sooner than 28 days after giving notice, for example, where one of the partners is seriously ill and not expected to recover.

Two people are regarded as having formed a civil partnership once each of them has signed the civil partnership schedule in front of two witnesses and the civil partnership registrar. The witnesses and registrar must also sign the civil partnership schedule. A couple can get a civil partnership certificate when the formation has been entered onto the registration service's electronic register, although they must pay a fee for this. They can buy further copies later if they wish. There is no need to have any form of ceremony as part of the formation procedure. We do offer a range of civil partnership ceremonies from plain and simple to a bespoke ceremony for the couple. However, nothing religious can be included at the signing of the civil partnership document.

Can we convert our civil partnership into a marriage?

Yes. Couples who previously entered into a civil partnership can convert this into a marriage. You have two options.

Option one is a simple one stage process where the couple attend a registration office to prepare and sign a declaration, the following working day the electronic entry will be completed and the marriage certificate will be issued and posted out to the couple.

Option two is a two-stage process where the couple attend a registration office to prepare a declaration, for a fee. The declaration is signed later at an approved venue as part of a celebratory ceremony. See our Wedding page for packages and fees for venues. A ceremony may also take place in a religious building which is registered for the marriage of same sex couples. There is a statutory fee payable for the attendance of the superintendent registrar and we will include the cost of the legal certificate within this.

In option two, you will also have the option to purchase a celebratory certificate signed on the day of the ceremony for a fee. This certificate is commemorative and has no legal status. If the ceremony is held in the East Riding of Yorkshire the electronic registration will be completed on the next working day and the legal certificate will be posted out to you.

In the case of both options documentary evidence must be provided at the preparation of the declaration to confirm that the civil partnership exists, photographic identification such as a driving licence or passport and proof of address, the registrar will go over this with you at the booking stage.

Decide on where and when

You may have an idea of the type of venue where you wish to marry or hold your civil partnershi. Approved venues have a maximum capacity of guests for your safety, as agreed with the local fire services, so it is important to decide on an estimate of who you want to be involved so you can choose the right package and venue for your ideal ceremony. The very minimum number of guests required is two witnesses, who understand English and are able to sign the register. Deciding when to hold your ceremony is often the hardest decision to make but as soon as you know the where and the when please contact your chosen venue and the local registrars to check availability.

Contacting the Registrar or Minister and booking the date

You can contact our registrars by going to our contact us page. When booking the registrars for your ceremony you will be asked to complete a booking form and return it to us once you have read out Terms and Conditions and Privacy Notice. When your booking form has been returned to us we will take a £50 booking deposit which forms part of the ceremony fee. If you have decided to marry or hold your civil partnership in church then you need to contact your minister directly to check on the availability of the church on your chosen date. If you have decided on a church or chapel of any other denomination other than the Church of England or Wales you will need to give 'notice of marriage' as explained in Notice of intention to marry. There are some churches/chapels, which are registered with the Registrar General's Office for holding civil partnership formations/ceremonies, if you are unsure as to if your chosen church/chapel is, the minister or your local registration office will be able to advise you.

Notice of intention to marry/civil partnership

Submitting notice of intention

You will need to give legal notice of your intended marriage/civil partnership in the district/s in which you both live. This will require each of you to attend your local registration office. You must submit notice of intention at least 28 clear days before your ceremony. Once the 28 days have passed and the notice is approved, it is valid for up to 12 months from the date you submitted.

A couple must give formal notice of intention to the local register office, even if they intend to marry or hold their civil partnership somewhere else. They can only do this once they have lived in the area for at least eight days. Each of them must give this notice in person. The notice must include where the couple wish to marry or hold their civil partnership. The notice must also include a written declaration stating the following:

  • that he/she believes that there is no legal reason why the civil partnership cannot be formed
  • that the persons have lived for the previous seven clear days in the local register office's area

How much does submitting a notice cost?

Do you pay council tax to, and have lived within, the East Riding for at least 8 days?

  • If the answer is yes it will cost £35 per person to the local office you are giving notice to.
  • If the answer is no it will cost £35 per person to your own local register office for the district you pay your council tax to.

Any Foreign national: Can contact our office and we can advise them according to their personal situation.

At the appointment for giving notice you will need to bring a number of documents in order for you to submit your notice:

  1. Proof of identity
    • A valid British passport or: Birth Certificate*
  2. Proof of address
    • Valid driving licence in the present name and address of the person giving notice.
    • Utility bill dated no more than three months but, no less than 7 days before the date of the notice appointment.
    • Bank or building society statement or passbook dated no more than one month and no less than 7 days before the date of the notice appointment
    • Council tax bill dated no more than one year before the date of the notice appointment
    • Mortgage statement dated no more than one year before the date of notice
    • Current residential tenancy agreement dated within one year of the date of the notice appointment
  3. The notice fee of £35.00 each person. This may be paid in cash, by cheque or credit or debit card.
  4. And, if applicable:
    • Death Certificate of last wife/husband/civil partner
    • Decree Absolute from last divorce, together with a certified translation if in a foreign language
    • Dissolution Order from a previous civil partnership
    • Proof of any name change. If you have changed your name by a deed poll that has been registered with the Royal Courts of Justice or by statutory declaration you must produce original documents to confirm this (photocopies cannot be accepted)

In addition to bringing a birth certificate as proof of ID

If you were born after 1982 and do not hold a valid British passport, you will need to bring your full birth certificate and your mother's birth certificate, plus one of the above documents for proof of identity. If you have had any name changes throughout your life since your birth entry then documentary evidence to link the name changes will be required.

After submitting a notice of intention

Once the couple have given their notices, the register office must display some information about the couple for 28 days. The formation cannot proceed until the 28 day waiting period has passed for each of the notices. This is to allow any person to make an objection. The paperwork is then valid for a year from the date the first notice was given. If you decide to change the date of your ceremony, as long as this is agreeable to the registrars and the venue and is within the year timescale there should be not problem. If you decide to change venue after you have given notice then you will need to give a fresh notice and pay the fees again for doing so.

What if one person is living in East Riding of Yorkshire and the other is not living in England and Wales?

Notice of intended marriage cannot be given until the party living outside the country has arrived. If either of you is a foreign national without right of abode in this country you must both attend a designated register office to give notice. The nearest designated register offices to us are at Hull, Sheffield and Lincoln.

You must wait until the person arriving from abroad has established residence in England and Wales for at least 8 days. Notice of marriage can then be given but, you must wait a minimum of 28 and possibly up to 70 clear days before the marriage can take place.

  • Day 1 - arrive in England/Wales and live in one district in England/Wales.
  • Day 9 - give notice of intention together at a designated register office in England or Wales (if subject to immigration control).
  • Day 30, but, could possibly be extended to a further 42 days - certificates for marriage can be issued and the wedding can take place from this day onwards (and within 12 months from the date of notice)

Getting married in another country

A certificate of no impediment for some countries can be granted 28 clear days after a notice of intention to marry is submitted. Please contact your nearest registration office for further details.

Choosing your package

Visit our ceremony packages page to find a ceremony option to suit your taste and budget. All ceremonies require a £ deposit deductible from the full cost. Choose your perfect setting by browsing all available Registration Offices and approved licensed premises in the East Riding on our venues page.

Can I hold my ceremony outdoors or in a marquee?

A legal marriage /civil partnership cannot be held outdoors in England and Wales. However, there are two ways in which you can have an outdoor ceremony, depending on your chosen venue having a registered outdoor structure.

If your ceremony is to be held outdoors you and the venue must also identify an alternative indoor licensed area, which is available for use if the weather turns inclement this must be able to accommodate the same number of guests you have invited for outdoors. The venue and the registrars will make the final decision as to if the ceremony can be held outside on the date of your ceremony due to weather.

A legal ceremony in an outdoor structure

Some approved venues have, as part of their licence, an outside structure, which is part of the venue's licence. As a rule these are small and generally only hold the couple, witnesses and the registrars, all other guests would be seated or standing in front of the structure.

Split site ceremony

Some venues, which hold a licence for marriage/ civil partnership, also lend themselves well to our Sapphire ceremony (split site ceremony). The ceremony begins outside with all guests and the groom in attendance as the bride makes the traditional entrance. The ceremony begins in the usual way with an introduction and welcome, giving away, reading, personal vows and then while the couple, witnesses and registrars leave to attend to the legal portion of the ceremony in the licensed building the guests are asked to stay seated while listening to live music and/or readings.

Can I hold my ceremony in my own home or garden?

A legal ceremony must be held excet in a venue licensed for marriages or civil partnerships but we can conduct celebratory ceremonies in suitable private venues in some circumstances. If you choose to hold your ceremony in a small private venue you may be unsure of the safe recommended room capacity and so we will provide you with a basic guide to assist. In the meantime you may like to consider the following:

  • Room layout
  • Seating arrangements
  • Clear entry and exits

If your ceremony is to be held outdoors you must also identify an alternative area, which is under cover and available for use if the weather turns inclement, this must be able to accommodate the same number of guests you have invited for outdoors.

What is a celebratory ceremony?

A celebratory ceremony may follow the legal registration of a marriage/formation of a civil partnership. At the moment the law states that registrations and formations must take place within a registration office, registered building (church or chapel) or an approved venue. By carrying out the legal registration or formation beforehand we can then conduct the celebratory ceremony in a non-approved premise such as a private home or a marquee. These ceremonies can also be carried out outside of the office hours for marriage or civil partnership, offering more flexibility.

Unlike some unregulated independent celebrants our ceremonies are delivered by highly-trained professional staff whose performance is monitored and regularly assessed. Our professional team have been accredited with a number of national awards and aim to deliver a quality bespoke service.

What differences are there for a Jewish wedding?

Persons of the Jewish religion are able to marry in a private house, hotel or even outside in a garden as long as the marriage is to be conducted according to Jewish religious rites and both parties are of the Jewish faith. Notice of marriage must be given by both parties in their district/s of residence and the marriage can take place a minimum of 28 clear days from the date of giving the later notice. The marriage must take place within 12 months of giving the first notice.

What happens if my marriage is to take place in another country?

In certain circumstances it may be possible for notice of marriage to be given in the district/s where a couple live if the marriage is taking place in another country. A certificate of no impediment would be issued 28 clear days after the notice has been given.

Please contact your local registration office for more information.

Planning your ceremony and celebrations

You'll be working closely with our expert team of registrars to create your perfect ceremony. We will support and guide you to choose readings and poetry. You can also write your own vows. See more in our Platinum package.

Throughout the planning stage, you can also discuss arrangements to bring in music and what options you have of when to play your chosen music, you may wish to have some live music and that is always enjoyable for all present. If you have chosen one of our approved venues, you will need to discuss these arrangements with the staff there.

Beyond your ceremony, you might want to consider how you will celebrate with friends and family. This includes photography, videography, a wedding cake, wedding favours, wedding rings (if you choose to exchange rings), table decorations, music, attendants' outfits and your outfits. Many of our brides choose to wear wedding gowns; this is a matter of personal choice. You will also have to think about how to transport yourselves and guests between the ceremony and reception venues. Please speak to our registrars or the staff at your venue who will be able to help you with timings and other arrangements.

During the reception, many couples choose to give speeches and present small tokens of gratitude to the immediate wedding party. If you choose to do so, there are a number of online resources to help write speeches. You may want to speak with staff at your reception venue to arrange the best time for speeches, and anything you may need, for example, microphones. Gifts would normally be for parents of the couple, attendants and bridesmaids and the best man.

Unfortunately, with the exception of guide dogs, we cannot allow pets into any of our licensed ceremony rooms.

Do we have to exchange rings?

No, this is a personal choice and is not a legal requirement.

Can we have live music played during our ceremony?

Yes, this is possible. We often have live music including the occasional singing performance from a guest. At council venues live music is possible but we cannot permit the use of equipment that requires an electrical supply. For ceremonies at approved premises, you should discuss options with the staff there.

What type of music can we have?

Any music that you choose must be non-religious and must be approved by the superintendent registrar at least four weeks before the ceremony. If you wish to play pre-recorded music we have to check that your CD is compatible with our sound systems. CDs of music to be played at approved premise weddings/civil partnerships must be submitted to that venue’s ceremony coordinator after approval by the superintendent registrar.

We suggest that you select a few pieces of music whilst your guests gather in the ceremony room and possibly a special track for the entrance of the bride; however this will only be played for a few seconds. Two or three tracks could be played whilst you sign the register and then you may like a special track as you both leave the room.

Arriving at the venue

You are requested to arrive at least 15 minutes before your ceremony time (30 minutes before at an approved premise). The late arrival of a party means the delay of subsequent ceremonies. We also ask that if your ceremony is at one of our registration offices, that you advise your guests not to arrive too early as we have no waiting areas designated for wedding parties and so they will be asked to wait outside.

It is always pleasant to see the ceremony party arrive and the photographer taking photos of the arrival but we cannot delay the start of a ceremony to accommodate more than just a couple of photographs. Please read and then pass on to your photographer our photography leaflet, which can be found as part of your ceremony pack as well as on this site.

In some cases of extreme lateness, the registrars reserve the right to shorten or even postpone the ceremony.

Last minute checks

Rehearsal

To prepare for your ceremony, you will be able to attend a group rehearsal evening at the register office in Beverley at a small fee per couple. These take place on the second Wednesday evening of each calendar month between March and October subject to enough couples wishing to attend. It gives the couple the chance to go through the ceremony so that the day runs as smoothly as possible and any fears can be banished.

Pay and discuss

You are invited to attend a Pay and Discuss appointment four weeks before your ceremony date. Any outstanding fees must have been paid in full at this time. During the appointment, you will have the opportunity to discuss any final requirements and confirm details for your ceremony, such as your music list and reading arrangements.

Full information on fees, including administration fees for rearranging dates or cancelling a ceremony can be found on our Wedding page.

During the ceremony

If you choose, a close friend or relative of any age can 'give away' the bride or one partner.

The conducting and registration of your marriage/civil partnership will be carried out by registrars. Unfortunately, we cannot allow for a Minister or a friend to conduct the ceremony.

Photos and video: We do encourage photographs but ask that guests do not take them during the ceremony as the noise and movement can really disturb the ceremony. However, we are happy for one designated photographer to take a few select shots which have been agreed beforehand with the conducting registrar. We are happy for a video to record the ceremony and can advise the videographer on the best viewpoint. We do not allow videos or photographs to be taken of the legal register or paperwork but we will set up a mock register for this purpose.

Unless you have booked additional time this can be limited within the ceremony room and although we do allow some photos these may have to be select shots as the registrars will more than likely have to move on to another ceremony immediately after yours.

After the ceremony

Do I have to take my partner's name when I get married?

There is no legal requirement to take your partner's name after you get married or form a civil partnership. You can keep your own name if you wish and you do not need to notify anyone of that decision. However, you may take your partner's name or even combine the two.

Your marriage/civil partnership certificate can be used as proof of your new name, there is no need for a name change deed to be done.

Who do I have to notify if I decide to change my name?

You only have to notify those persons or organisations that have an interest in your identity. For example, you will have to notify your employer, your bank, Inland Revenue , doctors etc.

How do I get copies of my certificate?

Additional marriage or civil partnership certificates may be purchased. You can buy copies in the future from the registrar up to one calendar month after your ceremony at £4 each , thereafter the fee will increase, please contact this office for further information.

What happens if I or my partner wish to transgender?

A member of a married couple who applies for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) cannot be issued with a full GRC certificate, instead the Gender Recognition Panel must issue an interim GRC.

Where an interim GRC has been issued and the applicant wishes to obtain a full GRC, the applicant must take steps to end her/his marriage or civil partnership within six months of the issue of the certificate. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the issue of an interim GRC is a ground for making a marriage or civil partnership voidable. This enables them to move from marriage to civil partnership without any break between the two.

There is further information about this process on the external gender recognition panel's website.

Justice - Gender Recognition Panel (external website)

Please save the date

With your package chosen and ceremony venue provisionally booked, you may also want to:

  • book your reception venue and choose catering plans
  • decide on a gift list for guests to give to you
  • send save the dates and invitations to your guests
  • collect RSVPs and plan seating arrangements for the reception.

Stag and Hen parties

Some couples getting married or entering civil partnership choose to hold separate celebrations with friends. These can be organised by friends or family instead. You may want to consider if you want to hold a party, who will organise it and how far in advance of the ceremony it will be.

Honeymoon

The tradition of a honeymoon is an opportunity for couples to spend time alone together following a marriage or civil partnership.

Some couples choose to use this time to go on holiday. A couple may decide to do so immediately, or wait a few months, perhaps years. Where you go, and for how long for, is a personal choice for every couple.

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What you said about us

Naming ceremonies

"The service yesterday was very good, nothing was too much trouble. Thanks to all your staff for making our special day special only the weather let us down."

Beverley March 2018
Naming ceremonies

"Thank you to your staff for a truly lovely ceremony. Both were very helpful and professional on our magical day."

Goole and Pocklington March 2018
Naming ceremonies

"The ceremony was lovely. I would recommend the place inside and out. Thank you"

Bridlington April 2018
Naming ceremonies

"We were made to feel so welcome and special on our wedding day, it was only a small service but everyone was amazing."

Beverley May 2018
Naming ceremonies

"Thank you for the lovely service and all your help.Our day was just perfect and that was all down to the Registrar at Bridlington."

Bridlington March 2018
Naming ceremonies

"What a wonderful day! Both ladies were professional and empathetic. The balance between delivering administrative formalities and conveying a personalised service could not have been better."

Goole and Pocklington April 2018
Naming ceremonies

"Thank you for hosting our wedding ceremony last Saturday. My family really enjoyed the service and thought it was brilliantly delivered."

Beverley April 2018

East Riding Registration and Celebration services