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Marriage in England and Wales

Any couple wishing to marry in England and Wales must observe certain preliminaries, which include residence requirements. 

Civil marriage

For civil weddings, both parties must give notice in person in the registration district where they have lived for at least seven days immediately before giving notice of marriage. They will need to give notice separately if they live in different registration districts. The residence requirement applies to all couples (with some limited exceptions), including those travelling from overseas to marry in England and Wales.

For most marriages, the couple must give notice at least 29 days before their wedding.

Having satisfied the residence requirements for giving notice, the couple may then get married at any register office or approved venue of their choice in England and Wales without having to set up residence in that district.

Marriage of foreign nationals

If one party is from outside the UK, both parties must give notice together at a register office in the district where at least one of them lives, unless they both have one of the following:

  • British or Irish citizenship
  • settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
  • an application to the EU Settlement Scheme made before 30 June 2021, on which a decision is awaited.

The notice period may sometimes be extended from the usual period of 28 days to 70 days under the sham marriage referral and investigation scheme (PDF). 

Marriage in the Church of England or Church in Wales

Generally, a couple may marry in the parish church of a parish where one or both of them are resident or where one or both of them can show a “qualifying connection”.

If a couple have a legal entitlement to marry in a parish and wish to marry in the parish church, the usual preliminary requirement for the wedding is the publication of banns (an announcement that the couple intend to marry). Banns are read on three Sundays in the parish where each of party lives and in the church (if different) where the marriage is to take place. A marriage after the calling of banns must be solemnized within three months of the last occasion on which banns were called.

A person with a genuine connection with a particular church or chapel (such as the chapel of a school or college), but who is unable to satisfy the legal requirement to marry there, may be able, with the agreement of the minister of that church, to apply for an Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Marriage Licence.

A Common Licence gives permission for a marriage to take place in a particular church where there is already a legally recognised connection. It may be needed if, among other things, one or both of the parties are British but live abroad, or live in the UK but their home is not in England or Wales.

In most cases, a Superintendent Registrar’s marriage schedule is needed for marriage in the Church of England or Church in Wales if either party is not a national of the UK or Ireland and does not hold Settled or Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Other religious marriages

Generally, other forms of religious marriage must be preceded by the civil notice preliminaries and the same residence requirements apply as for civil marriage.

For marriage in a registered place of worship, at least one of the couple must have been resident for seven days prior to giving notice in the registration district in which the building is situated, unless:  

  • the registered building is the usual place of worship of one or both of them, or
  • the couple declare that they wish to be married according to the rites of a particular religious group, to which at least one of them belongs, and that there is no registered building belonging to that group within their registration district. In this case the wedding may take place in the nearest registration district to have a registered building belonging to that religious group.

Law Commission recommendations for reform

In July 2022 the Law Commission published a report (PDF) that set out recommendations to reform weddings law. The Commission considers the seven-day residence requirement before giving notice should be abolished (PDF). Instead, the Commission recommends (PDF) it should be possible to give notice online or in person at any registration district, and that any person giving notice online should be required to attend a separate in-person interview at least five days before the marriage schedule is issued. The marriage schedule authorises the wedding and is used to register the marriage.

The Law Commission considers the ability to give initial notice online would be particularly convenient for some couples (PDF) and would make it easier for couples who live overseas to marry in England and Wales.

Anglican preliminaries (for example, banns) would be retained for Anglican weddings with some recommended reforms.

Some intended marriages would still be referred to the Secretary of State to determine whether the marriage should be investigated as a potential sham, in which case the waiting period could still be extended to 70 days.

In September 2023, the Government said it was considering the Law Commission’s recommendations and would respond in due course.

Marriage in Scotland

There are no general residence requirements for marriage in Scotland

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