Marriage arrangements and ceremonies

Information on the legal requirements for marriage and how to arrange a ceremony.

A marriage or civil partnership is a commitment, formed by two people, giving legal recognition of their relationship.

Giving legal notice of marriage or civil partnership.

By law, you must give more than 28 days’ formal notice before you can register a marriage. Notices are valid for one year.

The ceremony

Your marriage or civil partnership ceremony booking is accepted on the condition that:

  • No legal impediment to the marriage or civil partnership exists and legal preliminaries are completed as required; and
  • Any foreign divorce / dissolution papers are accepted by the registrar general where applicable.

A civil marriage can take place in any of our registration offices or approved venues, including stately homes and hotels. The ceremony can take place at any time in our offices, although the ceremony fee varies depending on the day and size of room.

The ceremony is personalised. However, by law, it must be entirely non-religious so cannot contain any religious readings or music.

More details about ceremonies are below.

We do not allow animals or wildlife (with the exception of guide dogs or assistance animals) at ceremonies in our registration offices.

If an approved venue allows animals or wildlife at their ceremony, the venue is entirely responsible for the health and safety of guests and any housekeeping issues that arise. We must be informed of these arrangements before the ceremony day.

We regret you cannot put bows or chair covers on as the room may be booked for other ceremonies following yours.

Cancellation charge

If you need to cancel your ceremony, please give notice of cancellation in writing via email or letter.

The deposit will be refunded if you cancel within 14 days of booking. If you cancel after 14 days, the deposit will be retained to cover administration costs.

Cancellation notice given Refund
More than three months before ceremony 100 per cent of ceremony fee (minus the deposit)
Between three months and 28 days before ceremony 75 per cent of ceremony fee (minus the deposit)
Less than 28 days before ceremony, or failure to cancel No refund

Cancellation of bookings by us

Your booking may be cancelled by us if you have not given your legal notice of intention to marry or form a civil partnership within the dates specified on your provisional booking notification. If there is a genuine reason for delay please contact us.

Cancellation or change of booking by couple or venue

Cancellations or changes to date or time must be given, in writing, to the registration office where you made your booking. We will try to accommodate any changes to date or venue within North Yorkshire. However, this may not always be possible.

Notices of marriage or civil partnership are only valid for the venue stated on them. If you change venue, you will need to give new notices at least 28 days before the ceremony. Further notice fees will be payable.

You may wish to add additional words to your ceremony. These must be agreed with the superintendent registrar (or their deputy) no later than four weeks prior to your ceremony. Any additional words or music must not be religious.

You are able to meet a member of the registration team prior to your ceremony. However, we cannot guarantee the same member of staff will attend your ceremony.

The guidance on confetti varies for each office; please contact the relevant office for further details.

There is no dress code although we do expect the ceremony to be dignified. Members of the armed forces are welcome to wear their uniform.

A deposit is payable when you book your ceremony. If you cancel within 14 days of booking, the deposit will be refunded. If you cancel after 14 days, the deposit will be retained to cover administration charges. We reserve the right to charge an additional fee if you later change the date or venue.

A £35 non-refundable statutory notice fee per person is required for all marriage and civil partnership ceremonies in addition to the fee for the ceremony.

Ceremony fees are requested when you give notice to us, or when we receive confirmation that you have given notice elsewhere (no earlier than 12 months and normally no later than three months before to the ceremony). For ceremonies booked less than three months in advance, ceremony fees are payable within seven days of giving notice.

A full list of fees is on the registration service fees page.

It is not possible to pay your fees in instalments.

We reserve the right to cancel your attendance at the ceremony if all the fees have not been paid before the date of the ceremony.

You can provide your own flowers, but silk flowers are provided. Many brides put their bouquet next to the register when having their picture taken. We ask that all flower arrangements you bring are removed at the end of your ceremony as the room may be booked for another ceremony party.

The time booked for the ceremony is the time it will start. If the ceremony starts late, we may amend it to reduce its duration.

  • If the ceremony does not start within 20 minutes of the scheduled time and we are not responsible for the delay, we may defer or cancel the ceremony;
  • If a ceremony is cancelled in these circumstances the fee will not be refunded; and
  • If the ceremony takes place later than planned, we may charge an additional fee.

All music played must be non-religious. We ask that you notify us in advance of which music you will be playing.

If your ceremony is in one of our approved venues, you should check directly with the venue about the type of music equipment they provide or their arrangements for live music.

If your ceremony is at one of our offices, these all have equipment to connect a Bluetooth enabled device. All our registration offices can also play CDs. If using a CD, please submit this beforehand so we can test the CD on our equipment. You must clearly mark the CD with the date and names of the couple.

If you are using other formats, MP3 for example, we strongly advise the recording is checked before the day on the equipment it will be played on. Not all other music devices will connect to our equipment.

The law requires that the legal part of a ceremony take place in an approved location holding a licence for marriage and civil partnership. These must take place within a permanent, immovable structure, with a fixed roof and solid floor. The structure needs to offer cover to the main party, i.e. the couple, two registrars and both witnesses.

We license a number of venues with locations that are very nearly outside - with the guests outside and only the main party under cover. In these venues both the legal and the celebratory elements can take place in one ceremony.

In some venues where there is no suitable outside structure or where couples have a specific location in mind, we can offer an 'inside out' ceremony. The legal proceedings take place in a licensed room in the venue and a celebratory ceremony takes place (before or after the proceedings) outside.

Ceremonies are only held outside in daylight hours between the months of April and October.

What can go wrong?

The great British summer being what it is, you should make plans for holding your ceremony in an alternative location if the weather is bad or extreme conditions on the day. The registrars will not be able to wait until the weather improves. They will have other ceremonies to attend so will need to leave punctually.

Please remember the comfort of all your guests; they will be outside longer than you are! So please advise them to dress appropriately and do think about your older guests. Your guests need to be comfortable and be able to hear the ceremony - especially if you are under cover and they are not.

Consider it a bonus if the weather is kind to you!

Ceremonies in outside structures

A booking is accepted for an outside structure which must be a permanent structure as outlined above on condition that:

  • The ceremony takes place during daylight hours; and
  • The venue must agree and also reserve an alternative ceremony room for you in case it needs to be conducted indoors.

Photographs are usually available both within and outside the venue. An official photographer will be able to take a limited number of photos during the ceremony with prior arrangement with the registrar. Photographers must not cause any unnecessary delays to the start of the ceremony. You will receive our  code of conduct for photographers (pdf / 231 KB) when booking your ceremony. We ask that you pass this on to your photographer.

You can Skype or record the ceremony but we ask that the couple make all necessary arrangements.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you have two credible witnesses at the ceremony. We require that witnesses signing the register are aged 16 or over.

If an interpreter is needed, you should arrange for them to attend. The interpreter must be one of the two witnesses who signs the register.

Frequently asked questions

To do this your civil partnership must have been registered in England or Wales. The law does not apply to those registered in Scotland or any country outside the United Kingdom.

There are two options available:

Standard (one stage) procedure

This requires couples to attend any registration office in England or Wales together. You will need to make an appointment and show evidence of your name, date of birth, address and civil partnership certificate to complete a declaration and sign the document. Once the document has been signed the marriage is recorded and a certificate will be issued.

There is no ceremony at the standard procedure. However, later you may decide to have a celebratory ceremony that would be totally separate from the above. We will be happy to discuss and arrange this for you.

Two stage procedure

This includes a ceremony as part of the process but still require couples to attend any registration office in England or Wales together. You will need to make an appointment and show evidence of your name, date of birth, address and civil partnership certificate in order to complete the declaration. However, you will not sign the declaration at that time. The signing takes place at the second stage of the procedure - the celebratory ceremony.

The signing of the declaration may take place at a range of venues, such as:

  • approved venues for marriages or civil partnerships anywhere in England or Wales;
  • a registration service office anywhere in England or Wales;
  • religious buildings registered for the marriage of same sex couples where a ceremony under Section 46 of the Marriage Act 1946 is to immediately follow the conversion into marriage; or
  • premises where a ceremony according to the Jewish faith or the Society of Friends is to immediately follow the conversion.

Couples who wish to sign their conversion declaration at a registration office in a different district from where the declaration has been given can do so under the two stage procedure.

The signing of the declaration must take place within 12 months of making the declaration, otherwise it will expire. It will not be recorded as marriage until or unless the declaration is signed, and a marriage certificate cannot be issued.


Please see our registration service fees page for details of the fees.

The cheapest ceremony option is in the working office of the Superintendent Registrar available at Harrogate register office. This is available on the second Tuesday of every month (mornings only).

The ceremony party is just the couple, the registrars and two witnesses. The ceremony has no enhancements such as readings or music and wording is kept to the legal minimum wording required.

Please see our fees page for current costs.

If you are from outside the European Economic Area or Switzerland and subject to immigration control, you will need a visa to come to the UK to give notice and get married or form a civil partnership here. You can find more information about this process from the GOV.UK website.

In this situation, both parties must give notice in person at one of the specially designated registration offices in England and Wales. The nearest offices to North Yorkshire are in Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

It is advisable to contact your local registration office about getting married abroad before you make all the arrangements.

Contact the local authorities in the country where you want to get married to find out what you need to do. Your marriage should be recognised in the UK if you follow the correct process according to local law. Please check if you are required to give a Certificate of No Impediment and how long this is acceptable in that country. Details are available on GOV.UK website.  You must provide us with the exact details of how to record the place of marriage on the notice as required by the country.

From 1 January 2014, marriage solemnised in accordance with the local law of a foreign country cannot be registered in this country. British nationals overseas or British nationals who marry overseas will need to make their own arrangements for the safekeeping of their certificates. You will not be able to get copy certificates for a ceremony after that date from this country. If you deposited your certificate before 1 January 2014, you will still be able to obtain a copy from the General Register Office. Details of this are available on the GOV.UK website.

You can apply for a passport in your new name up to three months before the ceremony.

The form should be returned to the minister of religion or registration office that is performing your ceremony.

If a person is terminally ill and cannot attend somewhere legally registered for marriages or civil partnerships we may be able to carry out a ceremony under a special licence.

How to apply

No residential qualification is necessary for either party, but the partner of the terminally ill person must give notice of marriage or civil partnership at the registration office in the district that this person is being cared for.

Medical evidence of the sick person's condition and their capacity to understand the nature and purpose of the ceremony will be required.

Both parties must be legally free to marry or sign the civil partnership register and normal evidence of name, age and marital/civil partnered status will be required.

Yes, however these ceremonies do not give any legal status or rights. The following documents need to be produced to book a ceremony:

  • the birth certificate of the person being named; and / or
  • The marriage or civil partnership certificate for couples renewing their vows.

No. Each person needs to give their own notice of marriage or civil ceremony. 

Yes, it is the natural parents' legal duty to update the birth records of their children when they marry or enter a civil partnership. Please see the changing or correcting a birth record page for more details.

Yes, you can order a copy of a marriage certificate from our copy certificates page.

Personal information which you are required by law to provide for a registration will be kept by the relevant local registration officer. The local registration officer to whom you supply information will also send a copy of this information to the General Register Office for England and Wales so that a central record of all registrations can be maintained.

A copy of any register entry will be provided to any applicant, provided that they supply enough information to identify the entry concerned and pay the appropriate fee. The copy may only be issued in the form of a paper certified copy (a "certificate"). An application for a certificate may be made to either the local register office or to the General Register Office.

The General Register Office makes indexes, for the central record of registrations, publicly available in order to help members of the public identify the registration they might need. The register office also makes a local index available for this purpose.

The local register office may also choose to make the information contained within local indexes available online. This will be done in order to help members of the public identify the registration they might need. Any information placed online must be done in manner which is compliant with the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act.

Additionally, confidential information for statistical purposes which you are required by law to give to the local registration officer, and other information provided voluntarily, will be passed to the UK Statistics Authority for the preparation and supply of statistics.

As well as providing certificates, local registration officers and the General Register Office may make registration information available to other organisations, for the following purposes:

  1. Statistical or research purposes;
  2. Administrative purposes by official bodies e.g. ensuring their records are up to date; and
  3. Fraud prevention or detection, immigration and passport purposes.

For further information on data held by the Registrar General see the GOV.UK HM Passport Office privacy policy web page.

Staff at this local registration office will be able to provide further information on data held by the registration service.

It is a legal requirement for each person to produce two documents - one from list one and another from list two, and also from lists three and four if they apply to you.

The appointment will not proceed without these exact documents. 

1. Evidence of name, surname, date of birth and nationality (see 'four' below)

  • Valid British passport;
  • If born before 1/1/1983 a UK birth certificate plus one official document from list two to confirm current name;
  • If born after 1/1/1983 a full UK birth certificate plus one official document from list two to confirm current name. You will also need your mother’s birth certificate or passport or you can bring your father’s birth certificate or passport plus your parent’s marriage certificate. Where parent’s documents are in a different name to those named on your birth certificate further documentation will be required to show the link of names;
  • Valid European Economic Area state or Switzerland - passport or identity card;
  • Certificate of registration as a British citizen; or
  • Certificate of naturalisation as a British citizen.

You cannot use the same document for proof of name and proof of residence.

You cannot use a residency letter for proof of name.

If your name has changed since these documents were issued, we need to see evidence from list four to show the link of names.

2. Evidence of your place of residence

This document must show your current name and address.

  • Utility bill no more than 3 months old;
  • Bank or building society statement/passbook no more than 1 month old;
  • Council tax bill for current council tax year;
  • Mortgage statement no more than 1 year old;
  • Current residential tenancy agreement;
  • Valid driving licence; or
  • Letter from the owner or proprietor of the property where you have been residing plus one of the above in that person’s name.

3. Evidence of ending of a previous marriage or civil partnership 

  • Decree absolute of divorce or nullity granted by a court in England or Wales;
  • Dissolution order or nullity of civil partnership granted by a court in England or Wales;
  • Documents confirming divorce or annulment granted by a court in any part of the British Islands and recognised in the UK;
  • Documents confirming dissolution or annulment of a civil partnership in the UK;
  • Documents confirming divorce or annulment from outside the British Isles and recognised in the UK (additional fees apply);
  • Documents confirming divorce or annulment of civil partnership obtained outside the UK and recognised by the UK (additional fees apply);
  • Death certificate of spouse or civil partner and marriage / civil partnership certificate (if not named on Death Certificate); or
  • Presumed death certificate of spouse or civil partner.

If your name on your decree absolute / dissolution is different to the name you are using now, we need to see evidence from list four to show the link of these names.

4. Evidence of change of name 

  • Deed poll (three stamps; registered in the Supreme Court of Deeds at the Royal Courts of Justice);
  • 'Unregistered' deed polls / statutory declaration; or
  • Marriage certificate(s).

Where any evidence provided is not in English, a full translation must also be provided.

All documents must be original and not photocopies.

There is no current procedure to convert a marriage into a civil partnership, although it is possible there will be a procedure introduced for opposite sex couples in 2020.

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