- Introduction and background information
- Part 1 The licencing procedure
- Part 2 The licence requirements
- Part 3 Other important information
- Appendix 1 Licence requirements
- Appendix 2 Conditions attached to the grant of approval
- Appendix 3 The responsible person
- Appendix 4 Timetable of registration officers' visit
Introduction and background information
Thank you for your interest in becoming a venue licenced to hold civil ceremonies.
We welcome enquiries and applications from all types of venues, not just stately homes and hotels, as couples all have their own individual wishes.
This handbook sets out our arrangements for the licensing of non-religious venues as approved premises. It also offers practical information and guidance to help you manage ceremonies at your venue.
Before making an application, you may wish to arrange an initial visit to discuss the arrangements and commitment required.
If so, do please contact us to arrange a visit. If you have any comments on the process, then please do let us know as we always want to improve the process by making it as simple and straightforward as possible.
If you require advice or assistance, please contact us.
Part 1 The licencing procedure
The licence procedure is straightforward:
- Once we have received your completed application form we will arrange for an advert to be placed on our website.
- We will send you a notice to display for 21 clear days.
- We will consult with the Fire Service.
- Staff from the local office will visit you to inspect the rooms. They will also be able to offer practical advice to you.
- At the end of the public consultation period, we will consider any objections.
- If approved, we will send you your licence. We will also add your details to the public register on our website.
The licence is valid for three years from the date of approval. Rooms added at a later date will require a further application and payment of a new licence fee.
You should also give consideration as to whether you wish to add an outdoor area to your licence.
We set the application fees for licensing venues each year. Current fees are available on our website. The fee is non-returnable and must be submitted with the application, it can be paid by cheque (made payable to North Yorkshire Council) or by BACS payment.
Objections to an application
The application will be advertised on our website. A period of 21 clear days is available for any person or organisation to make comment on or to object to the application.
Where objections to an application are made by any person, these will be considered when making the decision as to whether to approve the application.
Fire precautions and health and safety
The health and safety of visitors is the responsibility of the venue.
A fire risk assessment is required as part of the licensing process and we also consult with the Fire and Rescue Service.
You will need to produce a current fire risk assessment at the time of application and you may be required to provide confirmation of a current fire-risk assessment at any time during the life of the licence.
Please enclose a current action plan showing the progress to rectify any issues arising from the risk assessment.
You should consult the planning authority as to whether planning consent is required and attach evidence to your application that it is content that the built premises may be used for marriages and civil partnerships.
We maintain a register of all licenced venues, which is open to public inspection. We do this primarily through our website and we encourage venues to send us some additional details to help publicise their venue. These would be a picture of your venue, your contact details for enquiries for the public and a link to your website.
Before you apply
Please think carefully about which rooms and outside areas you would want on the licence, you can have ten rooms included as part of the standard fee. You can also have an outside area if you wish - see further below. If in doubt, include the room, there is no requirement that you have to use a particular room or offer it to couples.
We are unable to make amendments to a licence for the building once granted, the only means to change a licence is to reapply.
Part 2 The licence requirements
To obtain a licence, all venues must meet the licence requirements set out in law and those additional requirements set by ourselves. These requirements are set out in detail in Appendix 1 and Appendix 2.
- the built venue must be a permanent immovable structure comprising of at least one room, or any boat or other vessel which is permanently moored
- the venue must be in keeping with the solemnity and dignity of the marriage or civil partnership ceremony
- the premises must not be religious premises
- the premises must be regularly available for the solemnisation of civil marriages or the formation of civil partnerships.
- the rooms(s) or area(s) where ceremonies take place must be identifiable and accessible because the public must have unrestricted access to witness the marriage or civil partnership and/or make an objection prior to or during the ceremony
- no charge may be made to any member of the public attending a ceremony
- the venue should, where possible, comply with disabled access requirements (however it is accepted that this may not always be possible given the age, construction and style of the building) and if disabled access is not possible then measures must be in place for a disabled objector to voice their concerns
There are separate requirements for outdoor areas. (See further below)
Within the venue
Within the venue, individual rooms or areas are licensed; ceremonies may only take place within the rooms listed on the licence. There is no limit to the number of rooms that can be approved, however full details must be included in the application.
Whilst the ceremony rooms do not have to be separate from other activities at the venue they must not be affected by any other activity taking place at the venue before and during a ceremony.
The room will need to be provided with a table (for signing the legal documents) and a chair. There should also be enough space where the couple, two witnesses and the two registrars will stand.
The ceremony room or area should be ready one hour before the agreed start time for the ceremony.
In addition to the ceremony room a further separate room or area must be available for a confidential interview with the couple before the ceremony. This must not be an occupied bedroom.
Freestanding 'gazebo' structures and terraces
A freestanding or ‘gazebo’ structure must be permanent and immovable. This will usually be taken to mean a solid floor and a roof.
- the structure must have a brick, stone, concrete or wooden base
- the structure should have a permanent and waterproof roof (which ideally should be tiled although other coverings will be considered), the roof should be supported by brick, stone, concrete or wood pillars or walls and the space between pillars may have trellising or other decoration
- the structure should be of sufficient size to accommodate a ceremony in comfort for at least the following: two registration staff, one table, at least two chairs, the couple and two witnesses
Outdoor areas including temporary structures
You can add an outside area including an area for a temporary structure such as a marquee. You must hold a licence for the building before you can add an outside area and the outside area can only be the grounds around the licenced building.
This type of ceremony is always weather dependent and we must be notified in advance. You should discuss this option with your couples if you think it would appeal to them.
You should consider whether there are any factors that could interrupt or disturb the ceremony, for example noise from passers-by or traffic.
Where the guests are not covered by a weatherproof structure, the ceremony would be weather dependent and therefore only available from April 1 to October 31.
In addition, an alternative (non-weather dependent) room must be available on the day and licenced for ceremonies.
The responsible person
The venue must have a person appointed as the responsible person. This person is the main link between the venue and ourselves. They will need to be present before, during and after the ceremony to assist the registrars with any issues that may arise.
The licence holder may be the responsible person but usually deputies are appointed. The duties of the responsible person are detailed at Appendix 3.
The licence notice
A suitable notice stating that the premises have been approved for the proceedings and identifying and giving directions to the room or area in which the proceedings are to take place, must be displayed at each public entrance to the premises for one hour prior to and throughout the proceedings.
Promotion of the licence
The licence holder or anyone employed or acting on their behalf may not imply in any advertisement, statement or document that we or the Registrar General recommends the venue for civil marriages or civil partnerships. The licence holder may wish to use the following words to describe an approved premises licence:
“Approved by North Yorkshire Council as a venue for the solemnisation of civil marriages and the formation of civil partnerships”
We supply a paper copy of the licence which you may place on public display.
Changes to the licence
We require immediate notification of any of the following changes:
- the layout of the premises, as shown in the plan submitted with the approved application, or in the use of the premises
- the name or full address of the approved premises
- the description of the room or rooms in which the proceedings are to take place
- the name and address of the holder of the approval
- the name, address or qualification of the responsible person
Renewing a licence
The holder may apply for the renewal of an approval when the current approval has twelve months to run. An application for renewal made in this period will extend the current approval until the application has been finally dealt with. Any renewal will run from the expiry date of the current approval.
We will contact approved premises within 12 months of the expiry of their licence to remind them of the expiry date and the renewal procedure.
Revoking a licence
We may revoke the licence if:
- any conditions attached to the grant of the licence have been broken
- the use or structure of the approved premises has changed and we no longer consider the premises as a suitable venue
- if directed to do so by the Registrar General
Part 3 Other important information
All ceremony bookings must be agreed with the staff at your local registration office.
Food and drink
No food or alcohol may be sold and/or consumed within the ceremony room or area one hour before or during the ceremony.
Food and/or drink can be served and consumed elsewhere at the venue but the applicant is responsible for ensuring that no food and/or alcohol is brought into the ceremony room or area.
The timetable on the day
There is a sample timetable of the order of events on the day at Appendix 4.
Guests should be assembled in the ceremony room or area 15 minutes before the start of the ceremony.
The registrars have the discretion not to proceed with a ceremony if any of the party or either of the couple is threatening, abusive or seemingly under the influence of drink or drugs.
The venue’s responsible person will be expected to deal with inappropriate behaviour by guests.
Couples often choose to have music played before, during and after their ceremony. Any music system must be operated either by a member of the venue staff or someone nominated from the guests. Alternatively if live music is to be provided space should be made available without compromising the area needed to conduct the ceremony.
Music should be of a secular nature although music that contains words such as 'heaven' or 'angels' in a pop song may be allowed.
The venue is responsible for ensuring compliance, where necessary, with any copyright licence requirements.
Photographers must not cause any delays to the ceremony.
We have a code of conduct for photographers which will be given to all couples booking a ceremony; which the responsible person should be aware of. This is available from our website.
Where car parking is available one car parking space should be reserved for the use of the registration staff. These spaces should be near to the main entrance so that the registration staff may leave promptly once the ceremony is finished.
Celebration, commemoration or blessing
Marriages and civil partnerships at approved premises can be followed by a celebration, commemoration or blessing, providing that it is not a religious marriage ceremony and is separate from the civil ceremony.
The venue must make it clear to couples wishing to have a ‘follow-on’ ceremony that the civil ceremony conducted by registration staff is an essential legal requirement prior to any subsequent, non-legal celebration. There should be a break between the end of the civil ceremony and the start of any blessing.
If a religious blessing were to regularly follow ceremonies, or be considered part of the service being offered, there may deemed to be a religious connection which would be incompatible with the licence requirements and may lead to us revoking the licence.
Non-statutory ceremonies delivered by independent celebrants
If a venue allows independent celebrants to deliver non-statutory ceremonies on its premises then the public should be made aware that the celebrant is not associated with ourselves.
Registration contact details and out-of-hours service
Venues will be issued with contact details of their local registration office. We also operate an out-of-hours service so that approved premises may contact a duty officer in case of an emergency affecting a ceremony.
Appendix 1: Licence requirements
The following are the key legal requirements a venue must meet.
- Having regard to their primary use, situation, construction and state of repair, the built premises must, in the opinion of ourselves, be a seemly and dignified venue for the proceedings.
- The built premises must be regularly available to the public for use for the solemnization of marriages and the registration (formation) of civil partnerships.
- The built premises must have the benefit of such fire precautions as may reasonably be required by the authority, having consulted with the fire authority and such other reasonable provision for the health and safety of persons employed in or visiting the built premises as the authority considers appropriate.
- The premises must not be religious premises as defined by section 6(2) of the Civil Partnership Act 2004( “Religious premises” means premises which are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.)
- The room or rooms in which the proceedings are to take place in the built premises if approval is granted must be identifiable by description as a distinct part of the built premises.
Appendix 2: Conditions attached to the grant of approval - built premises
Marriage Act 1949
Civil Partnership Act 2004
Approval of Secular Built Premises
|1||The holder of the approval must ensure that there is at all times an individual with responsibility for ensuring compliance with the conditions attached to the approval and those conditions set out Schedule 3 (“the responsible person”) and that the responsible person’s occupation, seniority, position of responsibility in relation to the premises, or other factors (his “qualification”), indicate that he is in a position to ensure compliance with the conditions attached to the approval.|
|2||The responsible person, or, in his absence, an appropriately qualified deputy appointed by him, shall be available on the premises for a minimum of one hour prior to and throughout each of the proceedings|
The holder must notify the Authority:
The holder must notify the Authority immediately of any change to any of the following:
|5||The approved premises must be made available at all reasonable times for inspection by the Authority|
|6||For the purposes of proceedings held in the built premises, a suitable notice stating that the premises have been approved for the proceedings and identifying and giving directions to the room in which the proceedings are to take place, must be displayed at each public entrance to the built premises for one hour prior to and throughout the proceedings|
|8||All proceedings held in the built premises, the room in which proceedings are to take place which was identified as one to be used for that purpose on the plan submitted with the approved application.|
|9||For the purpose of proceedings held in the built premises, the room in which proceedings are to take place must be separate from any other activity on the built premises at the time of the proceedings.|
|10||The arrangements for and content of the proceedings must meet with the prior approval of the superintendent registrar of the district in which the approved premises are situated.|
Any proceedings conducted on approved premises shall not be religious in nature.
In particular, the proceedings shall not:
But the proceedings may include readings, songs or music that contains an incidental reference to a god or deity in an essentially non-religious context.
For this purpose any material used by way of introduction to, in any interval between parts of, or by way of conclusion to the proceedings shall be treated as forming part of the proceedings
|12||Public access to any proceedings solemnized in approved premises must be permitted without charge.|
|13||Any reference to the approval of premises on any sign or notice, or on any stationery or publication, or within any advertisement may state that the premises have been approved by the Authority as a venue for marriage in pursuance of Section 26(1)(bb) of the 1949 Act, and the formation of civil partnership under Section 6 (3A)(a) of the 2004 Act, but shall not state or imply any recommendation of the premises or its facilities by the Authority, the Registrar General or any of the officers or employees of either of them.|
|14||If a change of name to the approved premises occurs after the issue of the certificate for marriage or the civil partnership document but before the proceedings, the former name of the approved premises as recorded in the certificate for marriage or the civil partnership document shall remain valid for its duration for the purpose of the proceedings.|
|15||All ceremony bookings will be subject to the availability of registrars and the couple's legal capacity to enter into the marriage or civil partnership.|
|16||Where car parking is available, the holder of the licence should be able to ensure the provision of one car parking space for registration staff on days when ceremonies are taking place.|
|17||There should be an additional room, distinct from where the ceremony will take place, available for the Registrar to interview the couple, separately and in private, prior to the ceremony at least 30 minutes before the ceremony is due to begin. This must not be an occupied bedroom. The Responsible Person should ensure that couples are ready to be interviewed so that the ceremony may start promptly at the time arranged.|
Note: Standard conditions set out in paras. 1-14 above have been laid down by the Registrar General and local conditions, from para. 15 onwards, above, have been determined by ourselves. There is no right of appeal against the imposition of conditions 1-14, you may, however appeal against the imposition of conditions in paragraphs 15 onwards.
Appendix 2b: Additional conditions attached to the grant of approval - outside areas
Conditions to be attached to grants of approval of premises which are not religious premises relating to proceedings held in linked outdoor areas.
1 For the purposes of proceedings held in the linked outdoor areas, prior confirmation must be secured from the superintendent registrar of the district in which the approved premises are situated, or the authority, as the case may be, that in their opinion, having regard to the primary use, situation, construction and state of repair, the proceedings will take place in a seemly and dignified location within the linked outdoor areas.
2 The location within the linked outdoor areas at which the proceedings take place must be identifiable by directions which are capable of being stated in a notice under paragraph 4 to enable the public to access the location.
3 (1) For the purposes of proceedings held within the linked outdoor areas, save as provided below, no food or drink may be sold to or permitted to be consumed by persons attending the proceedings:
when gathering for the purposes of the proceedings; or
during the proceedings
(2) Non-alcoholic drinks may be permitted to be consumed prior to the proceedings.
4. For the purposes of proceedings held within the linked outdoor areas, a suitable notice stating:
a. that the premises have been approved for the proceedings
b. the description of the location within the linked outdoor areas at which the proceedings are to take place
c. directions to the location within the linked outdoor areas at which the proceedings are to take place
must be displayed at each public entrance to the premises and the built premises for one hour prior to and throughout the proceedings.
Appendix 3: The responsible person
Every venue must have a designated responsible person. They are the main link between the venue and ourselves. The venue must appoint a responsible person immediately after approval of the licence; we advise that deputies to the responsible person are also appointed.
This role is important both legally and in ensuring the smooth running of ceremonies and the responsible person and their deputies are accountable for ensuring compliance with the conditions of the licence.
The responsible person or their deputy must enforce the conditions attached to the approval by:
Appendix 4: Timetable of registration officers' Visit
It may be that the staff will have other ceremonies to attend, so your co-operation in ensuring the ceremony starts promptly would be much appreciated. This is in order to avoid potential difficulties with later bookings at other venues, which could be compromised by the late arrival of Registration staff.
- The registration staff will arrive at the venue 30 minutes before the ceremony. They will advise reception of their arrival. It is assumed that there will be staff on hand from the venue to help and assist the guests as they arrive for example, where the room is, cloakroom facilities etc. Staff from the registration service will not be available to do this.
- They will then need to meet up with the responsible person on duty and view the room in use for that ceremony. Registration staff may also need somewhere to be able to leave coats, briefcases etc. safely until after the ceremony.
- The couple will then be interviewed usually separately, but can be seen together depending on the couple’s wishes. Whilst this is being done, the responsible person should arrange for the guests to be seated in the room. Music may be played during this time.
- The Superintendent Registrar or her deputy will then conduct the ceremony. If desired by the couple, this may of course be recorded.
- Once the ceremony has ended (this takes between 15-30 minutes) the couple, witnesses and the registrar will sign the marriage schedule. Music may be played at this point, and indeed may help to overcome the halt in official proceedings. The writing takes about three to four minutes on average. At this point photographs of “the signing of the schedule” may take place
- The registration staff will then take their leave.
It may be that the staff will have other ceremonies to attend, so your co-operation in ensuring the ceremony starts promptly would be much appreciated. This is in order to avoid potential difficulties with later bookings at other venues, which could be compromised by the late arrival of registration staff.