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The ceremony frequently asked questions

Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about marriage and civil partnership ceremonies.

Can one of us be 'fashionably late'?

Unfortunately not. You must be ready to start your ceremony on time as we may be conducting other ceremonies after yours. We cannot risk being late for another couple's booking. If you are late for your ceremony you risk it being shortened or even postponed which would be upsetting. Please allow enough time to get ready and arrive at the venue calmly and on time.

How many guests can we invite?

It is important to adhere to the maximum number of guests for your chosen venue, so please check these details before you start your guest list.  Fire regulations stipulate these numbers and registration or venue staff are not able to allow more guests into the ceremony.

Do I need to bring any ID on the day of my ceremony?

No, you gave ID when you entered your notice of marriage or civil partnership so you don't need to bring any documents on the day. We do not need to see ID from your witnesses either.

Can we have more than one marriage certificate?

Yes, you can buy more than one certificate. They are £11.00 each if paid for on the day of the ceremony. It is useful if we know before the day of your ceremony how many certificates you will need. Please include this in the 'any other information' section of the checklist.

Should we make special arrangements for children at our ceremony?

We understand that formal ceremonies may be boring for young children. If any of the children at the ceremony are yours, you may wish to nominate a trusted friend or family member to make sure that they are kept happy and entertained during the proceedings. That way, you can both enjoy the ceremony without worrying whether your little one is okay. Guests should not feel uncomfortable about standing at the back of the room if their children become distressed during the ceremony.

Is there anything I need to avoid when writing my own vows or choosing music and readings?

The law says that any music, vows or readings used at a civil ceremony must be non-religious. You would not be able to include any hymns or religious music. This includes instrumental pieces. Also, you would not be able to include any readings from the Bible or other religious works, or any verse that has religious connotations. Please also take care with any extra vows. We cannot include phrases that would be used in a religious ceremony for example "to have and to hold from this day forward...." etc. Any additions to a ceremony must be talked about with the registrar before the day of your ceremony.

How long does the ceremony last?

The Registrars will be with you about 30 minutes before the ceremony begins to complete the legal preliminaries and make sure that all of the arrangements are in place. The ceremony itself will last between 20 and 30 minutes depending on whether there are any enhancements.

Can we simplify the civil ceremony?

You may wish to simplify the ceremony for a number of reasons. For example, you may be having an overseas celebration or a religious blessing, or you may be nervous and not comfortable speaking in front of a large number of guests. We are happy to accommodate your wishes for a simplified ceremony. Please talk to us about any requirements or concerns that you may have with us.

Who should we choose as witnesses?

You must have two witnesses but they could be family members or friends. We would usually ask that they be over the age of 18. They must be in the room during the entire ceremony and have understood the vows and the nature and purpose of the ceremony that they have witnessed. They will sign the legal marriage schedule to confirm that they have witnessed your marriage vows.

How do we sign the schedule?

You and your witnesses will be asked to sign your usual signature on the schedule.  If you are changing your name, you will be signing with the name you were using before your wedding. Before you sign, the Registrar will ask you to check the entry carefully. It is important to let us know if anything is wrong as it can easily be put right at that point. If a mistake is found after the schedule is signed you will have to apply to the General Register Office for a formal correction which will cost £90.

Can people take photos or videos of the ceremony?

Please consider the impact of too many people taking photographs during your ceremony. An official photographer may take photos of the bride making her entrance and your exchange of rings for example. However, we would ask him or her not to take any disruptive photographs whilst you say your legal vows so as not to detract from the moment. Your photographer and guests will be given an opportunity to take photos of you before you sign the official schedule and as you exit. You are welcome to set up a video camera to record your special day.

Can we bring our pet to our ceremony?

You are not allowed to bring any pet into the ceremony if you are marrying at the Civic Centre unless you have an assistance dog, for example a guide dog or hearing dog. If you are marrying at an approved venue, you will need to talk about your wishes with them directly.

What do we do if we need to cancel?

If your ceremony is no longer going ahead you should telephone the Register Office to tell us. We will also need written confirmation to be able to cancel a ceremony. If your ceremony is at one of the licensed venues you must tell the venue and the registration service separately. It is important that you tell us of any cancellations as soon as possible.

Can we have a ceremony on the beach or in the grounds of our chosen venue?

The law says that a marriage or civil partnership ceremony must happen within a building that has been approved for that purpose. It is therefore not possible at present to have a ceremony on the beach or in a marquee for example.

We would like to include a religious blessing. Is this possible?

Approved venues are only licensed to hold legal civil marriage ceremonies and civil partnerships. It may be possible to have a blessing at the venue but this must happen after the civil ceremony has been finished. There must also be a clear break between the two proceedings. Please talk about this with the registrars before making any arrangements.

Can I change my name on my passport before my ceremony?

You can apply to change your name on your passport up to three months before the date of your ceremony by applying to the Identity and Passport Service and completing the necessary form. A section of the form must also be signed by the registrar. Please make sure that the name on any of your flight/travel bookings and the name on your passport are going to be the same if you are travelling overseas after your ceremony.

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Last modified on 08 September 2021