Registry office weddings 101: everything you need to know

Not wild about the idea of a big, fat, white wedding? Also not looking forward to blowing ALL your savings on ONE day? Or maybe you’re just taking care of the legal bits before your dream destination wedding? Whatever your reasons, a small and intimate registry office wedding makes for a relaxed, budget-friendly alternative to the more traditional venue options. In this article, we are spilling all the tea and giving you the insider info you need to know.

wedding ceremony putting rings on

But first, let’s get one thing straight… getting married in a registry office, does NOT mean you have to miss out on all the fun bits of wedding planning! You can make your day as unique, personal and creative as you like. And guests love to give gifts, so don’t miss your chance to create your dream wedding gift list with Prezola!

Now enough chit-chat, let’s get down to it… here’s our round-up of absolutely everything you need to know about registry office weddings.

wedding couple planning a wedding

Who can get married in a registry office?

In England, you can get married in a registry office if you are:

- both 16 or over (though this is changing to 18 from 27th Feb 2023)

- not already married or in a civil partnership

- not closely related… Yikes – hopefully that one goes without saying

The same rules apply whether you’re a same-sex couple or an opposite-sex couple.

Things get slightly more complicated if one or both of you are from outside the UK. Anyone with indefinite leave to remain can get married in a UK registry office, along with EU citizens with settled or pre-settled status. For anyone else, you may have to apply for a special visa. The UK Government website is the best place to check for all the most up-to-date information.

Where can you have your registry office wedding?

One question that many couples ask is: Can you get married in any registry office? Or does it have to be your local one? And you may be relieved to know that, YES! You absolutely can get married in ANY UK registry office!If you’re happy to stick with your local one, that’s great. But the options are out there if you’d rather shop around. For example, you could opt for one with a special meaning… maybe it’s the town where you met or the reg office where your grandparents had their civil ceremony. And don’t forget – not all registry offices are created equal… you could even start your search by googling the most beautiful registry offices in the UK… whatever floats your boat!

wedding registry couple
wedding decor

How to book a registry office wedding

To book a wedding registry office, get the ball rolling by contacting your chosen registry office and confirming a time and date for your ceremony. Once that’s done, you’ll need to give notice.

How to give notice to marry

Wherever you’re planning to get married, you have to give notice of marriage at your LOCAL registry office. Giving notice essentially means that you are letting the world know that you intend to form a civil partnership. You know, just in case anyone wants to have their big dramatic “I OBJECT” moment… awkward.

If you live separately, you’ll each need to book a separate appointment for this at your own local registry office. You must both have given notice at least 30 days before your intended marriage date… though we’d suggest giving yourself more time to be on the safe side. Then once that’s done, you must have your legal marriage ceremony within 12 months.

Which documents will I need to give notice?

When you give notice, you’ll need to bring along details of where and when you plan to marry, as well as your passport, proof of address and proof of any name changes.

If you’ve been married or in a civil partnership before, you’ll also need to bring proof of divorce or a late partner’s death certificate to prove that you are eligible to marry again.

If you or your partner are from outside the UK, you will need to bring some additional documents. You can find out all the details on the UK Government website.

Once that’s all taken care of, if you aren’t getting married in the same registry office where you gave notice, you’ll need to arrange a quick 15-minute meeting at your chosen registry office, where you’ll complete some forms and confirm your identities. Then all that’s left is to pay up and start sending out the invites!

wedding table rustic

How much does a registry office wedding cost?

Speaking of paying up… Generally, the cost of marrying in a registry office can be much lower than in other types of venues. Though costs vary depending on your chosen registry office and what kind of room you are hiring.

The first thing you’ll pay is the giving notice fee, which is currently fixed at £35 per person. Unless one of you is from outside of the EU in which case it goes up to £47 per person.

Next, comes the cost of the ceremony itself, which is currently £46 for a statutory registry office wedding ceremony. This means the most basic wedding ceremony: just the two of you and your witnesses in an office room – no added extras.

The registry office wedding costs start to add up if you choose to marry in a special ceremony room which can accommodate more guests. To give you an example, this particular Prezola writer paid around £250 for a beautiful registry office ceremony room, which could accommodate up to 60 guests.

Then the last thing you’ll need to pay for is your marriage certificate, which currently costs £11 – Bargain!

real wedding couple

All about wedding witnesses

So, do you need witnesses to get married? Short answer: YES. Absolutely. This is non-negotiable. You need witnesses to sign the register with you.

How many witnesses do you need to get married? At least 2, though you can have up to 4. Who can be a witness at a wedding? Pretty much anyone! The only requirement is that they understand what they’re witnessing, so they must speak English and be old enough to follow what’s going on.

As for who to choose, that is up to you! It could be a couple of trusted friends. Though family members can also act as wedding witnesses – good news if you’re planning to limit your registry office wedding guest list to immediate family only.

You can hire professional witnesses if you’re eloping or planning an ultra-romantic micro-wedding with just the two of you. And if all else fails, you can even grab a pair of strangers off of the street… buy them a round in the pub afterwards and you might just get a new pair of best mates out of the deal!

wedding flowers
wedding tablescape

How long does a register office wedding take?

Again, this can vary. Your basic, no-frills, bish-bash-bosh kind of registry office wedding can take as little as 10 minutes. Some quick “I dos”, sign the paper (make it a bit more special with an accompanying song to sign the wedding registry) and off down the pub to toast your new nuptials!

But most registry offices will allow you to personalise your ceremony with your own readings and music (more on this later), so it can run anywhere up to half an hour. Just remember, registry offices often have multiple weddings taking place in a day. So, be good humans – don’t be late and don’t run over your allotted time slot.

flowers wedding registry

What happens at a registry office wedding?

So, the very basic version of a registry office wedding goes a little something like this.

You’ll arrive and be taken into a room for a quick interview to confirm your identity and spelling of your names, etc. This can be done together or separately, and your witnesses will also be asked to confirm their details.

Then the ceremony will begin. The registrar will start by welcoming everyone and explaining what’s about to happen.

Then comes the exciting bit – the vows! This is the legally binding part that makes you officially married. You can also exchange rings here if you like. But you don’t have to - putting a ring on it is NOT a legal requirement.

Then you all sign the paper and that’s it! Job done. Signed, sealed, delivered – CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE MARRIED!

wedding registry details

How to personalise your registry office wedding ceremony

If you thought a registry office marriage might be a bit dull or impersonal… think again. You can make your ceremony feel more personal by adding your own music and readings. Pretty much anything goes, as long as it’s not religious. It’s the perfect opportunity to switch out those dusty old hymns and pick some alternative songs for signing the register… bands you both love, movie scores, chart toppers, oldies, Auntie Liz on the ukulele… whatever makes you happy.

You can even bring your own décor to spruce up the ceremony room… within reason of course – a full-blown flower arch might take too long to construct, but a few perfectly placed bouquets can work wonders!

wedding registry flowers
wedding registry flowers decor

What to wear for your registry office wedding?

Now, this is a great question, with an even better answer… It’s your wedding - you can wear whatever you damn well please! If the idea of a big white wedding dress or fancy morning suit doesn’t do it for you, then your registry office wedding is a great opportunity to get creative! We love a bit of chic bridal tailoring… a jumpsuit… a short wedding dress with a micro-miniskirt… a bit of colour… sparkles… feathers… flower crowns… you name it!

Equally, if you want to stick with a more traditional dress for your registry office wedding, we will certainly not be the ones to talk you out of it. In the end, it’s your day, your way. Wear what makes you happy!

And that’s it for our registry office weddings roundup. The big takeaways: it’s a relaxed, budget-friendly option that’s easy, laid-back and can be as creative and personal as you like. In fact, we could say the same thing about setting up your wedding gift list with Prezola! Okay, cringe… please forgive the awkward segway, but… well… it’s not *NOT* true!

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