Getting married in the UK: A complete guide

TransferWise content team
05.12.17
6 minute read

The United Kingdom is rich with history and tradition. A destination wedding in the UK is sure to be an extraordinary event for you and your loved ones. From the majestic castles and rolling hills, to the quaint villages and luxury of London’s finest hotels, you can host whatever style wedding you wish.

This article breaks down the facts on UK weddings, from the legal requirements to the necessary paperwork. Read on for estimated wedding costs and highlights of popular UK wedding venues and traditions.

Weddings in the UK: What types of weddings are possible?

UK law recognizes both civil and religious weddings. Civil ceremonies can take place at a register office or approved venue. Popular religious weddings in the UK include Anglican, Jewish, Quaker, and other types of Christianity, but most types of religious weddings are possible; check with your venue of your choice for details.

The UK also offers civil partnerships for same sex couples, which has similar rights as marriage in terms of benefits and immigration status.

What are the legal requirements to get married in the UK?

You must be at least 16 years old to get married or form a civil partnership in the UK. If you're under 18 years old in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland you'll need parental permission. On the day of the marriage, two witnesses must be present.

For non-UK nationals, requirements to enter the UK to get married vary based on the couple’s situation. You may need to apply for a Family of a Settled Person visa or a Marriage or Civil Partnership Visitor visa to enter the country. This government guide to marriages and partnerships has more information on visa requirements.

If both of you are from outside of the UK, you'll need to obtain a visa to give notice and get married, even if you do not normally require a visa to visit the UK. This process differs slightly from England to Scotland to Northern Ireland, so check with the municipality where you plan to marry.

What do you need to get married in the UK?

Necessary paperwork and documentation

Once you're ready to register for your marriage, you'll need to take the following to the local register office of the district that you intend to get married in:

  • Proof of name (e.g. valid passport)
  • Proof of age (e.g. birth certificate)
  • Proof of nationality (e.g. valid passport, national identity card)
  • Proof of address (e.g. valid driving licence, recent utility bill, etc.)
  • A decree absolute or final order (if applicable)
  • The death certificate of your former partner (if applicable)
  • Entry visa (if applicable)
  • Details of where and when you intend to get married.

The process

You must give at least 28 days notice at your local register office. This notice will remain public at the office for that 28-day period before your wedding date. The same process applies if either of you are from outside of the EU/EEA or Switzerland, or are subject to immigration control. You can only give notice at a registered office if you have lived in the registration district for at least seven days. This government guide to marriages and civil partnerships has more information on the application process.

What fees are involved?

If you need a visa to enter the UK to get married you'll incur fees. These fees vary by country and by visa. For example, the Marriage and Civil Partnership Visitor visa costs $120 for Americans and A$156 for Australians. This visa fees guide can help you determine what you might have to pay.

When you're ready to give notice about your upcoming nuptials, you each need to pay a £35 fee when you attend the register office. This may be more if you or your partner are from outside the EEA or Switzerland. Your marriage or civil partnership certificate costs £4 on the day of the event or £10 after.

Your wedding budget can be given a boost by using TransferWise. The borderless multi-currency account allows you to hold and manage money in multiple currencies, so you can forget about crazy bank fees or unfair exchange rates. If you need to transfer money to the UK, you’ll be able to do so using the real mid-market rate that you can find on Google or XE and with a small transparent fee, stated upfront. In early 2018 you can also get a debit card, so you don’t even have to have a bank account in the UK to be able to access your pounds. You can check and compare rates using this handy currency converter tool.

What should I know about wedding ceremonies in the United Kingdom?

Civil marriage and partnership ceremonies can be held at a register office or another approved venue. Religious weddings can take place at a church, chapel, or any other other registered religious building. You may want to view this list of local register offices and this list of approved premises (for civil marriages and civil partnerships) to help you decide where to get married.

For more assistance from your home country these links may be helpful:

Australia:

Canada:

Ireland:

United States:

The cost of a wedding in the United Kingdom

The average cost of a wedding in the UK is £27,000, but costs will depend on the level of formality and location you choose. For example, a wedding in central London may have a higher price tag than a countryside wedding in Wales. To help you with your planning, here is an estimated cost of a 30-person wedding:

Item Approximate cost
Accommodation, 30 guests, 3 nights (avg. £150 pp/night) £13,500
Paperwork, ceremony fees £1,000
Reception Site £3,000
Flowers, decorations £1,200
Wedding rings £600
Dress, groom’s outfit, accessories £2,500
Wedding Planner £1,500
Photographer £1,200
Cake £500
Food, Drinks £3,500
Celebrant £400
Music £800

Top wedding locations in the United Kingdom

Here are some popular wedding reception venues in the UK:

Venue Description
Castle Howard (North Yorkshire, England) A typical historic stately house and gardens that’s often used in films
Bamburgh Castle (Northumberland, England) The ‘king of castles’ where legend has it the knights of King Arthur once resided
The Savoy (London, England) An historic Edwardian hotel in the middle of The Strand, where Winston Churchill used to spend his time
Shilstone (Devon, England) A Romantic Georgian country house with geometric stone floors, fountains and gardens aplenty
St. Pierre (Monmouthshire, Wales) A hotel and country club, surrounded by 400 acres of parks
Plas Hafod (Flintshire, Wales) An 18th-century house with acres of gardens and walking paths
Ackergill Tower (Wick, Scotland) A luxury estate in the northernmost tip of Wick, where guests can enjoy the natural beauty of the Highlands and Europe’s largest treehouse with a bedroom
The Carriage Rooms At Montalto (Ballynahinch, Northern Ireland) A fairy-tale venue with unique architecture and many gardens
Dunvegan Castle (Isle of Skye, Scotland) A castle and gardens steeped in the history and legends of the McLeod clan
Ulster Hall (Belfast, Northern Ireland) The cultural entertainment and arts center of Belfast, where dances, boxing matches and concerts have taken place throughout history

Wedding traditions and customs in the UK

A Scottish wedding will differ from a Welsh wedding and neither will be exactly the same as a typical English or Northern Irish wedding. However, they'll all have many facets of the day in common. Here are some local traditions from the UK that you may want to include in your wedding:

  1. Good Luck Charms - English brides sometimes sew a good luck charm onto their dress. In Scotland, you may find a sixpence in the bride's shoe and white heather in her bouquet.

  2. Luckenbooth Brooch -This brooch, often made of silver and encrusted with crystals, is exchanged by couples in Scotland when they become engaged.

  3. Wedding Favors - This small package of five almonds is given to guests representing fertility, longevity, wealth, health, and happiness.

  4. Receiving Line - It’s common for a receiving line to form immediately following the ceremony or at the beginning of the reception for the bridal party to welcome guests.

  5. Bagpipes -The sound of bagpipes is a customary tradition seen at many Scottish and Northern Irish weddings.

From cozy pubs to exquisite estates, there's something in the UK to suit every couple and their guests. Planning ahead can help ease the process and keep you within your budget. Your destination wedding in the UK is bound to make your dreams come true!

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