Getting married in the UK: A complete guide

Zorica Lončar
17.09.20
6 minute read

The UK 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 getting married in the UK, 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. When it comes to religious weddings, you can currently get married by having Anglican, Roman Catholic, Jewish or Quaker ceremony.¹ Check with your venue of choice for details.

In England and Wales, same-sex couples can convert their civil partnership into a marriage. Also, same-sex couples can marry in a civil ceremony but currently they still can’t marry in the Church of England and the Church of Wales.²

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.³

Getting married in the UK to a foreign national?

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 following⁴ 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 any name changes
  • 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 29 days notice at your local register office. You also must complete your ceremony within the 12 months of giving notice.⁵

You can only give notice at a registered office if you have lived in the registration district for at least seven days.⁵ 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. For example, the Marriage and Civil Partnership Visitor visa costs £95 to apply.⁶

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. The fee is £47 if you or your partner are from outside the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.⁵ Marriage certificate costs £11 and is sent 4 days after you apply for one.⁷

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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. 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.

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

Civil marriages 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 £31,974, but costs will depend on the level of formality and location you choose.⁸ 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 are the most common wedding costs⁸ in the UK.

ItemApproximate cost
Venue hire£5,406
Honeymoon£4,645
Food£3,887
Engagement ring£2,419
Drink£1,587
Wedding dress£1,313
Photographer£1,155
Mini-moon£1,135
Entertainment and music£1,005
Video£968

Top wedding locations in the United Kingdom

Here are some popular wedding reception venues in the UK:

VenueDescription
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
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
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!

Sources:

  1. The Stars Inside
  2. Gov.co.uk - convert a same sex civil partnership into a marriage
  3. Gov.co.uk - marriages and civil partnerships in England and Wales
  4. Gov.co.uk - necessary paperwork
  5. Gov.co.uk - give notice
  6. Gov.co.uk - marriage visa cost
  7. Gov.co.uk - marriage certificate cost
  8. Hitched.co.uk - most common wedding costs in the UK

All sources checked on September 17, 2020


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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