To marry or enter into a *civil partnership in England and Wales both parties must be

i. be aged 16 over;

ii. be free to marry or enter into a *civil partnership (single/divorced or widowed)
*only same sex couples can form a civil partnership

iii. not be within prohibited degrees of relationship (not closely related);

iv. have permission from those holding Parental Responsibility if aged under 18;

Same sex couples can form a civil partnership in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; get married in England, Scotland and Wales;

It is now necessary to give at least 28 days notice at the Registrar’s office of your intention to marry/enter into a civil partnership and pay the relevant fee. That Notice will be publicly displayed for 28 days. You need to have lived in the registration district for at least 7 days prior to giving notice.

If the marriage is to take place in an Anglican Church then it is not usually necessary to give notice to the Registrar if both parties to the marriage are British or from the European Economic Area or Switzerland.

The Notice period has recently been extended from 15 days to 28 days as part of the Government’s measures to prevent sham marriages. The changes, introduced in the Immigration Act which became law in 2014, will give the Home Office more time to investigate whether couples are trying to flout the Immigration system. Where a sham is suspected, couples may be subject to an extended Notice period of 70 days to allow investigators extra time to consider whether the proposed marriage is a sham.

Immigration and Security Minister, James Brokenshire said “Marriage can no longer be seen as a fast track option for those seeking to abuse marriage and cheat their way into the UK”.

Between April and December 2014 the Home Office carried out over 2000 sham marriage operations resulting in over 1,200 arrests and more than 430 illegal immigrants have been removed from the UK as a result.

In limited circumstances it is possible for the Notice period to be reduced to 15 days but generally these circumstances are limited and generally apply only where one of the parties is resident outside of the United Kingdom.

The message to all is clear, i.e. marriage in England and Wales is not something which can be entered into on the spur of the moment. You must make sure that you give sufficient notice.

Please note that different rules apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

20 March 2015

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