A superintendent registrar or an authorised person, such as a vicar or priest, must be present at all marriage ceremonies and the marriage must be witnessed by at least two people who are required to sign the marriage register. With the exception of ceremonies authorised by a registrar general's licence, the marriage is required to take place between 8am and 6pm.
Both partners must be of sound mind to understand the marriage contract and must be acting by their own consent.
The minimum legal age for a person getting married is 16 years old, however if someone is under the age of 18 and they have not been married before then then written consent of the Parents or Guardians will be required.
For a second or subsequent marriage to take place you will need to provide evidence that your previous marriage has ended. If you are widowed then you will need to produce an original death certificate, or if you are divorced you will to produce a decree absolute bearing the original court stamp.
Marriages must take place in an authorised premises, which includes Register Offices, approved buildings (licenced stately homes, hotels, etc.), churches or chapels of The Church of England or Church of Wales, and Naval, Air Force or Military chapels.
Civil Ceremonies at Register Offices and Approved Buildings
You will need to contact the Superintendent Registrar of the district where you wish to marry if you want to get married in a Register Office or Approved Building (licenced hotels, stately homes, etc.). You will be required to give Notice of Marriage which involves completing official forms before the Superintendent Registrar.
By law, it is required that the Notice of Marriage is given separately by each partner, and it must be given personally to the Superintendent Registrar or Deputy of the District where the couple are resident.
Each partner must have lived in a Registration District in England or Wales for seven consecutive days immediately before giving notice. If one partner lives elsewhere in England or Wales then that partner will need to give notice at the Register Office in the other District. You will need to produce certain documents to the Superintendent Registrar to prove age, identity, nationality and marital status.
After giving notice you will need to wait a minimum of 15 clear days before the marriage can take place, for example, if notice was given on the 1st August the marriage can take place either on or after 17th August.
The Notice of Marriage is valid for one year, however you may be able to make an advance booking with the Superintendent Registrar.
If you wish to marry in a Register Office or Approved Building outside of your districts of residence then you must book the officiating Superintendent Registrar of the District before notices of marriage are given at your local Register Office.
If you wish to marry at an Approved Building you should book the officiating Superintendent Registrar prior to booking the Approved Building.
Cornwall is one registration district with 12 Register Offices and you can give notice at any of these offices if Cornwall is your normal residence.
See Cornwall County Council website for details of Register Offices, Opening Times and Fees.
Church of England Marriages
If you wish to be married in the Church of England you should arrange to meet with the vicar of the church to discuss your marriage. Generally, you will only be able to marry in a church if you or your partner live in the parish or if it is your normal place of worship or you or your partner are on the church's electoral roll.
If the vicar agrees to marry you then in most circumstances your banns will be read on three Sundays before the ceremony. Alternatively, you can get married by common licence which is intended for people who are temporarily resident in a parish. You or your partner must have lived in the parish for fifteen days before applying for the licence, but once your application has been approved only one clear days notice is required before the ceremony can take place.
If the vicar is unable to read your banns or issue a common licence, but agrees to marry you then you will be required to give Notice of Marriage, which is the same process as for Civil Ceremonies above.
Roman Catholic Churches
If you and your partner are Roman Catholic then the publication of banns can go ahead, but is not part of the legal preliminaries. If only one of you is Roman Catholic the banns will not be published and the priest will need to give permission for the marriage in either a Roman Catholic church or non-Roman Catholic Church.
The legal requirements for Roman Catholic marriages is the same as those that apply to civil marriages, but if the church is in a different District to where you live then you will need to prove to the Superintendent Registrar that it is your normal place of worship.
When you meet with the Superintendent Registrar or Vicar you will need to produce certain documents to prove your identity, a valid passport or birth certificate is acceptable.
If you have been married before then you will need to provide either a decree absolute if you are divorced or a death certificate if you are widowed.