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Religious weddings: A complete guide

Whether you want a Church of England wedding, a Catholic or Jewish ceremony, or are from another religion, here is a complete guide for how to legally get married in the UK with a religious wedding.

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Catholic wedding

With a Church of England, Church in Wales, Roman Catholic, Jewish or Quaker ceremony, your celebrant will normally be able to register the marriage – that is, make it legal. For all other religious ceremonies, ask your celebrant, as you may have to arrange a civil ceremony as well in order to be legally wed. In any case, always check whether your place of worship has any specific rules: with a Church of England ceremony, for example, you must announce your intention to marry through the reading of banns in the three months leading up to the big day.

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Church of England wedding

Who can marry: To get married, you must be at least 16, and if you are under 18 you will need your parents’ consent. If you are a same sex couples, you cannot marry in the Church of England. There are special guidelines if you are divorced, or if your partner isn’t part of the European Economic Area, so check with your church first. You can get married if you do not go to church or if you aren’t baptised.

Where you can marry: You can marry at your local church, or another church if you have a certain kind of connection to it, e.g., family connections, you were baptised there, regularly went there for at least six months, or your parents were married there.

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How to give notice: Most Church of England marriages will require banns to be published, from around four months before the wedding. The banns are then read in church. If you haven’t given enough notice for them to be read, you will need a Special Licence, Common Licence or a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate to marry. You can apply for these via your vicar.

What documents you need: All couples need to show the vicar their passport as proof of nationality, or failing that, ask your vicar which other documents he or she will accept. If either of you are divorced, you will need a copy of your decree absolute. You might also need to provide proof of connection to the church, e.g., your parents’ marriage certificate. 

How much it costs: The cost is £486 (includes £415 fee to the church, £4 for your marriage certificate, £27 to have your banns read, £13 for your banns certificate from your home church, and £27 for the banns to be read where you will marry). You will also need to pay for any extras, e.g., organists, additional heating, church flowers etc.

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Jewish wedding

Church in Wales wedding

Who can marry: Under 18s must have the consent of their parents. You can marry if you don’t go to church, as it assumes that you accept the Christian understanding of marriage. If you are divorced, you can marry again in church under certain circumstances, so do check with your priest.

Where you can marry: The law requires that at least one of those to be married should reside in the parish where the wedding takes place, or be a regular worshipper in the parts and have his/her name entered on the church electoral role. It is also possible to marry at the church if you have connections to it, for example your parent living there for at least six months, or a parent or grandparent having been married in the parish. 

How to give notice: The normal procedure is to have your banns read out in the main Sunday service in the parish where each of you lives, as well as the church where you are getting married. They are usually read on three Sundays during the twelve weeks before the wedding. If you weren’t able to publish your banns, you may apply for a Special Licence, Common Licence or a Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate via your priest.

You will also need to attend marriage preparation to think through your future marriage together. 

What documents you need: You will need proof of ID, and if divorced, your decree absolute. You might also need to prove your connection to the church.

How much it costs: The marriage service, including the fee for the publication of the banns, costs £420. You may need to pay extra for services such as organists. 

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Church of Ireland wedding

Who can marry: You must be 18 or over to get married in Ireland. One or both of you must be a member of the Church of Ireland, or a church in communion with it.

Divorced couples will need to seek the approval of the bishop, and attend private service of preparation.

Where you can marry: One of the couple must be resident in the district where you plan to marry for at least 14 days before being eligible, unless you apply for a special licence. Each bishop, priest and parish has their own policies on marriage though, so it’s worth checking with your desired church.

How to give notice: You can be married in the Church of Ireland by one of three methods: Licence, Special Licence or Banns. 

For the Licence, you can give notice to a licensing minister that you wish to be married in a Church of Ireland church within your own district. Either you or your partner must have been living in the district for seven days before notice is given. The licenser will then notify the clergy of the churches that you attend, and seven days later, an oath will be administered by you or your partner that one of you has lived within the district of the church you are getting married in for the past 14 days.

If you were unable to give the required notice, a Bishop of the Church of Ireland may grant a special licence.

For the banns, if you and your partners are members of the Church, banns will be read out three consecutive Sundays in the churches where you are members, instead of applying for a licence. Seven days’ notice will usually be required, and the marriage must take place in one of the churches where the banns are published.

You may be required to attend marriage preparation. 

What documents you need: You will need proof of ID, and if one of you is Roman Catholic, you will need to obtain a Permission to marry a baptized member of another Christian church. You may also need to provide further documents, such as baptismal and confirmation certificates, so check with your priest. 

How much it costs: For details of the fees, contact your local church.

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Church wedding

Catholic church wedding

Who can marry: To get married, you must be at least 16, and if you are under 18 you will need your parents’ consent. You must be confirmed to get married.

Where can you marry: You must get married in the parish church of either the bride or the groom though the pastor or bishop may give permission for the wedding to take place in another parish.

How to give notice: You must give three months’ notice to the priest in the parish in which you live. You will also need to be confirmed if you aren’t already, and attend pre-marriage preparation courses. If you are both Catholics, you should approach the priest of the bride’s parish, or if you both live in the same parish, the priest will do the pre-nuptial enquiries for you.

If one of you isn’t Catholic, the priest of your parish will apply to the bishop for permission (if partner is baptized) or for dispensation (if not baptized). 

What documents you need: You will need a baptism certificate dated within six month prior to the wedding, a confirmation certificate and a letter of freedom. You will also need proof of ID.

How much it costs: Your priest will advise you about about the cost of fees for the church.

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Jewish wedding

Who can marry: If a wedding takes place in a synagogue or under the auspices of a synagogue, both the bride and groom need to be Jewish. However, if one of you isn’t Jewish, but the other one is, then you can have a wedding with the Jewish symbols, eg, under a chuppah in any non-synagogue venue. 

Where can you marry: As long as a rabbi can marry you under a chuppah, you can get married anywhere, be it a synagogue or a garden or barn venue. 

How to give notice: If one of the couple isn’t Jewish,they will need to give the usual notice to a registry office before the wedding. If a wedding takes place in a synagogue, the couple need to arrange their civil marriage with the synagogue’s registrar, usually the rabbi, who is licensed to look after the legal aspects of the wedding. That person will sign the paperwork, and the couple don’t need any other registrar in addition. 

What documents you need: Some rabbis may ask to see proof that you are of Jewish lineage, for example your parents’ Ketubah (Jewish marriage certificate). You will also need to bring proof of ID.

How much it costs: Check with your local rabbi for the cost of the wedding.

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Indian wedding

Quaker (the Society of Friends) wedding

Who can marry: Quaker marriage is for members and those who are in unity with its religious nature.

Where you can marry: Like Jewish weddings, Quaker weddings don’t have to take place in a registered venue. They can theoretically take place outside for example, though they usually take place where you have a regular Meeting for Worship.

How to give notice: In England and Wales you will need to give notice as required by civil law. A marriage ceremony in the Society of Friends (Quakers) requires the approval of the Registering Officer of the Society of Friends acting for the meeting concerned. It must take place in the Meeting House or another place regularly used for worship. This should be done at least six months before the wedding.

What documents you need: You will need to complete a joint declaration of an intention to marry and give that to the area meeting registering office. Each non-member applicant will also need to obtain support in writing from two adult Friends, not relatives

How much it costs: A statutory fee is payable by each person at the time of giving notice, so check with the superintendent registrar.

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All other religious weddings

With all other religious weddings, you will need to give notice with the register office at least 28 days before the ceremony. Then, you need to check with your local place of worship to see what other steps are necessary to get married. You will also need to check if the building is registered for ceremonies, and if not you may still have a religious ceremony there, but you will need to have a separate civil ceremony for the marriage to be valid under UK Law.

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If the building is registered, an authorised person must be present at the ceremony to register the marriage. They will give the couple a marriage certificate on receipt of the fee. If there is no authorised person, the attendance of a Registrar is necessary and this should be arranged with the Superintendent or Registrar in Northern Ireland of the district.