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Same sex marriage and civil partnerships in the UK

How to get married in the UK if you’re a gay or lesbian couple.

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Same sex couples now have two options to legally recognise their relationship: civil partnership, and marriage (since March 2014 in England and Wales, and December 2014 in Scotland).

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Unfortunately, marriage for same sex couples is not currently legal in Northern Ireland, and if you are married in another jurisdiction, it will only be treated as a civil partnership.

Here’s everything you need to know about both options…

Who can get married or enter in a civil partnership?

Both parties of the same sex must be single and over the age of 16. If one of you is under 18, you will need parental approval.

You can form a civil partnership in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but you can only get married in England, Scotland and Wales.

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What is the difference between marriage and civil partnership?

A civil partnership gives you the same legal rights as a heterosexual married couple in respect of pension rights, house ownership, inheritance issues and making ‘next of kin’ decisions in hospital. There are some subtle differences, which you can find a full list of on the Gov.uk website.

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SAME SEX MARRIAGE

How to get married if you’re a same sex couple

The legal steps for giving notice for a civil wedding ceremony are the same for all couples, and you can find our complete guide here.

However, not all registered venues have a license for civil partnerships or same sex weddings, so you will need to check with the venue first.

What does the ceremony involve?

The ceremony will be very similar to a heterosexual ceremony, with the wording varying slightly, for example introducing Mr and Mr rather than Mr and Mrs. You can fine more info in our guide here.

Can same sex couples have a religious ceremony?

You can’t currently get married in an Anglican Church, however certain religious organisations do allow same sex marriages to take place, so it’s worth checking with your local church. The premises will need to be registered for the marriage of same sex couples.

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CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS

How to form a civil partnership

Like with marriages, you must give at least 28 full days’ notice to your local register office for civil partnerships, and you need to include details of where you intend to form the partnership. The notice will be displayed for 28 days at the register office.

You may still need to do this if you plan on forming a civil partnership abroad, so ask the authorities of where you are getting married how best to proceed. After giving notice you have to register your civil partnership within one year (only three months if you’re in Scotland).

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Documents to bring

The documents are the same as with a marriage, i.e., proof of your name, age and nationality. This may include a valid passport, birth certificate, national identity card from the EEA or Switzerland (if non-British), certificate of registration, certificate of neutralisation, biometric residence card or permit, travel document.

If you’ve changed your name, you must also bring proof of that, for example a deed poll.

You will also need to bring proof of address, for example a valid UK or EEA driving licence, gas or electricity bill from the last 3 months, a bank statement from the last month, or a council tax bill or mortgage settlement from the last 12 months.

If you’ve been in a civil partnership before, you need to take either a decree absolute or final order, or the death certificate of your former partner if you are widowed.

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CONVERTING CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS INTO A MARRIAGE

Are you in a civil partnership but want to convert it into a marriage now that same sex marriages are legal? You are allowed to do so in England, Wales and Scotland (different rules, see below), but not in Northern Ireland.

You can convert your civil partnership at a register office, a local registration office, a religious or approved premises where same sex marriages are allowed (a ceremony may follow).

How much does it cost?

You will need to pay £4 for a marriage certificate, £45 to convert the civil partnership and £27 for an appointment if you’re having a ceremony. The cost of the ceremony itself will vary per venue.

What you need to bring

You’ll need to sign a conversion into marriage declaration, and you will need to bring your original civil partnership certificate as well as your ID.

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How to convert with a ceremony

You will need to contact a registered venue and book a date for your ceremony where same sex wedding are allowed.

How to I change my civil partnership into a marriage in Scotland?

In Scotland, you can do this either by going the administrative route, or by ceremony.

For the admin side of things, you need to make an appointment with your local registrar for the date you want the change to take place. You then need to complete the sections 1-12 of the prescribed application form (find it here).

Then you will go to the registration office, where you will need to provide an extract from the entry in the civil partnership register relating to your civil partnership, and photographic evidence of your ID. You will then both sign the application form at section 13 in the presence of each other and the registrar. The registrar will prepare an entry in the marriage register and you can obtain a marriage certificate.

How to convert with a ceremony

You can also change your partnership but having a civil, religious or belief ceremony. You can find more info here.

How much does it cost?

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You will pay a statutory fee of £30, plus £10 for a copy of the marriage certificate, and the cost of the ceremony (if having one) will vary.