Marriage in Britain

What makes a Marriage Valid?

The following requirements must be met for any marriage in England and Wales to be valid: 

  • You must be eighteen or over, or have your parents’ consent if you are sixteen or seventeen years old.

  • Before the marriage, you must give the priest, minister or registrar official documentary evidence –such as a birth certificate or passport – of your name, age and nationality, the decree absolute if your divorced, or the death certificate of your former spouse if you are a widow or widower. 

  • The marriage must be conducted by or in the presence of a person who is authorised to register marriages in the district.

  • The marriage must be entered in the marriage register and signed by each spouse, two witnesses, the person who conducted the ceremony and the person who registers the marriage.

Giving Notice

Before you get married, you must give notice of your marriage. If you marry in the Church of England or Church in Wales, you follow their procedures of publishing banns on three successive Sundays before the marriage. Banns ( or common licences) are recognised in law.

In all other cases, you go to your local register office to ‘give notice of marriage’. A notice states your name, age, whether or not you have been married before, address, occupation, nationality and where you intend to marry.

You must have lived in registration district for at least seven days immediately before giving notice at the register office. Once you have given your notice, there has to be a sixteen-day waiting period before the marriage can take place. 

When and When You can Marry?

Anyone who is not Jewish or a Quaker is allowed to marry between 8am and 6pm in an Anglican church (Church of England or Church in Wales) or in any church, mosque, temple or other places of religious worship that is licensed for weddings. You can also marry in a local authority register office or in a building licensed for weddings by local authority under the marriage Act 1994.

If you get Married Abroad

A marriage abroad is recognised in England and Wales if it does not contravene the rules of eligibility. If in doubt, check with the Home Office. 

Prohibited Marriages

Throughout the United Kingdom and the British Crown dependencies of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, the law forbids certain blood relatives, step-relatives and relatives-in-law from getting married. These restrictions are officially known as forbidden degrees of relationship. The prohibitions apply to illegitimate as well as legitimate relationships. A man may not marry his mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, granddaughter, father’s sister, mother’s sister, grandson’s wife, brother’s daughter or sisters’ daughter. Similarly, a woman may not marry her father, son, brother, grandfather, grandson, mother’s brother, father’s brother, granddaughter’s husband, sister’s son or brother’s daughter. 

Further Information

If you are still unsure of your situation and require further clarification of whom you can and cannot marry, please contact a registrar. You can usually find details of your local register office under the entry of Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages in your telephone directory.