Licence to marry
Many of you, especially those looking to ‘DIY-ify’ your wedding, may be wondering whether you can legally host a civil ceremony in any building of your choice. Alas, in England, Ireland and Wales, it’s not as simple as that of course. The venue or building must be approved and hold an appropriate licence.
However, in Scotland couples may be married by a registrar in any location whatsoever! Obviously the registrar does have to feel happy and comfortable that the location in question is appropriate and safe – you don’t want to take any risks with your wedding day!
If you’re dreaming of a wonderfully bespoke setting for your wedding – we’re thinking atop a cliff, in a forest, in your very own back garden and everywhere in between – Scotland may be your answer.
Below, we explore what requirements your wedding venue may need to gain a marriage license in England, Ireland and Wales.
What are the requirements for an approved wedding venue?
In order for a venue to qualify as a building suitable for conducting wedding ceremonies and issuing marriage certificates, it must meet a number of requirements, moderated by the local council.
The building itself must be safe, fit and in good repair for use by members of the public. This includes contemporary fire regulations etc.
The premises must be regularly available to the public for the purpose of conducting marriage ceremonies. This means that a licence won’t be granted to your home, for example!
No religious connotations
Civil ceremonies must be free of all religious connotations. As such, the building (unless de-consecrated) should not have been used, or cannot currently be used, for any religious purposes. So lesser church buildings, such as chapels, vicarages etc will not meet the criteria for licensing.
The particular room in which the ceremony will take place must be physically within the building that is to be licensed. A shed ‘out back’ won’t do!
In order to licence an outdoor space for civil ceremonies, it must contain a fix and permanent structure for the bride and groom to say their vows under. This includes things like wooden gazebos.
For the registrar
Some councils demand that you provide fresh drinking water and adequate parking for the registrar (the official who will perform the marriage ceremony).
Can I get a temporary licence for a building?
In a word: no. As stated above, an approved venue must be intended for regular ceremonial use by marrying couples. So, legally, you can’t simply buy a one-off licence for your wedding in England, Ireland and Wales.
What sorts of building are suitable?
Only permanent roofed buildings that are immovable are deemed suitable for licensing; boats that are permanently moored are an exception. This means that temporary marquees and other non-fixed structures cannot be granted a licence.
The responsible person
Law in England, Ireland and Wales decrees that, once approval is met and the licence duly granted, there must be one ‘responsible person’, or at least a representative of the venue, present during all marriage ceremonies.
This person must be on hand at least an hour before the ceremony starts, and must attend the entire ceremony itself.
How much does it cost?
Of course, this varies from council to council. For the purposes of this article, we’ve consulted Somerset County Council’s site. The cost naturally tends to increase when additional ceremonial rooms are added for inclusion within the licence. The prices range from £1750 for two rooms to £2500 for five and above. These marriage ceremony licences are validated for three years.
For more information on how to apply officially for a wedding venue license, visit here.
There we are, that’s just about it! Now you know the implications and ins and outs of any individual building or venue becoming eligible and obtaining the necessary licence to host and conduct civil marriage ceremonies. So, if you are wanting to encourage your intended wedding reception venue to also invest in a ceremony licence, as an expert you will hopefully be in command of the situation!