You are entitled to get married in the UK if you and your partner are:

  • Of the opposite sex
  • Aged 16 years or over
  • Either legally single, windowed, divorced or have had a civil partnership dissolved

Partners under 18 must have parental consent to legally marry; for persons aged over 18, consent is not required. Although currently (2013) same-sex couples cannot marry, they may register their relationship as a civil partnership, a legal status akin to marriage.

The UK Government has passed legislation allowing same-sex marriage in England and Wales, which should be in full force in mid-2014. Legislation is currently under review in Scotland.


Although engagements are not technically binding in law, the status of engagement confers rights on each party. For example, engagement rings may be kept by the recipient unless it was specifically stated that it should be returned.

Property belonging to the engaged couple will be divided as if the couple divorced, with the family court ruling if an agreement cannot be reached, providing the application is made within three years of the end of the engagement.

Marriage ceremonies

The requirements for disclosure of marriage can be technical, so if in any doubt take legal advice to avoid any issues with your marriage or civil partnership. A marriage not officially fulfilled can be annulled.

For example, the marriage or ceremony must be:

  • Conducted by a person, or in the presence of a person, authorised to register marriages in the district
  • Entered into the marriage register
  • Signed by both parties in the presence of two witnesses, and the person authorised to register the marriage

For a civil marriage ceremony, you must register your notice to marry at your local Registry Office, whether or not you intend to marry there. Approval is then granted by the Superintendent Registrar to allow you to marry in any Registry Office or other approved marriage premises. These requirements are different if your partner is from overseas, and in such circumstances your solicitor will be able to assist you.

Once the notice is given, the marriage must take place within 12 months of the date of entry of the notice. You will also be required to produce evidence of name and address, date of birth and nationality.

Pre-nuptial agreements

Those thinking about marriage should seriously consider drawing up a prenuptial agreement. This is a useful tool when you have valuable personal assets. If you would like to know more about a prenuptial agreement, whether it is suitable for your situation, and how it can provide security for you then it is advised that you speak with a solicitor who can provide you with all the information you require.

For further information on what a solicitor can do for you, see our page on matrimonial lawyers.

If you are planning to marry and require legal advice, Contact Law can put you in touch with a specialist local family law solicitor to help you with any issues you may have. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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