Before you get too excited, this is not a how-to-find-a-spouse manual. The only advice I can give in that department is that you should ask someone – preferably someone you know and like – to marry you, and hope for the best.
This is simply a quick-and-dirty guide for those who have already found that special someone and who – for whatever reason – want to tie the knot as soon as humanly possible without all the usual muss and fuss of elaborate wedding madness, infused with bridesmaid dresses and bachelorette parties and drunk relatives. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I should note that this guide is London, England specific, as the process may be (and probably is) different elsewhere.
STEP 1: GIVE NOTICE TO GET MARRIED
First things first, you need to give notice at your local register office. Just look it up online and browse for the ‘marriage or civil partnership’ section (follow the link to view the one on the Waltham Forest website). Read through the directions thoroughly and make sure you are eligible to get married in the UK, and then call the phone number on the page to book your in-person appointment to give notice. Over the phone, they will ask you for the following:
- Payment of £35 per participant (i.e. £70 total) to be paid prior to booking the appointment
- Proof of identity, such as your passport (to be brought to the appointment)
- TWO proofs of address each (to be brought to the appointment)
Depending on the register office, they may ask you to provide very specific proofs of address, such as electricity bills. At the Waltham Forest Branch, they accepted our lease agreements and bank statements with our respective addresses.
If either you or your partner are NOT a UK citizen, then you must get married in the local borough of the person who IS a UK citizen. For example, I am a UK citizen and my partner is an American citizen, and we weren’t sharing an address ; so we gave notice and got married in my borough, rather than his.
STEP 2: ATTEND THE APPOINTMENT TO GIVE NOTICE OF MARRIAGE
The appointment to give notice of marriage will take place at the local register office: check the website for the exact address, and make sure you arrive at least ten minutes before the scheduled appointment. You and your partner will be invited into a private office where you will be asked to provide the aforementioned documents (original copies, please!) and answer questions about yourselves and each other.
Don’t freak out: everyone gets at least one of these questions wrong! That being said, if you haven’t already done so, you should familiarise yourself with the following:
- The exact name (including middle name) of your partner
- The exact names of your partner’s parents
- Your partner’s job or profession
- Your partner’s address, including post code
- Your partner’s age and birthdate
These may sound like very basic details to know about your spouse-to-be, but you’d be surprised how many things people forget when they feel under pressure. So go ahead and review all these items before your appointment, but again, don’t worry if you get a couple things wrong. I forgot my partner’s address, and they still allowed us to get married!
If all goes well at the appointment, you will be given the option to book your wedding date. Your notice for marriage is valid for 12 months, so you must get married within the year, otherwise you have to re-register. The earliest you can get married is 15 days after the appointment, so make sure you book your appointment at least two-three weeks before your desired wedding date.
In our case, we booked our appointment for Monday 19 May and booked our wedding date for three weeks later on Monday 9 June. We wanted to get married earlier (i.e. before the 15 day minimum) because my mum was in town from Canada then, but they are pretty strict about the timing, and only make an exception if someone is dying or something.
MONEY SAVING TIP: If you’re keen to save a few quid on the whole thing (hey, romance can be cheap!) then here are a couple things you should consider.
- Marriage location: if you choose to get married at the local register office (the same place as your appointment) then the cost is significantly less (up to 1/3 of the price) than if you choose to get married at any of the other approved marriage locations (see the website). So unless you’re particularly choosy about where you get married, just get ‘er done at the register office.
- Marriage day of the week: if you choose to get married (at the register office) on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, the cost is £100. Friday £150. Saturday £230. Sunday and Bank Holidays £385. So we got married on a Monday. Please note, though, that unless you get married on a Sunday, you don’t have the option of reciting your own vows: you have to follow the reduced ceremony format. Which, for us, was great: more time for photos and wedding cake!
- Marriage certificates: the only other thing you’ll want to spend money on is the marriage certificate, which costs £4 per copy. We purchased three copies, since we wanted to give one to each set of our parents.
Now just a bit of quick math, so you know how much you’ve spent on the wedding so far…
Registration fee £70
Marriage ceremony fee £100
Marriage certificate £4
TOTAL £174 (Not too bad!)
STEP 3: GET MARRIED!!!
Oh my goodness, the big day is finally here! I’ll bet you’re beyond excited. In addition to your wedding garb and possibly your rings (if you’re choosing to exchange them at the ceremony), make sure you bring the following items:
- Receipt for your marriage ceremony fee: no need to bring your proofs of identity and address again, as they will already be on record
- TWO witnesses: they don’t have to be related to you, or even super close friends — just two reliable people who will show up and sign papers for you
- Photographer: you’ll probably want at least a few snaps to capture the event, so do invite along a third person, as your witnesses are not allowed to take photos during the ceremony, since they are part of it
- Wedding cake: of course this is totally optional, but if you choose to have a wedding cake, you are welcome to bring it to the register office, and share it with your guests after the ceremony
On this day, make sure you arrive at least twenty minutes before the time booked for your ceremony (we got in a bit of trouble for being ‘on time’ rather than ‘early’), with your witnesses, photographer, and any other guests in tow.
The wedding officiate will take you and your partner into the ‘wedding suite’ where you will answer questions about yourselves and your respective families. After this portion is complete, the witnesses will be invited in to provide information about themselves for the records. Then everyone else will be invited in for the ceremony itself.
For the ceremony, you’re told what it means to be married (basically, a life-long commitment to being faithful to each other – so keep that in mind!), you’re asked to speak up if you can think of any reason why you shouldn’t be married, and you’re asked to call upon your witnesses to witness your marriage. Then, once the union has been announced and made official with the most passionate kiss ever, you and your spouse (!) and your witnesses all take turns signing the marriage certificate.
And that’s pretty much it!
STEP 4: CELEBRATE BEING MARRIED
You’re hitched and it feels totally awesome! Go ahead and celebrate with your spouse and all the people you love. My husband and I enjoyed a stroll through the Walthamstow marshes before heading over to our evening party at a fabulous cocktail bar on Southbank. But you can do whatever the heck you want.
Just remember: this day is for you and your partner, and you can do as much or as little as you want. If you want to wear a big fancy white wedding gown, go for it. If you’d rather wear a multi-coloured vintage dress that you’ve owned and loved for years, that’s okay, too. Stag-and-Doe party, or no, the important thing is that you’re marrying the person you love and can stand to be around for the foreseeable future. All the rest are just details: to be enjoyed, and not to get stressed out over.
From me to you, have a wonderful, marvelous, memorable wedding, and an extraordinary lifetime together x