A Guide to the Legalities

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Wedding Legal Guide Northern Ireland

It is easy with all the excitement of planning a wedding to forget about the legal side of things… Here is my quick Wedding legal guide on what is required in Northern Ireland.

(This article was last updated August 2018)

Couples getting married in Northern Ireland have a choice of either a religious or civil ceremony and the preliminary legal arrangements are the same for both. Under current law, those intending to get married should complete a Marriage Notice form as a way of requesting to be married. You can get these from your local Registrar’s office and you need one form per person. If you are planning on a religious ceremony the person performing the marriage will have to complete some details on the form.

Read More: Civil or Church Wedding?

Marriage notices must be completed and returned to the registrar in your area in the 12 month period before your wedding date, and no later than 28 days before your ceremony. Notices should usually be with the Registrar about eight weeks before your ceremony, but, if either of you has been married before, forms should be submitted ten weeks before.

When submitting your marriage notice forms, both parties must provide the following documents:

  • Your full, long version birth certificate
  • Your passport
  • If you have been married before and the marriage was dissolved, a certificate of divorce of annulment or a certified copy decree (decrees must be absolute or final)
  • If you have been married more than once, only the documents for your most recent marriage are required
  • If you are a widow or widower the death certificate of your former spouse

Formal notice cannot be taken more than 12 months before the date of marriage but it is strongly recommended that you make a provisional booking with the registrar (for civil ceremonies) as soon as you have a specific date in mind and this can be further than 12 months in advance of your marriage.

If you are having a religious ceremony, you should speak to your officiant before filling out your Marriage Notice Form as he/she will need to sign them. Your forms should then be posted or delivered to the Registrar within the Borough the marriage is taking place. If you are having a civil ceremony, you should make advance arrangements with the Registrar. This is particularly important during busy times of the year.

Religious marriages can take place anywhere in the Borough, provided you have the approval of the appropriate religious body. If you choose to have a religious ceremony in the Borough, you will still need to complete Marriage Notice Forms and bring them to the Registrar in the district you intend to have the ceremony.

The fee for a couple giving notice of marriage for a religious ceremony is £52.00 (£22.00 per person, plus £8.00 for a marriage certificate).

A religious marriage can only be solemnized by an officiant who has been registered as an officiant and authorized by the Registrar General. You should contact your officiant well in advance of your chosen wedding date to ask them to sign your Marriage Notice Forms.

A civil marriage may only be conducted by the Registrar or Deputy Registrar for the District in which it is to take place. A civil ceremony may be conducted in the Registrar’s Office or in an approved place.

If you are marrying in a civil ceremony you can expect to pay the following:

– a fee for giving notice
– a fee for solemnisation of the marriage
– a fee for use of the council office/room or for the Registrar to attend an approved venue

These fees are payable when you submit your notice application.
The fee for the solemnisation of the marriage will depend on when the marriage is due to take place…

Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm – £36
Monday to Friday 5.00 pm to 8.00 pm – £162
Saturday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm – £162
Saturday after 5.00 pm, Sunday and Bank Holidays – £216
(Prices correct August 2018 as per www.nidirect.gov.uk)

Once your Marriage Notice Forms, Identification and fees have been returned to the Registrar, a marriage schedule will be prepared. The marriage schedule cannot be issued more than 14 days before your wedding date and you will be informed when this is ready for collection. The schedule can only be collected in person by the bride or groom. You should give your marriage schedule to your officiant in advance of the marriage ceremony. This marriage schedule will be signed after the ceremony by the bride, groom and witnesses.

Photo: iStock

The signed schedule must be returned to the issuing Registrar within 3 days of the marriage (anyone can return the schedule). The marriage will be registered and a marriage certificate will be posted to you.

Further details and online ordering of certificates can be found on the NI Direct website.

Read More: Wedding Etiquette – Doing the right thing

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Paul Crawford

Wedding Photographer Paul Crawford

Based in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland

Paul is married to Patricia (who helped him write these Wedding Hints & Tips posts!!) and the proud Dad to 2 fantastic sons.

A full-time professional photographer since 1990 and been privileged to have photographed well over 1300 weddings since then.

He worked in his own High Street Photography Studios up until December 2010 when he decided to downsize and work from home. He now splits his time between running Photography Courses and Wedding Photography, limiting himself to 30 weddings a year to maintain the quality and high level of customer service to each of his couples.

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