Whether you plan to get married, or form a civil partnership, you must first give notice of your intention to a register office in the area you have lived for at least seven days. Notices are publicised by the registrar, and these details will not include the couple’s address when registering a civil partnership but will when registering a marriage. Notices are displayed for a period of 28 days.
For couples where one or both partners are a non-EEA national, with limited or no immigration status, the notice period can be extended to 70 days.
What happens during the ceremony?
Marriages are formed by saying a predetermined set of words, whereas for civil partnerships there is no legal obligation on the wording used. A civil partnership is formed by signing a civil partnership document. For both, couples will need a registrar and two witnesses. They can choose to incorporate a ceremony which might include vows, readings and music.
The minimum age for any person wishing to enter a marriage or civil partnership in England and Wales is 16 years old, and anyone under the age of 18 will require written permission from their parents or guardian.
It is not possible to include any religious content in a civil marriage or civil partnership ceremony. Either can take place in a register office or any licensed premises in England or Wales.
In March 2010, the House of Lords supported a cross-party amendment to the Equality Act, to permit religious denominations who wish to hold civil partnership ceremonies on their premises the right to do so.
It is not currently possible for same-sex marriages to be conducted by or in the premises of the Church of England, or the Church in Wales. However, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 does make it possible for any other religious organisation who wishes to conduct same sex marriages to do so.
Certificates and surname changes
The couple will be issued with a certificate of marriage or a certificate for a civil partnership. These are all that are needed to show a name change if one party changes their surname to their partner’s. Couples can decide to keep their own name. Couples who choose to double-barrel or merge their surnames, or to change it to something new altogether, will need to apply through Deed Poll to do this.
Along with the names of the couple, a marriage certificate will include the names of their fathers. Civil partnership certificates include the names of both their parents. Both marriage and civil partnership certificates are available to anyone to purchase but they will need to know the name of both husbands, wives or civil partners, the date and the location of the ceremony.
Other useful sources of support
You can find LGBT-friendly solicitors and other useful contacts through Stonewall's online database What's In My Area.
For further information contact Stonewall's Information Service.