With our wedding day looming ever closer (just 8 months to go!), we figured it was time to bite the bullet and give our notice to marry. Giving notice is a seemingly small item that sits quietly on the to do list, but it is such a watershed moment in the wedding planning. The ‘oh shit this is a real adult thing we’re doing’ wake up call. It can be intimidating, it’s a legal process after all, but so is the end goal of getting married.
As exciting as giving notice ended up being (and it really was), it did give us some trouble when we started making sure we had all the documents required and reading up on what questions we’d be asked. As we currently live in Scotland but are getting married in England the process was a bit more complicated, but we got there in the end.
Having done the deed, I thought I’d chat about our experience which I hope might come in handy for anyone looking for more information about the whole process themselves. Just bear in mind our specific circumstances, and the fact that we went through the process in 2017.
Before making the trip down to Bristol we rang the registry office to find out what we needed to do to make the wedding happen. We’d booked the provisional wedding date with them a few months before, which was simple and cheap (£25), but this next part was more involved.
If you are a British Citizen then the bare bones of giving notice (in England and Wales) is thus: you make an appointment to go along to your local registry office anywhere between 12 months and 1 month before the wedding, Then take proof of ID and proof of address to the appointment (and proof of divorce if applicable), answer some questions about yourself, your partner, and your father, and then sign to confirm everything you’ve said is the truth. That’s it. Simple, huh?
The laws for marriage are different in Scotland, so we were advised that the best way to be ‘allowed’ to marry at an English registry office would be to gain 7 nights ‘residency’ before our appointment. This means 9 days of residing with someone who lives in the area of the registry office, owns their property, and is willing to write a letter confirming that they know you, how long they’ve known you for, and that you have been residing with them for the required time. So that’s what we did.
Armed with our passports and the letter of residency, we went to our appointment to give notice of marriage.
I had a slight issue with giving the details of my father as he is deceased and we were not in touch when he died. I asked to give my mother’s information instead and was politely, but firmly, shut down. For the sake of future family historians, everything is done through your father’s details UNLESS you don’t know anything about them.
Aside from the brief, but serious, part when the registrar informed us that if anything we say to her turns out to be untrue it would be treated as perjury (her saying that is a legal requirement, so no big deal really, but still unsettling to hear), it was a pleasant, laid back, grown up and enjoyable half an hour.
We spent ten minutes in the room together, then 5 minutes each on our own, followed by a final ten minutes together to sign the paperwork and finally pay the fee for giving notice (ours was £70).
We were then sent on our way with an information pack detailing everything we need to know about the ceremony itself. It included forms asking us which songs we’re going to use, what particular words we want for certain parts of the ceremony, and whether we would meet with the registrar pre-ceremony (to check the details on the marriage certificate) together or separately. These forms need to be completed and sent to them about a month before alongside the ceremony fee.
The physical ‘notice’ of your wedding is displayed publicly in the foyer of the registry office for a month. Then that’s it; you’re good to go. They’ll only contact you within that month if someone objects to the marriage which pretty much NEVER HAPPENS. So, in this respect… no news is good news.
After the notice period, if the registrar is satisfied that there is no impediment to your intended marriage, you’ll be issued with a licence to get married.
And that’s it! It was nowhere near as full on as I thought it was going to be. There is a lot of information to absorb before giving notice, and making sure you have all the documentation they ask for present and correct.
Similarly there is a lot of information that you take away with you, decisions to be made about how you want the ceremony to run, but the appointment itself isn’t scary at all. After giving our notice we took a moment for a celebratory pint and let it sink in. We did it!
This post is specifically based on my experience of giving notice in 2017 at a registry office in Bristol while living in Dundee; giving notice may look slightly different for you, but one thing I learnt throughout is that everyone you encounter is rooting for you, and will go out of their way to make sure you you can comfortably and successfully give notice for your upcoming wedding.