What is a licenced venue?
What is the current advice for people attending ceremonies?
The safety of our staff, our customers, and our community is our highest priority.
Couples and guests are asked to:
- Postpone the ceremony if you or your guests have any of the symptoms of coronavirus or have tested positive (please visit the NHS website by clicking here to check).
- Postpone your ceremony if you or your guests have recently returned from abroad and not been vaccinated/ been tested in line with government guidance. Please click here to visit the government website with the current requirements
- Our registrars conduct a number of ceremonies a day, and to avoid the risk of infection to you, our staff, your friends and family, other ceremony parties and users of the building, we recommend you wear face coverings while inside the venue (unless under 11 years old or medically exempt)
- Our staff have been recommended to continue to wear face coverings, and we ask you to respect this
- We ask that you maintain 2 metres distance from our staff and other users of the venue, especially when entering and leaving the building
- We recommend that you and your guests take a lateral flow test before travelling to your ceremony
- Please follow any safety measures set by the venue
We are asking all couples to continue to take safety measures to help our service remain open to register births, deaths and marriages. We are sure you can appreciate that we are privileged enough to attend lots of special days, and we would be devastated to have to cancel ceremonies if our staff become unwell after coming into contact with ceremony parties.
What details do you need to know about our ceremony plans?
You will be emailed a link to a page with a form to fill in at least a month before your ceremony, which will go through the details for your specific date, and you can list the personalisation choices you have made.
Can we meet the registrar who is conducting our ceremony?
For weekend ceremonies, a registrar will be allocated a month before. Once we have sent you your pre-ceremony organiser, and you have completed and returned it, please email email@example.com and we will put you in touch with them.
At this time we are not able to offer in-person co-ordinations, but you can arrange to ‘virtually meet’ the registrar by video call or talk on the phone at a time of mutual convenience to discuss your ceremony.
If your ceremony is on a weekday, it will be conducted by one of our experienced registrars. We are unable to allocate a specific registrar as there are occasions where substitutions need to be made due to unforeseen circumstances.
Can we request a male/female registrar or specify something else about them such as nationality or sexuality?
We do not offer a choice of registrar based on their personal characteristics.
What time will the registrars arrive at our venue?
We aim to arrive half an hour before the booked ceremony start time. We find that this is early enough to make sure that the ceremony can begin at the booked time.
When should we be ready to speak to the registrars/ arrive at the venue?
If you are seeing each other before the start of the ceremony, please both arrive/ be ready for interview at least 15 minutes before the ceremony start time.
If you don’t want to see each other before the start of the ceremony, we would advise that one partner arrives around 20 minutes before the ceremony start time, and the other partner about 10 minutes before. This way your ceremony should be able to start on time.
It is important that you are on time, as the registrars may have other ceremonies to attend after yours.
What is the pre-ceremony interview we need to have before the ceremony?
Before the ceremony, you and your partner will need to check the details to go on the marriage or civil partnership certificate.
The registrars will take you to a private room, and ask you the same questions you were asked when you gave notice, for example, your full name and date of birth etc. This is to make sure that the details on the legal record of your marriage/civil partnership are correct and up-to-date on the day of your ceremony.
They will then ask you to visually check the paperwork to make sure it is correct.
It is very important that you check the paperwork very carefully, as any mistakes noticed after the paperwork is signed will need a formal correction request made to the General Register Office for a fee of £90.00.
Please be aware that our registrars are not able to interview partner/s in hotel bedrooms.
Do we have to bring ID with us on the day?
You do not need to bring any identification to this interview, unless our staff have specifically advised you to bring documents because of your individual circumstances.
What happens if the information we gave when we gave notice has now changed?
There are some details that could change such as your address and occupation. If these details change before the day of your ceremony, there is nothing you need to do. You do not need to bring any documents to support those changes; you just need to confirm them with the registrar at the interview.
If anything else changes, like your name, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to discuss what is required.
Can our pet come to the ceremony?
It will be up to your venue whether they permit pets. Our staff are happy to conduct ceremonies where well-behaved pets are present.
Are there rules about how we enter into the room or who we walk in with?
No. Please choose the entrance that suits you, whether you enter the room together, with parents, with bridesmaids, with your children or however you prefer.
What personalisation can we add to our ceremony?
Ceremonies at licenced venues can add the following personalisation:
- a choice of four ceremony scripts (or the option to write your own script)
- up to three readings
- personal vows
- music at specific points in the ceremony
You will be emailed a link to a page with a form to fill in at least a month before your ceremony, where you can list the choices you have made.
Please note all that readings, wording and music must not be from religious texts, or contain religious messages.
What are our choices of ceremony script?
You can see the links to the scripts we are currently using by clicking on the links below, depending on the type of ceremony you have chosen:
Please note that scripts are subject to change, and you will be sent the most up to date scripts to choose from at least a month before your ceremony, with the form we ask you to complete.
Can we write our own ceremony?
If you want to combine several of our ceremony scripts, or write something totally unique, you are able to at a licenced venue.
Please note that the ceremony must contain the legal parts of the ceremony (the wording in bold in our ceremony scripts), and the wording must not be from a religious ceremony, religious texts, or contain religious messages.
If you are interested in writing a personalised ceremony, please see the links below to see the order and structure of a ceremony for you to use as a template:
You will be emailed a link to a page with a form to fill in at least a months before your ceremony, where you can attach the script you have written.
We reserve the right to ask you to change the script if we feel it is not suitable for a civil ceremony.
Will I need to promise to 'obey'?
In a civil ceremony you will not be asked to obey your partner. ‘Obeying’ was historically a part of some religious wedding ceremonies, but has never been part of the legal wording of a civil ceremony.
We are having a civil partnership; do we need to have a ceremony?
As civil partnership law is different from marriage law, there are no legal words you need to say, so if you would prefer to simply sign the paperwork with your witnesses you can.
On the form we send you at least a month before the ceremony, you can let us know whether you would prefer a ceremony or a signing.
Can we use our own celebrant/ family member/ friend to conduct our ceremony?
The whole ceremony will need to be legally conducted by one of our registrars, though your friends and family can read poems etc.
Do we have to memorise any of the legal words?
During the marriage ceremony you will make two legal declarations before your witnesses, guests and the registrars. You will declare your freedom to marry one another, and then accept one another as husband or wife.
For civil partnership couples the words themselves are not legally binding, but will be verbal promises made to each other.
These words do not need to be memorised as you will repeat them, a few at a time, after the registrar.
Do we need to give each other rings?
Not at all. The exchanging of rings is a traditional part of a ceremony rather than a legal requirement. Some couples choose to exchange only one ring, some choose a different token personal to themselves, and others choose not to include this part of the ceremony at all.
Can we play some music during the ceremony?
Yes, there are points where music can be played, usually as guests gather, at the entrance of the partner/s, whilst signing the paperwork, and as the couple exit.
Please arrange the music management with the venue staff, as they will be able to advise you on arrangements for live or recorded music at their venue.
Can we play hymns or religious music?
Unfortunately, we are unable to incorporate religious music (whether words or music) into a civil ceremony, which must be free of all religious connotations.
If you would like a song that mentions God or heaven or similar, but you don’t think it is a religious song, please email us and ask. For example, “Angels” by Robbie Williams and “I Say A Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin are not considered religious songs although they mention angels and prayer.
There are also some popular pieces of music such as Wagner’s “The Wedding March” from Lohengrin (more popularly referred to as “Here Comes the Bride”) which was written for an opera and would be acceptable, as would be Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”.
The music for Schubert’s “Ave Maria” (without the words) is acceptable as the music was not written for the Latin prayer.
Can we choose readings from the Bible or other religious text?
Registrars can only perform civil ceremonies, which must be free of all religious connotations, so unfortunately not. This means that the “Song of Songs”, or St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (“Love is patient, love is kind” etc.) cannot be read at a civil ceremony.
If you have a reading that mentions God or heaven or similar, but you don’t think it is a religious reading, please email it to us and we will check whether it is acceptable. For example, the poem “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by William Butler Yeats would be acceptable as it is not religious in content.
Some other examples which would be acceptable although they have reference to God would be “How Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (“Sonnets from the Portuguese”) and “Howard’s End” by E M Forster. The extract on marriage from “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran (a philosophical/spiritual work but perhaps not specifically a religious one) is acceptable, but other passages may not be.
What type of personal vows can we have?
You may wish to incorporate your own personal and heartfelt words into your ceremony. This is your opportunity to write a few sentences that encompass your feelings for each other, or make promises to each other in addition to the legal promises.
You can choose to memorise them or have them written down. Your sentiments must not have any religious connotation, or be taken from any religious ceremony.
If you would like some more information on writing your own vows, please click here to see an article written by Elle, with advice from Islington Registrars, that may help you.
Can we use the words ‘to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part’?
Although these may seem like standard traditional marriage vows, they are in fact, part of the Church of England marriage vows, and so we are not able to use them in a civil ceremony.
You may like to consider different words with the same meaning, like ‘I promise to love, honour and care for you, to support you through good fortune and adversity, joy and sadness, as long as we both shall live.’
Can we include a ‘hand-fasting’ ritual into our ceremony?
Unfortunately, this ceremony has its roots in the pagan religion, so we are unable to incorporate it into a civil ceremony, which must be free of all religious connotations.
Can we have religious content or a religious blessing in our civil ceremony?
Civil ceremonies are intended to provide a non-religious option to couples who would like to make a personal and legal commitment to each other outside of a religious setting. The law prevents civil ceremonies from containing religious elements.
Any religious blessing would need to take place after the ceremony has ended and the registrars have left.
How many witnesses do we need/can we have?
Legally, you need to choose two witnesses who will attend and sign to say they have witnessed the ceremony/signing.
The size and layout of the schedule document that they sign means that you are not able to include more than two witnesses.
Can the witnesses be friends/family members?
Yes, they can be anyone you like, as long as they speak good English and are an adult.
If either you or your partner requires an interpreter, that person must also act as one of your two witnesses.
What name should I sign the paperwork in?
You should always sign the schedule in the name you are using at the time. If you are planning to change your name after the ceremony, you could consider this to be the last time you sign in your old name.
What happens at the end of the ceremony?
At the end you will be announced as husband/wife and husband/wife, or as civil partners, and will sign the marriage or civil partnership schedule, the legal record of your union, with your witnesses.
Your guests will then be invited to congratulate you both as you leave the room together or join your guests. The registrar can direct your guests as you wish, for example ‘Please make your way to the courtyard to greet the newlyweds’ or similar.
How long will the ceremony take?
The ceremony with no added personalisation takes around 20 minutes to complete, including the signing of the paperwork.
If you are adding readings or personal vows, please allow 30-40 minutes for your ceremony.
Can we serve drinks in the room to celebrate after the ceremony?
Marriage and civil partnership law states that you can’t have drinks in the room until the ceremony has finished and the registrars have left, so if the venue has a licence and permits it, they can serve drinks once the registrars have left.
Do we need a rehearsal before the ceremony?
In our experience, there is no need for a rehearsal, and we do not offer rehearsals at Islington and London City.