Please find below our most frequently asked questions about ceremonies at the moment, taking into account government advice, public health advice, registration law, and Islington Council policies.

This information was updated on 3 December 2020, but may change later, due to the uncertain circumstances. We will be reviewing all safety measures over time.

The questions are divided into the following categories:

  • Covid-19 information
  • Planning the day
  • Giving notice
  • On the day
  • The ceremony
  • After the ceremony
  • Further information

If you have a question that is not on this list, please email registrars@islington.gov.uk and we will try our best to answer it. Please note that our emails are much busier than usual, so we appreciate your patience in awaiting a response.

Covid-19 information

We began conducting ceremonies again on 3 December, and we hope that all ceremonies from this date will be able to go ahead.

However, ceremonies are likely to be subject to guest number restrictions and other safety measures for some time, depending on government and public health advice at the time.

It is also possible some ceremonies may still need to be rescheduled to a different date, time or room in order to ensure safety and maintain low numbers of people within the building. The Coronavirus pandemic has not ended and the virus is still present in the population.

It may be necessary to cancel and/or reschedule ceremonies at short notice due to changes in government restriction, local lockdowns or the need for our staff to self-isolate.

We will contact you directly if your ceremony is affected.

As London enters Tier 2 (High) restrictions, please note ceremonies of up to 15 people are still able to take place under all tiers, and that Say I Do Islington are continuing to conduct covid-secure ceremonies.

The government have stated ‘when attending a wedding or civil partnership ceremony, there are no restrictions on travel and you may travel to another Tier in England or overseas, for this purpose‘.

In December 2020, couples and witnesses will be asked to:

  • Hold the ceremony in Room 99 or the Council Chamber (if booked for the Town Hall)
  • Limit your guest numbers based on government advice and the size of the ceremony room to the numbers listed below. We apologise, but there will be no exceptions to this rule for babies, children, translators, extra photographers or extra guests to enter the building under any circumstances:

Room 99 – 4 guests plus the couple and registrars and one photographer

Council Chamber – 13 guests plus the couple and registrars and one photographer

For any other venue – maximum of 13 guests plus the couple and registrars and venue staff depending on the number of guests that can be safely accommodated in that venue. This number will be outlined in the venue’s risk assessment.

You will be asked to reschedule your ceremony if you or your guests appear to be unwell.

  • Postpone your ceremony if you or your guests have recently returned from abroad (except for travel corridor countries: please click here for the up to date list) and not adhered to a 14 day quarantine period.
  • Not bring large bags or suitcases to your ceremony
  • Arrive 15 minutes before your ceremony start time. Consideration needs to be given to the cleaning of ceremony rooms between ceremonies. Should you arrive more than 10 minutes late, your ceremony will not take place and you will have to rebook and may incur rescheduling fees.
  • Check into the venue on arrival with the NHS track and trace app
  • Be interviewed together
  • Face coverings are now required to be worn at ceremonies at all times by all guests. Please advise your guests of this, as they will not be able to enter the venue without a face covering unless they have a medical exemption, or are under 11 years old. Please see the government’s advice on face coverings and exemptions here.
  •  The ceremony couple must wear face coverings whilst entering and leaving the venue, unless they have a medical exemption, but are not required to wear them during the ceremony
  • Use the short, simple ceremony. This will mean no readings, extra vows, or personalisation available, apart from the option to exchange rings.  We are unable to confirm which registrar will be conducting your ceremony, as this is subject to change during this busy time. We are also unable to offer pre-ceremony co-ordinations by phone or email between registrars and couples
  • If you wish to have music playing during the signing of the register, you will need to bring your own battery powered device and speaker, and the registrars will not be able to assist with your device. The playing of music cannot increase the length of the ceremony, which must be kept as short as possible as per government advice. Music must not be religious in nature, such as hymns
  • Limit photography time inside the building to ten minutes after the ceremony. You must still comply with social distancing rules during this time. Registrars will not be able to take pictures using your phones or cameras to avoid virus transfer
  • Not blow bubbles after the ceremony either within the venue or outside to avoid virus transfer. Biodegradable confetti can be used

For your marriage or civil partnership to be legal, two registrars must be present to witness it.

The government has said: ‘There are valid exemptions for some individuals and groups to not wear a face covering in these settings. In particular, those who are leading services or events in a place of worship. Those exemptions will also cover the couple being married or joined in a partnership and those officiating at the wedding. This exemption does not apply to those observing the wedding, who should wear face coverings consistent with the requirements for any other public space.

The ceremony couple must wear face coverings whilst entering and leaving the venue, unless they have a medical exemption, but are not required to wear them during the ceremony.

You can see the government’s advice on face coverings and exemptions here.

Please advise your guests of this, as they will not be able to enter the Town Hall or any other ceremony venue without a face covering unless they have a medical exemption, or are under 11 years old, effective from 8th August until further notice.

At this time, with social distancing measures in place, the Mayor’s Parlour cannot be used due to its size, and the Richmond Room cannot be used as it cannot be accessed in a socially distanced way.

Existing booked ceremonies for these rooms in 2021 have been contacted and asked to move into a different room.

At this time we do not know when these rooms will be able to be used again, and we are not taking new bookings for these rooms until our health and safety team have signed off these rooms as safe.

Like the Richmond Room, the Council Chamber balcony cannot currently be used as it cannot be accessed in a socially distanced way.

This is very difficult to predict, as the recommendations are constantly changing.

Further information will be sent regarding your specific ceremony a few weeks before the date, when we have the latest safety recommendations.

Our ceremony times are staggered and the number of ceremonies held have been reduced.

Occupancy limits for staff and visitors have been implemented, including restricting access to only essential visitors, such as people attending ceremonies or attending registration appointments.

This will ensure less contact between parties and lower numbers of people within the Town Hall itself.

In addition to this:

  • The ceremony rooms will be cleaned in between ceremonies
  • There will be floor markers and guidance within the Town Hall to ensure social distancing
  • The registrars will provide hand sanitiser to be used by you and your witnesses when signing the register/schedule
  • Your handwritten certificate will be issued on the day, but if you prefer us to post it to you, please let your registrars know on the day

The government has said ‘No more than 15 people should attend a marriage or civil partnership, where this can be safely accommodated with social distancing in a COVID-19 secure venue.’

After careful measurement of Room 99 by our health and safety team, it can accomodate 8 seated people with 2 metre social distancing.

These numbers include the couple, the two registrars legally required, and 4 guests.  You are also able to invite one photographer. We apologise, but there will be no exceptions to this rule for babies, children, extra photographers, translators, or extra guests to enter the building under any circumstances.

Unfortunately, we are not able to conduct an individual risk assessment or seating plan for each ceremony party at the Town Hall, so all ceremonies are asked to keep their guest numbers to these maximums.

The government has advised ‘it is advised that the ceremonies and services should be concluded in the shortest reasonable time‘.

We will ask you to use a short, simple ceremony to comply with this. Unfortunately, this will mean no readings, music, individual entrances, separate interviews or personalisation available, apart from the option to exchange rings.

Due to extra cleaning between ceremonies, guests, photographers will only be able to enter the room when the room is clean and the ceremony is ready to start.

A member of staff will show the ceremony party into the room at the right time.

The government advice is that ‘the number of attendees should ideally be kept to a minimum as far as possible. The lower the number of attendees, the lower the risk of spreading the virus.’

Therefore, we cannot recommend that additional people meet you outside the building.

We are unable to confirm which registrar will be conducting ceremonies, as this is subject to change during this busy time.

As our staff are working from home where possible, or conducting ceremonies or appointments, we are currently unable to offer calls to discuss the ceremony or meetings between registrars and couples.

No, but you will be able to postpone the ceremony to a later date when more guests may be possible again.

Yes, if larger guest numbers are permitted in that room at the time of the ceremony, and we have a larger room available on the date you would like.

If you would like to enquire about moving to a larger room, please email registrars@islington.gov.uk.

Couples who had originally booked for a ceremony date that was during a period of lockdown, or in a room that is not Covid-secure have been offered the choice of:

  1. A full refund of all the ceremonies fees paid
  2. Moving their ceremony to a new date/room of their choice (subject to availability)

 

Planning the day

At this time, the Town Hall has strict occupancy limits, and is only open for booked appointments to access essential services, like registering a birth, giving notice for a marriage or civil partnership, or for small ceremonies to take place.

This means we are unable to allow any additional people into the building at the moment to view the ceremony rooms. We apologise, but we expect this to be the case for at least the rest of 2020.

 

A marriage in England and Wales can be between same-sex or opposite-sex couples. Marriages can be civil or religious (although most religions don’t offer same-sex marriages). At the Town Hall and our licenced venues, we perform only civil marriages which means no religious content can be incorporated. As marriage is a verbal contract, therefore you must say prescribed words to be legally married. After a marriage ceremony you will be declared to be husband and wife, husband and husband, or wife and wife. Your legal status will be ‘married’.

A civil partnership in England and Wales can also be between same-sex or opposite-sex couples. Again, no religious content can be included. Civil partnership is a written contract, which means you do not have to make legal vows to each other, you can just sign the schedule with your witnesses if you prefer, although we always offer our couples the choice of a ceremony or a simple signing. After a civil partnership ceremony, you will be declared to be civil partners in law. Your legal status will be ‘civil partner’. A civil partnership can be converted into a marriage at a later date if the couple choose to do so.

The legal preliminaries to marriage and civil partnership (giving notice) are the same, as are the fees for each ceremony.

Couples are advised to complete further research before booking a ceremony, particularly if either party is a national of another country or you are planning to live abroad, as there may be differences in how a marriage and a civil partnership are recognised in other countries.

If you would like more information on the differences between a marriage and a civil partnership, please visit gov.uk for the government’s advice.

In 2020, the law was expected to change to allow opposite-sex couples to convert their marriage into a civil partnership should they choose to. When we have further information about the implementation of marriage conversions, we will update this page.

‘Civil ceremony’ is a term we use to make it clear that the ceremony has no religious content. The term covers both marriages and civil partnerships.

No! You can choose any licenced building in England or Wales. A licenced venue can be any non-religious building that has applied for and been granted a licence to hold civil ceremonies on its premises, such as a hotel or restaurant.

Yes, our diaries are open again to book ceremonies for the Council Chamber, Room 99 and the statutory room at Islington Town Hall, as well as our approved premises such as hotels and restaurants..

The Mayor’s Parlour and the Richmond Room are not currently covid-secure,  and we are not taking new bookings for these rooms until our health and safety team have signed off these rooms as safe.

At this time, we don’t know when that will be.

We are also unsure when Sunday ceremonies will be possible again.

At this time, taking into account government advice and risk assessments by our health and safety team, the current number of people able to attend ceremonies is:

Council Chamber – 13 guests plus the couple and registrars and one photographer

Room 99 – 4 guests plus the couple and registrars and one photographer

Statutory room – 2 guests plus the couple and registrars

For any other venue – maximum of 13 guests, plus the couple, registrars and venue staff, depending on the number of guests that can be safely accommodated in that venue. This number will be outlined in the venue’s risk assessment.

No, you don’t need to include these people in your total.

Yes, all babies and children should be counted in the total.

If you are having your ceremony at Islington Town Hall, the cost includes the use of the room, the registrars’ attendance and one marriage or civil partnership certificate.

If you are having your ceremony at a licenced ceremony venue, the cost includes the registrars’ attendance and one marriage or civil partnership certificate. You will need to book the ceremony venue directly with their staff.

At this time, we are not able to allow flowers or any large items to be brought into the Town Hall.

However, we do provide fresh flowers in the Council Chamber and Room 99.

The Council Chamber and Room 99 have built in air conditioning.

There is a ramp to the Town Hall and lifts to all levels, as well as accessible bathrooms.

We have limited special access parking spaces available on the Town Hall forecourt, and these need to be booked well in advance by emailing securitytownhall@islington.gov.uk

If you or any of your guests have a disability, please visit https://sayidoislington.com/accessibility/ to complete a personal emergency evacuation plan form so we can ensure safety on your ceremony day.

The month before the ceremony, we will email you with a link to a form we will ask you to complete.

This will give you all the up to date information about the safety restrictions that will apply to your ceremony, as well as asking for information we need for the ceremony, such as whether you are giving rings and your guests’ names.

It is very important that you complete this form by the deadline we give you (usually at least two weeks after sending) so that we know you are aware of the safety procedures in place and you don’t have to spend unnecessary time inside the venue. We are not able to send you the form any earlier than the month before because government advice may change before your ceremony date.

Giving notice

After you have booked your ceremony, you are both legally required to give a Notice of Marriage or Civil Partnership, in person, at a Register Office.

This means making an appointment to see a registrar to show them proof of your identity, address and that you are free to marry/form a civil partnership, and fill out some paperwork. This can be done up to a year in advance, but must be done at least one month before the ceremony.

The information will be placed on a noticeboard at the Register Office for 28 clear days for anyone to make any legal objections. If there are none, the legal paperwork will be issued to the Register Office who will be conducting your ceremony.

It is very important that you give the correct notice for the type of ceremony you are planning, as legally this cannot be changed at a later date. For example; if a couple gives notice for a marriage but then decides they would prefer a civil partnership, they would need to pay to give a new notice; provide their documents again, and wait another month.

If you are both British or EU citizens, you will do this in the Register Office for the council area you live in, even if that is not the one you are having your ceremony in. Only residents of the London Borough of Islington or the City of London (the ‘square mile’) should come to Islington Register Office for their notice.

If either if you are foreign nationals, subject to immigration control, you must give your notices at a designated Register Office. This is a Register Office that is authorised to take the notices of foreign nationals. The Register Office for the council area you live in may be a designated Register Office, but if it isn’t, you will need to find a designated Register Office you can go to. Islington Register Office and most London Register Offices are designated.

Most people need to bring passports and recent proof of address like a bank statement or utility bill.

If you have been married or in a civil partnership before, you will need to show proof that that union has ended. This could be a death certificate, decree absolute or final dissolution of civil partnership document.

This is a brief outline, so please see our website for full details: https://www.islington.gov.uk/birth-death-marriage-and-citizenship/marriage-and-civil-partnerships/giving-notice

Marriage and civil partnership law requires an in-person, face-to-face interview with a registrar to give notice, and so notice cannot be given by proxy, in writing, by video call, online or by any other method.

Register Offices all over the country will be very busy taking notices this autumn and winter for couples that were not able to give notice prior to lockdown.

Our advice is to email or call your local office and explain the situation and see if you can be prioritised.

If you live in Islington or City of London, please email registrars@islington.gov.uk, attaching a copy of the booking confirmation for your ceremony and your details and we will arrange for you to give notice as soon as possible.

Sadly, no. The notice of marriage or civil partnership is a statutory legal requirement by the General Register Office, which is out of the local authorities’ control.

If your notice of marriage or civil partnership expires before your new date, a new notice will have to be given.

If you live in Islington or City of London (the ‘square mile’), and your original booking for a ceremony date was during a lockdown period, when ceremonies could not legally take place, we will waive the fee if you have already given notice with us once for the same venue.

If you live in a different borough, you will need to check what their policy is on this.

No, unfortunately, the notice that you have given is for your original location and it cannot legally be moved to another location.

A new notice will have to be given.

No, we will only contact you if there is a legal objection or another problem with your notice.

On the day

Please both arrive with your guests 15 minutes before the ceremony start time. It is extremely important that you are all on time, as priority must be given to cleaning the room between ceremonies.

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.

You will be asked to check into the building using the NHS contact and trace app.

Our staff will show your guests to a waiting room, and show you and your partner to the ceremony room to check the details to go on the marriage or civil partnership certificate. You do not need to bring any identification to this interview, unless our staff have advised you to bring documents for a specific reason.

Your guests will then enter the ceremony room and the ceremony will begin. The simple ceremony takes around 10 minutes to complete, including the signing of the register/schedule.

You will then be able to take some photographs inside the Town Hall building (although accessible areas have been limited to ensure ceremony parties do not meet) for a maximum of 10 minutes, and then you will be able to continue your celebrations elsewhere as planned.

We know this sounds a bit unromantic, and we are sorry, but we must comply with the government’s advice to keep you and our staff safe.

Our experienced and dedicated registrars will help to make sure your day is as much of a special occasion as possible despite the short and simple nature of the ceremony.

You do not need to bring any identification to this interview, unless our staff have advised you to bring documents for a specific reason.

There are some minor details that may change such as your age, 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 pre-ceremony interview.

If anything else changes, such as your name or marital status, please email us at registrars@islington.gov.uk as soon as possible to discuss what is required.

A marriage certificate has spaces for the couple to record their natural, adoptive or stepfather if they would like to. It is not a legal requirement to include the father’s details but it may be useful for tracing family records by relatives in the future.

The current marriage law does not allow us to record the mother’s details in the register instead, and our registrars must work within the law. This was expected to change in 2020, but no exact date has been announced yet for the law change. As soon as it is legal to do so, we will ask all couples if they want to include all parents’ details.

Civil partnership certificates can include details of all parents unless you request that these details are left blank.

The simple ceremony will take about 10 minutes.

You should always sign the register/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.

Under current law, marriage certificates are hand-written at the time of the ceremony, and are presented to you at the end, unless you request that it is posted to you.

Civil partnership law has already been modernised, meaning that ceremonies must be entered onto a computer system after the ceremony and so the certificate will not be available until the next working day, when it will be posted to you.

The fee you pay for the ceremony includes one certificate, but you are welcome to order as many as you need online on our website after the ceremony.

The 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.

Many couples like to have a ceremony and make promises to each other as a public pledge of their love and commitment, even though it is not a legal requirement.

You will need to book a ceremony room and timeslot, and pay the usual fee for the room, the registrars’ attendance and one certificate whether you choose to have a ceremony or not.

You can see the text of our simple marriage ceremony here and our simple civil partnership ceremony here.

In accordance with government advice, no personalisation of the ceremony is possible at this time as the ceremony must remain as short as possible.

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.

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.

At the end of the ceremony you will be presented with your certificate.

Your guests will be invited to stand and congratulate you both as you walk out of the room together, and then they will follow you.

To reduce contact points, at this time it is only possible to include a maximum of two witnesses per ceremony.

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 witnesses.

You need to bring your own witnesses as we do not have the staff levels to supply them.

While this could be a fun thought, the only animals permitted in the Town Hall are guide dogs and other assistance animals. Your animal should wear their vest to show that they are a trained assistance animal and not just your pet. If your animal does not have a vest, please bring the paperwork to show that they are a trained assistance animal.

If you are having your ceremony in a licenced premise like a hotel or restaurant, you will need to check with the venue if they permit pets.

That is fine. Although we would encourage you to celebrate both ceremony days in these circumstances, the ceremonies are all, by necessity, very short and simple as per government advice.

Yes. You will need to bring your own laptop or camera and use your own internet supply, and our staff will show where the cameraperson can stand to film while remaining socially distant.

As we need to keep the amount of time you spend in the building very short to reduce risk, we will need to begin the ceremony on time, so please ask your guests to be ready and familiar with their equipment.

If you wish to have music playing, you will need to bring your own battery powered device and speaker, and the registrars will not be able to assist with your device.

The playing of music cannot increase the length of the ceremony, which must be kept as short as possible as per government advice.

Please make sure you have any music downloaded onto your device, rather than relying on streaming music online during the ceremony.

If you are having your ceremony in a licenced venue, please arrange the music management with the venue staff.

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.

After the ceremony

We know it’s all a bit overwhelming by the time you come to actually sign the marriage register or civil partnership schedule, but it is extremely important that all the information recorded in the entry is correct. Your registrar will direct you to check everything before you put pen to paper, and please use those moments to double check your details.

It is your responsibility to make sure all is right before you sign. If you spot anything that is wrong tell the registrar straight away and they can amend it for you. It is very difficult to correct the registration after the event.

Please be aware that any errors in the information given will cost £90.00 to amend after you have signed to say the details are correct.

Yes, you will be able to take some photographs inside the Town Hall building after the ceremony (although accessible areas have been limited to ensure ceremony parties do not meet) for a maximum of 10 minutes. The ushers and registrars will advise you on the areas you can access during this time, depending on other ceremonies that are taking place.

You can also have some photographs on the steps outside.

Please note that social distancing must still be observed for photographs apart from between households/ support bubbles.

We do not permit anything messy, potentially damaging, or on fire! You are welcome to have these things outside of the building. If you have something in mind that is unusual but not messy/hazardous/on fire, please ask us beforehand if it will be possible.

Due to covid-19, we ask you not to blow bubbles while around the Town Hall.

We also only permit the use of eco-friendly options like biodegradable confetti at the Town Hall. Rice is not permitted as it poses health and safety risks with the stairs in inclement weather and attracts pigeons.

If you are having your ceremony in a licenced venue, it will be up to the venue whether they permit any of these things.

While there is no parking on Upper Street outside the Town Hall, your booked transport will be allowed to stop there long enough for you and your guests to get on.

It is important to check the football fixtures for Arsenal (Emirates Stadium) as Upper Street can get very congested on match days.

Car parking at the Town Hall is strictly limited and by prior arrangement only. Please visit our website for information on where to park in Islington. However, chauffeured cars carrying the couple can collect and drop off outside the Town Hall.

At the moment, most ceremonies will take about 20 minutes from start to finish, including photographs.

Ideally your transport should be there waiting for you as you all emerge from the Town Hall ready to whisk you away to your reception.

There is no legal requirement in this country to change your name after your ceremony. This is a personal choice and not everyone wishes to do so.

If you do choose to change your name, your marriage or civil partnership certificate is evidence of the name change and no further legal processes need to be followed- just show your certificate to the bank etc. where you want to change your name.

If you are nationals of another country, then we suggest you contact your consulate or embassy to find out what the legal requirements are in your country.

If you would like to honeymoon in your new name, your passport can be changed up to three months before the ceremony, as long as you have given notice. Please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/passports-for-newly-weds-and-civil-partners, complete the form on this page and post it to the Town Hall to be signed by the Superintendent Registrar, before submitting it to the Passport Office.

Please note that your new passport will only be valid from the date of the ceremony.

Further information

This website will be updated as things change, but you can find other information about our service provision by visiting:

https://www.islington.gov.uk/birth-death-marriage-and-citizenship/marriage-and-civil-partnerships – for information about notice appointments

www.instagram.com/sayidoislington/ – our ceremonies Instagram