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

This information was updated on 23rd September 2020, but may change later, due to the uncertain circumstances. We will be reviewing all safety measures over time.

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.

Ceremony questions

We began conducting ceremonies again on 1st August, 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.

In September and October 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

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.
  • Be interviewed together
  • 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
  • Hold your own rings during the ceremony, rather than using guests or the registrars as ring bearers
  • 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 use bubbles after the ceremony either within 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: ‘Face coverings will be required in places of worship. This applies to guests at weddings and civil partnership ceremonies including those taking place in register offices or other approved venues. Face coverings will not have to be worn by the bride, groom or civil partners.’

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 will be asked to move into a different room if needed, but will let you know nearer to the time of your ceremony if this is necessary, how many guests can attend, and any other safety measures in place.

We will try our best to keep your date and time the same, where possible, but at this time we do not know when these rooms will be able to be used again.

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.

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
  • The registrars will wear personal protective equipment throughout
  • 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
  • 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 accommodate 8 people with 2 metre social distancing.

These numbers include the couple, the two registrars legally required and all guests. We apologise, but there will be no exceptions to this rule for babies, children, 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 ‘the ceremonies and services should be concluded in the shortest reasonable time, and limited as far as reasonably possible to the parts of the marriage or civil partnership that are required in order to be legally binding under the law of England and Wales’.

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.

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 offer our couples the choice of a ceremony or a simple signing.

On the form we will send you, you will be asked which you prefer.

We ask you to arrive with your guests 15 minutes before the ceremony start time, so you can have enough time for your legal interviews.

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 or other documents to the ceremony, unless our staff have specifically advised you to bring documents for a reason based on your personal circumstances.

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 token more personal to themselves, others choose not to include this part of the ceremony at all.

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.

There are some details that are expected to change such as 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, you must contact us 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 will 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.

Due to extra cleaning between ceremonies, guests, photographers and videographers 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.

Yes. You will need to bring your own laptop or camera and use your own internet and electricity 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.

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.

Sadly no.

One marriage certificate will be given to you on the day, but due to time constraints, any further certificates need be ordered online after the ceremony and will be posted to you. Unfortunately, we are not able to make exceptions to this at the moment.

Civil partnership law is different, which means all certificates will be produced after the ceremony and posted to the couple.

You can order extra copies of the certificates after the ceremony by clicking here.

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.

All couples who made their ceremony bookings during, or prior to, March 2020, have the following options if they want or need to reschedule:

  1. I would like to re-book but will decide later and contact you once I have decided on a date
  2. I would like to cancel and receive a full refund of all the ceremonies fees paid.
  3. I would like to reschedule now and have some dates in mind, which I would like to check availability for

Bookings taken after 1st August 2020 will be subject to our usual terms and conditions which you can find by clicking here.

If you have a booking and would like to take one of these options, please email registrars@islington.gov.uk with your details.

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

We apologise, but we will not be able to book any ceremonies in the Mayor’s Parlour or the Richmond Room until they are signed off for safe use again.

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

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

Notice questions

We are now able to book notice appointment appointments again- please visit https://www.islington.gov.uk/birth-death-marriage-and-citizenship/marriage-and-civil-partnerships/giving-notice to book your appointment.

Please note that notices normally need to be given in the district where you live- even if your ceremony is in another district

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 for couples that have not been 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 between 27th March 2020 and 1st August 2020, 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.

Further information

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

www.islington.gov.uk/contact-us/changes-to-services – for information about appointments

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