What does it mean to be a licensed venue for civil ceremonies?
Having a civil ceremony is the perfect option for those of you who want a legal ceremony but without having to get married in a church or with a religious connection, and you’re getting married in England or Wales, then a civil ceremony is the best match for you. You can either get married in a register office, or you can have a civil ceremony at an approved wedding venue. To be an approved civil ceremony venue, wedding venues need to apply for a civil ceremony license.
Most wedding venues in Edinburgh, Lothian & Borders will have a civil ceremony license, however some don't, so you will want to ensure that your chosen venue does before booking them. The alternative is marrying in a humanist or spiritual ceremony, which will allow you to marry in any venue (or in an unlicensed part of an otherwise licensed venue, such as a garden or private beach), but will need to be followed by a legal civil ceremony in a register office at another date.
We're here to answer all of your questions on wedding venues licensed for civil ceremonies below...
FAQ - Civil ceremony licensed wedding Venues
Can any wedding venue in Edinburgh, Lothian & Borders have a civil ceremony license?
It’s not just mansion houses or castles that can be approved wedding venues - approved premises can include everything from hotels and restaurants to zoos, aquariums, treehouses and caves! If they’re on our civil ceremony venue list, then you can legally marry there. However, don’t assume that more traditional venues always have a civil ceremony license. It costs wedding venues money to apply for a license, so some just host humanist or spiritual ceremonies, or simply host wedding receptions rather than ceremonies.
How does a wedding venue get approved for civil ceremonies?
Every venue in Edinburgh, Lothian & Borders is assessed and researched before they are approved for civil ceremonies. This is done by the local council in which the venue is based. This includes whether or not they’re in a safe and reasonable state for members of the public, and if they meet fire safety regulations. The venue must also be regularly available to the public for the purpose of conducting marriage ceremonies. This is why private homes can’t be approved for a civil ceremony license. If you’re hoping to marry on private land, in a back garden or a large home that isn’t available to the public, you’ll need to hold your legal ceremony in a register office instead.
Can I have a civil ceremony outside?
If you want to tie the knot in an outdoor wedding ceremony, then your wedding venue will need a separate civil ceremony license for this. The legal elements of the ceremony must also take place in a fixed and permanent structure, such as a wooden gazebo or pagoda. This means that you can’t legally marry under a floral arch, on an open beach or in woodland, for example. Don’t presume that any permanent fixture in a wedding venue’s garden will be automatically covered by a civil ceremony license. Venues need to purchase licenses for separate structures. If you want to know if you can get married in a garden, search our ‘Outdoor wedding ceremony’ filter or simply enquire with your chosen wedding venue in Edinburgh, Lothian & Borders.
If I want to get married in a marquee, will I need to have the ceremony elsewhere in Edinburgh, Lothian & Borders?
The law does not consider marquees to be permanent structures, even ones that are up all year round. If you want to hold your wedding in a marquee, it's best to get married in a nearby church or licensed venue indoors before the reception. One way to get around this is to have your ceremony over the threshold of a doorway. This way, your guests can be seated in the marquee while you are technically indoors.
What will happen during a civil ceremony?
A civil wedding ceremony has certain legal requirements. You must have two witnesses over the age of 18, and you will need to exchange contractual words of marriage. What you say during your ceremony can be changed to a certain degree. Ask your registrar about what needs to be included and work around that to make your own words and promises.
If I want a religious element to my marriage, can I have this during a civil ceremony?
By law a civil ceremony cannot include any religious element, including readings or music. You also cannot hold a civil ceremony in a religious building in Edinburgh, Lothian & Borders. If you would like to include religion in some way, you can have a religious blessing after your civil ceremony.
Does a Scottish civil ceremony differ from others in the UK?
The above requirements only apply to weddings in England and Wales. In Scotland, humanist ceremonies are legally binding, so brides in Scotland have more flexibility when choosing their wedding venues. Unlike civil ceremonies, humanist weddings do not require specific wording, or for the ceremony to be under a permanent structure. If you're wanting to have religious elements to your ceremony, whether that be a song or a reading, a humanist ceremony would work perfect for you in Scotland. Speak to a few venues around you to see what ceremonies they can offer and what would work for you