Wedding venues licensed for civil ceremonies are the most popular.
If you want a ceremony in London that's legally binding without getting married in a church, 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 London 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.
Can any wedding venue in London have a civil ceremony license?
There's many different types of venue that can be licensed for civil ceremonies. Anything from castles and hotels to barns and even unique venues such as zoo's! 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. Some you can only have your wedding reception at but you will have to check with the wedding venue itself. Take a look at our range of civil ceremony licensed venues in London.
What determines the decision of approving a venue for civil ceremonies?
When a venue in London applies for a civil ceremony license it needs to be assessed by the local council. 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. Due to the venue needing to be regularly open to the public to be an approved venue, you aren't able to legally marry in a private home or estate. 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. Due to the law, if you get married outside it still needs to be under a fixed permanent structure. 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 London.
If I want to get married in a marquee, will I need to have the ceremony elsewhere in London?
The law does not consider marquees to be permanent structures, even ones that are up all year round. 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 takes place during the marriage at a civil ceremony licensed venue?
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.
Can I include religious readings or music in my civil ceremony?
Unfortunately, if you want to have a religious reading or music included in your marriage ceremony, you can't have a civil ceremony. To make this happen, you would have to get married in a church building or have a religious blessing after your marriage.
If I want to get married in Scotland, are the regulations for my civil ceremony different?
If you wish to get married in Scotland, there's many more venues that you can do this is. This is because in Scotland, humanist ceremonies are legally binding and in a humanist ceremony there's a lot more flexibility on what you and your partner can say. Unlike civil ceremonies, humanist weddings do not require specific wording, or for the ceremony to be under a permanent structure. You can also include religious elements in your humanist ceremony. If you’re a bride in Scotland, ask your wedding venue about what kind of ceremony would work best for you.