How to have a UK destination wedding

A forest wedding. Image:

Fancy a traditional English wedding? Want to have the bagpipes at your Scottish bash? Suzanne Locke talks to Kayleigh Biswas of Rayden Solicitors in Hertfordshire, England, to find out the rules for getting married as a foreign visitor.

How long before my UK wedding should I organize my visit visa?

Legally speaking, if you are planning on coming to the UK as a foreign visitor to marry before returning to your home country, your starting point is to apply for a marriage or civil partnership visitor visa. This would permit you to stay in the UK for up to six months. The earliest date on which you can apply for the visa is three months prior to your date of travel.

How long does it take to arrange a UK wedding?

Turning to the marriage process itself, both parties need to be living in the UK for at least seven days prior to providing notice of intention to marry at the registrar’s office. After you have given notice there is a 28-day notice period, following which the registrar’s office will approve or deny your request to marry. This 28-day period may be extended to 70 days if you are not a national of Switzerland or the European Economic Area (EEA – the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) and you do not have a marriage visitor visa. If this happens, the paperwork will be passed to the Home Office for further investigation.

Kayleigh Biswas of Rayden Solicitors/. Photograph: Rayden Solicitors
Kayleigh Biswas of Rayden Solicitors. Photograph: Rayden Solicitors

What does the UK marriage visa paperwork cost?

The fee for a marriage visitor visa is currently £95 ($116). With regards to the notice fees, if all the legal paperwork is correct, a fee of £35 ($43) per partner will be payable. If the paperwork is incorrect or the requirements have not been met, the notice fee will be £47 ($57). It costs £46 to register a UK marriage or civil partnership at a registered office and your marriage certificate will cost £11. You will then need to look at the costs of a registrar and venue.

What about a UK civil partnership?

You do not need a marriage visitor visa to convert your civil partnership into a marriage in England and Wales – you can apply for a standard visitor visa. [But there are different rules for Scotland and you cannot convert a civil partnership into a marriage in Northern Ireland.

What visit visa should I apply for to marry in the UK?

This depends on where you are from and whether you wish to live in the UK after the ceremony. You can apply for the following visas or permits:

  1. A marriage visitor visa – if you’re not going to live in the UK and will stay less than six months.
  2. A family visa – if you want to live permanently in the UK, and your partner is a British citizen, settled in the UK, has refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK.
  3. A family permit – if your partner is not a British citizen but from an EU, EEA country or Switzerland.

What if I am an EU citizen?

You are not currently subject to immigration control if you are a member of an EEA country or have a settled status in the UK.

Is it different if I am marrying a Briton?

A marriage visitor visa is still required if you are marrying a British citizen. If you intend to remain living in the UK following marriage, you will need to apply for a family visa.

What UK venues can I marry at, an overseas visitor?

If you are from a country outside the EEA, you will need to obtain a superintendent registrar’s certificate (SRC) to have a Church of England wedding, unless you have been granted a special license. The SRC can be issued after the notice period mentioned above. Other approved premises (which do not require an SRC or special licence) includes many stately homes, barns, and castles, provided that they have been approved by the local authority.

How different is it to marry elsewhere in the UK?

For a marriage to be legally recognized in England and Wales, both parties need to be aged 16 or over, not already married or in a civil partnership and not closely related. If you are under 18 years old, permission is needed from your parents or guardian. The legal procedure differs for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and I would advise you to take specialist advice on this.

Editor’s note

Kayleigh is qualified to practice law in England and Wales and the laws can differ elsewhere in the UK. For instance, in England and Wales weddings must take place in solid, roofed structures, so are prohibited on beaches or in gardens. You can get married anywhere in Scotland – and do not need parental permission if aged 16 or 17, hence the tradition of escaping to Gretna Green. Since 2014 same-sex marriages have been legal in the UK – except, at the time of writing, in Northern Ireland. In general, a marriage performed in the UK is recognized in most other countries, but you should check with your home country’s embassy.

UK weddings: resources

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