Navigating the Hidden World of Marriage Registration: What You Need to Know

by | Nov 19, 2023 | Weddings, Your Ceremony

If you’re in the process of planning your dream wedding, you may have encountered a surprising and often confusing aspect of the process: the registration of your marriage. While wedding planning typically conjures images of choosing the perfect venue, picking the right flowers, and finding the dress of your dreams, the legal side of marriage can be a bit of a mystery. So, let’s shed some light on this often overlooked but essential part of getting married.

Behind the Scenes of Marriage Registration


The process of registering your marriage may not be as straightforward as you’d think. It’s not actively hidden, but it’s not made easily accessible either. This is because, from a business perspective, registrars who oversee marriages don’t primarily earn money from this service. Their main role is to register births, deaths, and marriages. It’s the council’s way of generating income and maintaining consistent standards.

This means that, if you’re planning to have a traditional civil wedding ceremony, you might be surprised by how similar each ceremony is. The registrar will have a script, with some minor choices available. However, even those choices are only offered about 15 minutes before your wedding. Furthermore, you won’t necessarily know who will conduct your ceremony until the day itself – the hour of it even. It may not be the person you met during the registration process, or you might have done your notices online without meeting anyone from the registrar’s team.

Wedding at Bury Court 2022


The Need for Pre-emptive Planning


If knowing who’s officiating your wedding is important to you, and if you want a more personalised ceremony, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Firstly, registrars often assume they’ll be conducting your wedding once you start the registration process. They might even inquire about your wedding venue and schedule, assuming they’ll be involved.

But here’s the catch: registrars don’t have to offer the registration of marriage service, and they may not actively promote it. You may struggle to find information about this service, even with diligent online research. It took me 40 minutes of digging through various emails, websites, and links to figure out that it’s a request-only service.

Location Matters


Additionally, the location of your registration may not be up to you. Councils often determine where these registrations take place, and the venues can change from year to year. This means that you might have limited control over the location and timing of your registration, as it depends on the council’s availability.

However, if you specifically request a registration of marriage (often called the “two by two,” where both partners and their witnesses meet with the registrar), the council is legally obligated to provide this service. Still, they might not actively offer it.

Navigating the Maze of Wedding Planning


Wedding venues play a pivotal role in this process as well. They often have established relationships with registrars and may assume you want a registrar to officiate your wedding. Consequently, they might plan your wedding day around the availability of registrars, who are typically booked on the hour.

If you choose not to have a registrar at your wedding, the venue might still schedule as if you were having one. This can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. So, it’s crucial to communicate your preferences clearly with your chosen venue. 

Wedding at Lythe Hill 2022

@Eleanor Joy Photography

Making Your Dream Wedding a Reality


While this process may seem complex and confusing, don’t be discouraged. You’re doing your homework, and that’s a significant step. Even if you can’t find the information you need, it’s not your fault; it’s genuinely not widely available. However, this is where experts, specialists, and celebrants like me come in. We can help you navigate this intricate journey and make your wedding day a reality.

Remember, your wedding day can be whatever you envision it to be, whether it’s in your own backyard, at a non-traditional venue, or even in a place where registrars aren’t typically available. If you’re clear about your preferences and ask the right questions, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

In conclusion, keep asking questions, seeking advice from experts, and staying true to your vision. The journey from worry to wonder is possible, and with the right guidance, your wedding day will be a beautiful reflection of your love and commitment. Don’t hesitate to reach out to experts in the industry, research diligently, and have the wedding you’ve always dreamed of. Happy planning!


If you would like to chat further or discuss your own ceremony, please drop me a message or call me on 07787 530720.


Helen x

Celebrant of Surrey

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