Guidance for couples using unlicensed venues / premises

You are not alone in wanting to hold your wedding ceremony in a place that means something to you. Celebrant weddings offer a much wider range of venue options than just register offices, religious buildings or approved/licensed premises.

Obtaining a Local Authority licence for civil marriage is often not a viable option for some venues. Others would not be granted a licence, for a variety of (usually bureaucratic!!) reasons. However, these establishments remain an extremely desirable option for many couples like you, seeking a venue for your wedding ceremony.

Many unlicensed venues are unaware that it is perfectly acceptable to host a celebrant-led ceremony on their premises. No licence required!
You would take care of the legal formalities at your local register office (see Appendix A), leaving you free to have your wedding celebration at the venue of your choice – including unlicensed venues, outdoor venues etc.

The legal part of a civil marriage in this country comprises just 40 words – the rest of the ceremony is the non-statutory celebratory part. Unfortunately, if you have a registrar led ceremony this usually means a standard script with the bride and groom’s name inserted at the relevant point with no option for any religious or spiritual content and no opportunity to involve other people.

This type of Civil marriage can be a costly yet impersonal affair – the average Local Authority will charge £500-£600 for a Saturday ceremony. The member of staff conducting the marriage gets paid approximately £50 of this, the remainder is absorbed into Council funds.

Fortunately, more couples are now choosing to approach marriage in England in a more European manner.

It is commonplace in Europe for a couple to attend your local Town Hall (or equivalent) to carry out the legal registration of your marriage and then to attend the venue of their choosing, with family and friends, for the ceremony/celebration.

We are not accustomed to doing it that way in the UK – couples generally see the only options as being register office or church, because they think the wedding is only ‘real’ if the legal part is included at the same time.

The best way to put this into perspective is that births are registered separately from the christening or naming of a baby, and at the end of life, registration and ceremony are also done in separate locations.

Don’t forget, you celebrate your birthday each year based on the anniversary of the event of your actual birthdate, NOT the date your birth was registered!

Marriage can be treated in exactly the same way – the legal part of the event can be registered on one date but the actual event (the ceremony) takes place on a separate day.

I am an Independent Celebrant and a member of the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants with full Public Liability Insurance. I can therefore guide your venue as to the legal requirements of your marriage, as well as working with you both to create a completely bespoke, personalised and meaningful ceremony for your wedding day.

From your venue’s perspective, if they can handle the logistics of hosting the ceremony and the reception, then it is possible to have your entire day in one location. Again, with my experience, I can also offer advice and guidance regarding the ceremony aspect of the day and the transition to the post-ceremony arrangements / reception thereafter.

If you feel this would be of interest to you, please do get in touch and we can chat further!

Appendix A

Legal requirements for you to arrange separately:

1) Give notice of intention to marry at your local register office (in the registration district of your current residence) – cost £35 each

2) At this appointment, you will need to state which register office the legal marriage registration will take place – ie. you live in Dudley so attend Dudley registry office to give notice of your intention to marry, and book whichever registry office suits you to complete the legal registration.

3) After 28 days from giving notice of intention to marry, the marriage authorities will be issued for the date/register office booked (see point 2 above).

4) Both of you and a couple of witnesses go to meet the registrar on the agreed date for your legal marriage registration. You need to pay a statutory fee of £46 plus £4 for marriage certificate.

The actual words each person is required to say are:
Declaration “I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I (your name) may not be joined in matrimony to (partners name)”

Contracting “I call up these persons here present to witness that I (your name) do take thee (partners name) to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)” (this wording will vary slightly for couples forming a Civil Partnership)

5) Enjoy your Wedding Day at your perfect venue! Celebrant Belinda Clark will officiate the ceremony and present you as a married couple to your audience!

Contact me

If you would like to make an enquiry about one of my services please use the form below, and we can organise the time a phone call or a meeting To discuss how I can help to bring that special meaning to your ceremony.