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Scottish Wedding Guide
What The Law Says

Any two persons can marry in Scotland regardless of which country they live subject to meeting the following requirements:
  • Both of you must be at least 16 years of age.
  • You must not be related to one another in a way which would prevent you from marrying.
  • You must both be unmarried.  If either of you have been previously married you must produce documentary evidence that your previous marriage ended by death, divorce or annulment.
  • You must not be of the same sex (at birth).
  • You must both be capable of understanding the nature of marriage and of consenting to marriage.
  • If you live outside the UK, your marriage in Scotland must be regarded as valid in the country in which you are domiciled (most countries do recognise marriages in Scotland, even when the bride or groom are 16 years old).

You can be married in Scotland by either religious ceremony or by civil ceremony. A religious marriage, whether Christian or non-Christian, can only be solemnised by a minister, clergyman, pastor, priest or other person entitled to do so under the Marriage (Scotland) Act, 1977.

Religious Ceremonies
Religious ceremonies may be conducted at any time and in any place in Scotland so long as you can get an authorised religious celebrant to attend and officiate. Whether you want to get married in the romantic setting of a remote Scottish castle or on top of Ben Nevis, the choice is yours so long as you can find a minister and two witnesses to go along with you both. In Scottish churches, there is no provision for getting married by the publishing of banns.

Civil Ceremonies
A civil marriage may only be solemnised in a register office by a Registrar or an Assistant Registrar that has been authorised by the General registrar's Office. Although there are no time-of-the-day restrictions on getting married in Scotland, the ceremony can only take place during the opening hours of the register office concerned, which are usually 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. Opening hours do vary so check with the register office in which you plan to get married. There is one exception to this restriction. Certain remote Scottish communities have Parlour Registrars that are authorised to solemnise marriages in their home. At their discretion they can conduct a civil marriage ceremony at any time.

Residency Requirement
Scotland is the only country in the UK where there is no residency requirement to be fulfilled. However, at least one of you must personally visit the Registrar for the district in which your marriage is to take place during the seven day period leading up to the date of marriage. Please note, you cannot attend on the day of your marriage.

Giving Notice
You both need to complete and submit a marriage notice to the Registrar for the district in which your marriage is to take place. Notice must be given in the three month period prior to the date of your marriage and not later than 15 days before the date of your marriage. It is usually possible to make a provisional booking with a Registrar before the three month period prior to your marriage date but you will still need to give formal notice within the permitted time period.

Your marriage notice must be submitted early enough to allow the Registrar sufficient time to satisfy himself that you are both free to marry one another. Normally notices should be with the registrar about four weeks before your marriage but if either of you has been married before or are travelling from overseas, the notices should be with the Registrar at least six weeks beforehand.

Although you do not need to attend personally to hand in your marriage notices, at least one of you must attend personally at the Registrar's office during the seven day period leading up to the date of your marriage (not on the marriage day itself). In the case of a religious marriage, this is to collect the marriage schedule. In the case of a civil marriage, it is to finalise the marriage arrangements with the Registrar.

Documents to be Produced
When handing over or sending your marriage notice forms to the Registrar, you will need to supply certain documents for example, your birth certificate. If you have been married before, a decree absolute of divorce or if you are a widow or widower, the death certificate of your former spouse. If you are marrying a step-relative or an in-law, you will need to provide relevant death certificates and/or other documents requested by the Registrar. Only original documents will be accepted.

If you are domiciled outside the United Kingdom, a 'certificate of no impediment to marriage' is required stating that you are free to marry. This should be obtained from your own registrar of marriages or a competent authority that has access to the marriage records in your country. Should any of your documents be in a foreign language, you will need to provide a certified translation in English. If you are unable to provide any of the required documents, the Registrar will advise you what other documents are acceptable.

Arranging your Marriage Ceremony
It is important to make early arrangements for the venue and for the date and time of your marriage. If you are having a religious ceremony, arrange to see the minister who will be conducting your service before completing the notice forms. If you will not be having your religious ceremony in a church, you should not book a venue until your minister has agreed to officiate. For civil ceremonies, make early arrangements with the Registrar, particularly in cities or towns or cities where large numbers of people want to be married at popular times of the year.

Finally, you will need to arrange for two persons, aged 16 years or over, to be present at your ceremony to act as witnesses. Two witnesses are required for both religious and civil ceremonies. If you are unable to provide witnesses, you should ask the venue, where you will be getting married, if they are able to provide them.

The Marriage Schedule
When all the required documentation has been received and the Registrar is satisfied that there is no legal impediment to your marriage, he will issue a marriage schedule. No marriage can proceed in Scotland without a marriage schedule, which must be presented to the person performing your marriage before the ceremony commences.

If you are having a religious ceremony, the marriage schedule will be issued to you personally within seven days of the marriage date. It cannot be issued to anyone other than the prospective bride or bridegroom. Immediately after the ceremony, the marriage schedule will be signed by both parties and the person performing the marriage ceremony. The two witnesses will also add their signatures. The schedule must then be returned to the Registrar within three days so that the marriage can be registered. If you are having a civil ceremony, the schedule will not be issued but the Registrar will have it available for signing after the ceremony.

After your marriage has been registered, you can obtain a copy of the entry in the Registrar's book of marriages (your marriage certificate) from the Registrar on payment of the appropriate fee.

If you live in England and Wales
If you intend to marry either a person residing in Scotland or a person residing in England or Wales who has a parent residing in Scotland, there is an alternative procedure to follow if you so desire. If you decide to do this, you may give notice to the Superintendent Registrar in the district in England and Wales in which you reside. The person you are marrying must, however, give notice to a Scottish Registrar in the usual way.

After the 21 day period has elapsed from entering the notice in the notice book, the Superintendent Registrar will issue a certificate of marriage, which must be sent to the Scottish Registrar as quickly as possible.

If you are domicilled outside the UK
There are additional requirements for you to fulfil if you are domiciled outside the United Kingdom. If you are subject to the marriage laws in the country in which you are domiciled, you need to obtain a certificate of no impediment to marriage, which will state that you are free to marry. This certificate should be obtained from your own marriage registration authority. A certificate from a lawyer will only be accepted as a last resort since they do not have access to marriage records. If the certificate is in not in English, a certified translation is also required. In the absence of such a certificate without good reason, it may not be possible for you to get married in Scotland. If you have been resident in the United Kingdom for the past two years, you do not need to submit such a certificate.

If you are in any doubt about what is required, contact the Registrar in the district in which you intend to marry. You are also strongly advised to fax over your documents for approval before making your journey to Scotland.

UK Visa Requirements
If you are not a UK passport holder, you may need a Visa to enter the UK. Even if a Visa is not required, you are advised to obtain an Entry Clearance. With this document, you will not be refused entry by UK immigration upon arrival to the UK (subject to certain conditions).

Getting Married in Gretna Green
Gretna Green in Dumfriesshire, with a population of about 3,000, is probably the world's most famous wedding venue. During 1996, it hosted over 4,000 weddings, which is about 13 per cent of all weddings held in Scotland.

Since the eighteenth century, the minimum legal age for getting married in Scotland has been 16 years of age, with no requirement for parental consent. However, in England at that time, parental consent was required for people under the age of 21. Consequently, the small Scottish town of Gretna, which was the first stagecoach stop over the English/Scottish border, became very popular by young eloping English couples wishing to get married without their parents' consent. Furthermore, until 1940, any responsible adult could conduct a wedding ceremony in Scotland and since Gretna's blacksmith was usually on hand, wedding ceremonies over the anvil became a common occurrence. Gretna's blacksmith became fittingly known as the 'anvil priest'.

Today, Gretna is still a very popular venue for couples from all over the world to get married by either religious ceremony over the anvil in the old blacksmith's shop or by civil ceremony in Gretna's register office. However, the legal requirements and procedures for getting married in Gretna are no different to anywhere else in Scotland.

What it Costs to get Married in Scotland
From 1st April 1998, each person submitting a notice of marriage to the district Registrar for either a civil or religious ceremony, must pay GBP12 (GBP = Great Britain Pounds sterling). For solemnisation of a civil marriage, the fee is GBP40. Where permissible, there may be a surcharge for Saturday afternoon ceremonies in the region of GBP50. Many register offices will accept payment by Visa or Mastercard, for which a small processing charge will be made.

The fee payable for a religious marriage is not fixed and is decided by religious celebrant solemnising your marriage. You should expect, however, to pay up to GBP200.

Each extract of your marriage entry in the register of marriages (your marriage certificate) will cost GBP8. The minimum you can pay, therefore, is GBP72 (for a civil ceremony and including a marriage certificate).

Should you wish to use a dressing or changing room at a register office, there may be an additional charge e.g. Gretna's register office charges GBP20. You should check the availability and cost with your register office if you require a changing facility.

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