How do I get married?

What you need to arrange and when, and answers to some common questions.

To arrange your marriage you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Choose where you would like to get married
  2. Provisionally book a date with the venue.
  3. Confirm that a registrar is available on that date and check the costs involved to carry out the ceremony.
  4. Book the registrar and then confirm the venue on your chosen date.
  5. Book an appointment to give notice.

Below you can find answers to some of the most common questions around arranging a marriage or civil partnership.

What is the definition of a marriage or civil partnership?


Marriage is available to heterosexual and same-sex couples either in a religious venue (such as a church) or non-religious venue (such as a hotel licensed to conduct marriages).

A non-religious ceremony is called a civil marriage that is conducted by a superintendent registrar and registered by the Registrar of Marriages.

The ceremony cannot have any religious content, but individual touches can be added, such as non-religious music and readings. We will do all we can to make your special day a happy and memorable occasion.

Civil partnership

A civil partnership is only available to same-sex couples to have their partnership legally recognised by the signing of a schedule in front of a registrar and 2 witnesses. 

Couples are able to arrange a ceremony in addition to the registration if they wish, either at the same time or on another day.

Where can I hold the ceremony?

You are able to get married in buildings that have been officially licensed or registered for marriages.

In West Sussex these are:

  • West Sussex ceremony rooms - we have 7 rooms around the county for you to choose from
  • approved venues - we have around 100 approved venues in West Sussex that include hotels, barns, country manor houses, schools and even a castle or pier
  • places of religious worship in the district where one of you lives
  • places of worship outside the district in which you live, but which one of you uses as your usual place of worship.

Please note: Places of religious worship have to register separately to enable them to perform same-sex marriage or civil partnerships.

How do I book a marriage in a place of religious worship?

Church of England and Wales

Contact the church directly. In most cases they will take care of everything for you.

Places of religious worship registered for marriage

Check with the church that they have someone there authorised to register the ceremony. If there is no authorised person at the church we can arrange a registrar for you.

In both instances you will need to book an appointment to give notice once you have provisionally booked your ceremony.

If you are marrying outside the district in which you live, in a church or registered building that is not your usual place of worship, you may need to set up residency in that area. Please call the Ceremonies Team to discuss: 01243 642122.

Why should I provisionally book the venue first?

We book registrars 2 years in advance, so we advise you provisionally book your venue and then check that a registrar is available on that date.

If a registrar is not available for that date you may need to look for another date or venue. This could incur a cost if you have already booked somewhere.

What’s the difference between a registrar celebrant and an independent celebrant?

Registrar celebrant

A registrar celebrant is a local government officer trained to officiate at marriage ceremonies, who is registered with the General Register Office.

You can only be legally married by a registrar celebrant in a civil ceremony (other than a religious wedding in a church, chapel or other registered religious building). A civil ceremony will include the statutory and contracting words required under marriage law in the presence of two or more witnesses and requires signing of the marriage register.

All registrar celebrants are able to carry out civil partnerships, renewal of vows, baby naming, celebration of marriage ceremonies or commitment ceremonies.

See how to book a registrar.

Independent celebrant

An independent celebrant can conduct all non-legally binding ceremonies such as funerals or renewal of vows, as well as undertake celebration of marriage ceremonies. However, any celebration of marriage they undertake will not be legally binding and you will not be legally married.

When should I give notice?

The notices of marriage and civil partnerships must be given in person and are valid for 12 months. 

You must have lived in that district for a minimum of 9 days, immediately before you give your notice.

How much does it cost?

You will need to pay for a registrar to carry out the ceremony and also to give notice before you can marry or enter into a civil partnership.

Last updated:
19 April 2018

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