Marriage and civil partnerships

Ensuring your marriage or civil partnership is legally binding

Legally binding marriage or civil partnership ceremonies can only be performed by:

  • or in the presence of, registrars who are registered with the General Register Office, at a licensed venue or ceremony room; or
  • an 'authorised person' at a religious building.

You will only be legally married or civil partnered if you have gone through the process of giving notice and having a legal ceremony. This can only be done through our registration service or a registered religious building.

Your marriage or civil partnership is legally recognised from the time of your ceremony with our registrars.

We call ceremonies that are not legally binding 'celebratory ceremonies'. If you want to celebrate in an unlicensed location while ensuring you are legally married or civil partnered, see our Bespoke ceremonies page.

What we do

Your registrar ensures the legalities are correct as well as performing a delightful, personal ceremony.

There are many options you can choose to customise your ceremony and make it unique. These include additional custom vows, non religious readings and music. See our Your ceremony day page.

Plan your ceremony

Other marriage or civil partnership related enquiries you may have

  • See information on GOV.UK.

  • Either, or both of you, may choose to change your name after your ceremony but this is not a legal requirement.

    You can find guidance on:

    The superintendent registrar will need to sign your application for a new passport. This can be done when you have given notice.

    We can do this for you, with no charge, if you:

    • take the form to the West Sussex Register Office - book an appointment to do this by completing our general enquiry form; or
    • send it to the office by post for us, with a stamped addressed envelope, to complete and return to you - the address is on our Contact the ceremonies team page.
  • The Registration Service are not involved in this process, although if your marriage or civil partnership occurred in West Sussex and you need a copy, you can order certificates.

    Find more information:

    We do not have copies of paperwork relating to divorce or the end of a civil partnership. Find information about how to get a copy of your decree absolute or final order on GOV.UK.

  • If English is not your first language and you are unable to understand legal questioning in English, you may need to bring a translator to your giving notice appointment and ceremony.

    If you have any queries about this, complete our general enquiries form.