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Registering a marriage or civil partnership

Registration

From 16 December 2014 same-sex couples will be able to provide notice that they want to get married or enter a civil partnership.

In order to do so each of you must submit a Marriage Notice Form (Form M10) or a Civil Partnership Notice Form (Form CP10) to the Registrar in the local authority district where you want your marriage or civil partnership to take place. You can either submit the forms in person or send them by post, but if you want to ensure that everything is correct on the forms so that there are no delays it is best to do it in person.

You can download the forms from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) website at: www.nrscotland.gov.uk where you can also find a list of registrars and information about the documents you must supply alongside your notice form. Please note that new notice forms must be used from December 16th – we will update this page when those forms are available, or you can check with a registrar.

Notice must be given in the three-month period prior to the date of the marriage and no later than 15 days before the date. Only in exceptional circumstances (for example, where one partner is gravely ill) will the Registrar General authorise a marriage or civil partnership to take place if 15 days’ notice has not been given.

Eligibility

Any two people, regardless of where they live, can get married or have a civil partnership in Scotland provided that they are at least 16 years of age and not closely related. If you are already in a civil partnership and want to convert it to a marriage click here for more information.

For more detailed information on the restrictions on eligibility for marriage and civil partnership in Scotland visit the NRS website: www.nrscotland.gov.uk

Choosing your ceremony

You can get married or have a civil partnership in one of three ways in Scotland: by a civil ceremony, a religious ceremony, or a belief ceremony.

Civil ceremonies

A civil marriage or civil partnership is solemnised by an authorised registrar and can take place in a registration office, or at any place you agree with the registrar (but not on religious premises).

All local authorities must provide an equally good registrar service for same-sex and mixed-sex couples.

The NRS website provides information about the fee you must pay in order to register your marriage or civil partnership, currently the most basic ceremony costs around £125, which covers the notices, a civil ceremony, and a copy of the certificate: www.nrscotland.gov.uk. You will find that local authorities may charge additional fees to provide special facilities and services.

Religious ceremonies

A religious marriage or civil partnership is solemnised by an authorised religious celebrant (such as a minister, rabbi, Quaker celebrant, etc) and can take place in a religious building (such as a church, synagogue, Quaker Meeting House, etc) or anywhere else you agree with the celebrant.

It is up to the religious body to opt-in and request that they are authorised by the Registrar General to conduct religious same-sex marriages or civil partnerships in Scotland. Only some religious bodies are expected to do that, so not all religious celebrants will conduct same-sex marriages or civil partnerships. Religious bodies that are expected to be authorised to conduct same-sex marriages in Scotland include the Quakers, the Unitarians and the Liberal Jewish Community. The Unitarians are expected also to be authorised to conduct religious civil partnerships.

For more information on whether your chosen religious body conducts same-sex marriages and civil partnerships you can contact NRS: www.nrscotland.gov.uk

Humanist and other belief ceremonies

A belief marriage or civil partnership is solemnised by an authorised belief celebrant (such as a Humanist celebrant) and can take place anywhere agreed with them.

Again it is up to the belief body to opt-in and conduct belief same-sex marriages and civil partnerships in Scotland and so not all belief celebrants may do this. The Humanist Society Scotland conducts large numbers of marriages and will be authorised to conduct same-sex marriages and civil partnerships.

Venue

Before you submit the notice forms of your intention to marry or have a civil partnership, you will usually meet with the registrar or religious/belief celebrant to discuss your ceremony, and agree the date, time and venue.

Depending on whether you choose a civil, religious or belief ceremony you could get agreement from the registrar or celebrant to have your marriage or civil partnership in any one of a diverse range of venues whether it’s a registration office, a religious building, a hotel, a Scottish castle, a remote beach, Gretna Green, a football stadium, or any place that is special to you!

The only exceptions are that a civil marriage or civil partnership cannot take place in a religious venue (one that is solely or mainly used for religious purposes), and similarly a religious/belief marriage or civil partnership cannot take place in a registration office.

Know your rights when booking your ceremony

Hopefully your big day should go off without a hitch, but if you run into problems of discrimination either with venues or other service providers then you should be aware that the law is on your side. By law you are entitled to expect the same standard of service as anyone else.

For instance, it is a breach of the Equality Act 2010 for a venue that hosts civil marriage ceremonies to refuse to host your same-sex marriage or civil partnership ceremony.

Similarly, it would be a breach of the same law for any other service provider, such as a photographer, florist, band, or caterer to refuse to provide an equal service for your same-sex marriage or civil partnership ceremony.

If you complain to the company and they still refuse to serve you then they are breaking the law and you could pursue the case through the sheriff court.

The only exception to this anti-discrimination rule is for religious marriage ceremonies, where it is lawful for a religious celebrant or any other person involved in the religious part of the marriage ceremony (for example the church organist) to decline to take part in same-sex marriages. However, a problem is unlikely to arise because the religious bodies that conduct same-sex marriages have specifically opted in to do so.

For advice or support on an incident of discrimination contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS): www.equalityadvisoryservice.com

What happens during the ceremony?

The nature of your wedding or civil partnership could vary dramatically depending on the type of ceremony you choose and your personal preferences.

There is no legally prescribed form of words to be used in relation to marriage or civil partnership ‘vows’ in Scotland. The ceremony can be conducted in English or in any other language (such as Gaelic, Scots, Hebrew, etc), so long as all parties (including the celebrant) can understand the language (with the services of a translator if necessary).

The civil ceremony

In a civil marriage or civil partnership, registration involves a non-religious ceremony which both the couple and two witnesses aged at least 16 must attend. The ceremony must include declarations and at the end the couple must sign the schedule. Other than that the content of the rest of the ceremony is largely up to you!

Couples can arrange with the registrar to personalise the ceremony by including readings, poetry, and music, or adding your own personal vows to one another. If you need inspiration, many registrars are able to provide samples of readings you could choose from, though as it is a civil ceremony all readings must be non-religious in nature.

Registrars can help assist you with the planning of your civil ceremony, whether you want something quiet and simple, or a larger grander event. It is advisable to let the registrar know your wishes well in advance of the date of your marriage.

Religious and belief ceremonies

In a religious or belief ceremony, as with a civil ceremony, the couple must attend with two witnesses aged at least 16, make the appropriate declarations, and at the end of the ceremony they must sign the schedule.

Other than that the nature of the ceremony can vary significantly in line with your wishes and the particular traditions of the body that you choose, whether that’s a Humanist ceremony, a Liberal Judaism ceremony, a pagan ceremony and so on.

“I declare that  you are now…?”

Other than the declarations the form of words used during your marriage or civil partnership ceremony depends on your personal preferences, unless you choose a religious or belief ceremony where that body has a specific form of words it uses.

So you can choose for your registrar or celebrant  to use gender-neutral terms such as “I declare that you are now married”, or agree to use gender-specific terms such as ‘husband and husband’, ‘wife and wife’, ‘bride and bride’, ‘bridegroom and bridegroom’ – whatever you prefer.

Changing your name as part of the marriage process

For some couples changing your surname is seen as a traditional and desirable part of getting married or having a civil partnership. In Scotland you can choose to use any name including your spouse or partner’s. You may also keep your own surname, or choose to double-barrel or merge your surnames.

In each of these instances, your marriage or civil partnership certificate would be recognised as sufficient reason why you changed your name. You can also choose to make an official recording of your change of name with the National Records of Scotland (NRS) which will be recorded against your original birth entry: www.nrscotland.gov.uk

At what point are you officially married or civil partnered?

The legal effects of marriage start as soon as the declarations are made, and civil partnership starts as soon as the schedule is signed at the ceremony!