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Planning a wedding? Make sure you know about marriage registration changes

A major overhaul of the way marriages are to be registered could be introduced as soon as this year with potentially huge implications for some newlywed couples.

Most people know that the new Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act 2019 will allow opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships.

What is less well known, is that it also makes provision for significant changes to the way in which marriages must be registered.

Seven days – or risk a fine?

At the moment, a marriage is registered at the same time as the legal ceremony by the officiating minister, priest or registrar. Couples get their marriage certificate on the same day.

But this is set to change. Under the new rules, couples will instead be given a marriage schedule or document on their wedding day. They will then have to take this to a register office within a set timescale, possibly just seven days.

Their marriage will then be recorded on an electronic register and the couple will be given their certificate.

This is obviously going to make life very difficult for those couples who have booked to go straight off on honeymoon after their ceremony.

It is thought likely, however, that they will be able to appoint a trusted person to take the form to the register office for them. However, failure to do this within the relevant timescale means the risk of a fine of up to £1,000.

Significant differences

Although the government’s General Register Office (GRO) is yet to confirm the timescale, a Church of England body says it understands couples will have only seven days to register the marriage.

The Faculty Office, which issues special marriage licences on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, added: “The significant difference is that the couple will need to ensure that the marriage document is deposited at the local register office within seven days of the date of the wedding.

“The couple can ask someone to lodge the marriage document on their behalf — as in many cases they will, of course, be on honeymoon — but it is their responsibility, not the officiating minister’s responsibility, to ensure that it is done.”

No confirmed date yet

The Home Office has not yet confirmed when the changes will come in or if a seven-day deadline for registering a marriage will apply.

The new Act will also allow for the names and professions of couples’ mothers’ to be included on marriage registers as well as, or in place of, fathers’ names and professions.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Act will mean mothers are equally represented on their child’s marriage certificate. It will also modernise the way marriages are registered, moving away from the outdated paper-based system and saving over £30 million.”

For help and legal advice on this area of the law, please contact our Family Law and Divorce team or pop into one of our 11 local offices

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