The Process of a Civil Marriage and a Celebrant Wedding Ceremony

Many couples ask about the difference between a ‘Marriage’ and, a Wedding Ceremony’, when making their initial inquiry about a celebrant-led celebration,  so here are some guidelines on the process and costs.

So, differences between a:-

legal marriage’ and a ‘wedding ceremony’

                                                                                                                                     photo by unsplash

The ‘marriage’ is the statutory signing of the civil register and legal words, with a registrar or vicar (In England/Wales).

The ‘wedding’ is the celebration of your marriage with your family and friends. Many people are not aware that these do not necessarily have to occur on the same day.  You register the birth of a baby and then may have a Christening or Baby Naming Ceremony for example on a different day and, in the case of a death, you register the death and normally have the funeral some time later.  In the same way, you can separate the legal aspect of your marriage from your wedding ceremony celebration.  So, how does this work?   There are three stages: 

1) The ‘Notice of the Intention to Marry’ 

For all ‘civil’ ceremonies (Registrar led or Celebrant led) you need to contact the civil registry office, where you ‘RESIDE’ (for the last 7 days at least). If you live in different areas, then you will need to register in your own county area. You need to ask for a ‘Notice of Intention to marry’. At the moment his costs £35 each person. You make a prearranged appointment. During this appointment you will have to provide two pieces of evidence, of your names and where you live, such as a passport/driving licence/utility bill etc. You will have 20-30 mins meeting with the registrar. During this meeting if you both live in the same registration county, the Registrar will separate you and ask you questions about each other. Once this is completed your ‘notice of intention to marry’ will be published at the Registry Office. From the 29th day after this you are legally allowed to marry, but you have one year to do it. If the ‘legal statutory signing’ does not occur within the one year deadline, then this process has to be started again.

2) The Legal ‘Statutory Signing’ Part 

This can be arranged at any registry office, where you are residing. It takes place in the registry office. Make sure you state, when booking, you only want to have the ‘Statutory Signing’ and not a civil registry ceremony. Otherwise the Registration Service will suggest you book a larger ceremony room and charge you significantly more. With the ‘Statutory Signing’ event you will have a small room, with a table and chairs. Only yourselves (the COUPLE) and two WITNESSES are allowed to be present. You will both sign the legal register, the Registrar speaks the legal words to say you are legally married. You may wish to exchange rings or may wait until your wedding ceremony. You can either wear your wedding ceremony clothes or wear something different and save your wedding outfits for the wedding ceremony with your guests.  You will need to purchase the marriage certificate, £11 each. It may be useful for you to buy two copies, as you may have to send one copy away to various organisations, if changing names on documents e.g. to the bank, passport office, mortgage company etc. and generally, they may only accept originals and not photocopies.

                Photo by unsplash

3) The ‘Wedding Ceremony’ 

This is the actual ‘wedding day’. When you celebrate your love and commitment, together with your guests, in a bespoke personal, memorable Celebrant led ceremony. Having your ceremony where, when and how you want. This may include outside, a beach, a forest, a marquee, a garden or a barn. The venue doesn’t need to have a marriage licence if you have already had the legal service at a Cumbrian Registry office and can literally be anywhere, anytime and include any elements, rituals or symbolism you wish.  You may include a theme or have your pets involved too.

So the costs, for your (minimum 2+ 2 ceremony as outlined above) Legal Marriage service at a Cumbrian Register Office:

Notice of Intention to Marry (£35 each)                             = £70.00

Statutory Signing                                                             = £46

Wedding certificate  ( 2 copies £11.00 each)                    = £22

Admin Fee                                                                       = £45.00

Minimum Cost for Marriage Service  (April 2020)      = £183.00

Be aware that Cumbria Registration Service, like most others only have a small number of 2+2 Services available so you will need to apply early to secure your slot (when the Registration Service returns to taking more bookings) in order to have your legal marriage ceremony before you celebrant-led wedding ceremony. 

Celebrant led wedding ceremony = From £450

Approx total cost from  £633

Whilst you can have your Civil Ceremony (Legal Marriage and your Wedding Ceremony) through the Cumbria Registration Service, a Celebrant-Led Wedding Ceremony will give you the opportunity to have your unique personal, memorable wedding ceremony here in the beautiful Lake District.

Photo by unsplash

You have up to one year to complete stage 1 and 2 before your ceremony, if you prefer to be ‘legally married’ beforehand. Or, anytime after, if you prefer to continue with the wedding ceremony and then organise the legal part afterwards, if the registry offices are not able to confirm a date beforehand, in this present climate.

Here is the link to the Cumbria Registration Service website U.K. registry office which gives some details of payments/costs (try your local one if you are not in Cumbria, they each have their own website): service.  An email address has been set up (April 2020) to help deal with ceremony enquiries more effectively.

If you need any more assistance, please get in touch with me at  I know this can be a stressful time, particularly with the uncertainty at the moment. Once your date and everything is secured then the rest will fall into place.


If you would like to know how a Celebrant-led wedding ceremony is structured, take a look at my blog ‘What will my Celebrant-Led Lake District Wedding Ceremony Order of Service look like? ‘

If you would love Lakesceremonies to create a bespoke personal, memorable wedding ceremony just for you, contact me and we can start planning for your dream day!