Getting Married in Scotland
- By law both parties to a proposed civil or religious marriage are required to submit marriage forms to the registrar of the district in which the marriage is to take place informing of their intention to marry.
- Forms for giving notice are available from your local registrar or from the National Records of Scotland Website at www.gro-scotland.gov.uk. You can also find the forms here: Marriage notice application form (pdf 367 KB) guidance notes are also available (pdf 36 KB). Form for witness details (pdf 107 KB).
- Notice must be given in the three month period prior to the date of the marriage and not later than 15 days before that date.
Who can be married in Scotland
Any 2 persons, regardless of where they live, may marry in Scotland provided that:
- Both persons, are at least 16 years of age on the day of their marriage
- They are not related to one another in a way which would prevent their marrying
- They are unmarried and not in a civil partnership ( any person who has already been married or registered as a civil partner must produce documentary evidence that the previous marriage or civil partnership registration has been ended by death, divorce, annulment or dissolution)
- They are not the same sex
- They are capable of understanding the nature of a marriage ceremony and of consenting to marriage
- The marriage would be regarded as valid in any foreign country to which either party belongs
Types of marriage
- You can marry in either 2 ways in Scotland – by a religious ceremony or by a civil ceremony
- A religious marriage (which includes other beliefs), may take place anywhere and can be solemnised only by a minister, clergyman, pastor, priest or any other person entitled to do so under the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977.
- A civil marriage may take place in a registration office or at an approved place and may be solemnised only by a registrar or an assistant registrar who is authorised by the Registrar General for that purpose. To apply for an approved place please see under Law and Licensing.
How and when to give notice
- Each of you must complete and submit a marriage notice, along with the required documents and the appropriate fee, to the registrar for the district in which you want to register your marriage.
- Timing is important. The notices must be submitted early enough to enable the registrar to satisfy himself that you are free to marry one another. Normally notices should be with the registrar about 4 weeks before the marriage but if either of you has been married before, the notices should be with the registrar 6 weeks beforehand. The minimum period is 15 days before the civil marriage, but if you leave things late you could be faced with the need to postpone your marriage.
- Only in exceptional circumstances will the Registrar General authorise a marriage to take place if 15 days’ notice has not been given.
- Although both parties do not need to attend personally to hand in your marriage notice, at least one of you may be asked to attend personally before the date of the marriage. This might be necessary to finalise arrangements with the registrar in the case of a civil ceremony.
- The registrar, in certain circumstances, will ask to see your valid passport or other document to provide evidence of your nationality.
Documents to be produced
When giving or sending the marriage notice forms to the registrar each of you must supply the following:
- Your birth certificate
- If you have been married or in a registered civil partnership before and the marriage or civil partnership has been dissolved or annulled, a decree of divorce or dissolution or annulment or a certified copy decree. A decree of divorce or dissolution granted outwith Scotland must be absolute or final – a decree nisi is not acceptable.
- Questions to be answered by persons who submit foreign dissolution/annulment documents if previously in a registered civil partnership
- Questions to be answered by parties who submit foreign divorce documents if previously married
- If your spouse or civil partner is deceased, the death certificate of your former spouse or civil partner.
- If you live abroad, a certificate of no impediment may be required confirming that you are free to marry.
- If any of these documents is in a language other than English, a certified translation in English must also be provided.
- Do not delay giving notice simply because you are waiting for any of the documents mentioned above to come to hand. If time is getting short it is better to give notice first and then pass the documents to the registrar when they become available; but they must be made available to the registrar before the civil marriage. Provided the documents are in order the civil marriage can proceed as arranged.
Are you subject to immigration controls?
If you are a national of a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland such as, for example, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States etc., and you intend to visit Scotland to get married or to register a civil partnership, then you will need an entry clearance. The application form is available on the UK Border Agency website.
Other arrangements apply if you intend to come to the UK to get married, or have a civil partnership, and settle here - you should check the UK Visas website for more information about that.
If you have any questions, contact the UK Border Agency Immigration Enquiry Bureau (Tel No. 0870 606 7766).
Registrars have a statutory duty to report any marriage they suspect has been registered for the sole purpose of evading statutory immigration controls.
If you are domiciled outside the United Kingdom
The normal procedure of giving notice to the Registrar in Scotland must be followed but, as previously mentioned, an additional requirement is placed upon you.
If, being domiciled in a country outside the United Kingdom, you are subject to the marriage laws of that country, you should obtain if practicable, a certificate issued by the competent authority (usually the civil authority) in that country to the effect that there is no impediment to your proposed marriage. If the certificate is in a language other than English you should also produce a certified translation.
In the absence of such a certificate, without good reason being shown, it may not be possible for you to marry in Scotland. If you are now resident in the United Kingdom and have lived here for the last two years or more you need not submit such a certificate. If you are in any doubt about what is required, or if you need further information please contact your local registrar.
Making arrangements for the marriage ceremony
- It is important to make early arrangements for the date and time of your marriage.
- If you are having a religious ceremony, contact the person performing the marriage before completing the notice of marriage
- For a civil marriage, make advance arrangements with the registrar, this is particularly important
- Arrange for 2 persons, aged 16 years or over, to be present at your marriage to act as witnesses.
- Be sure to let the person performing your marriage know if you make any change to your plans or decide to postpone or cancel your marriage.
The marriage schedule
When the registrar is satisfied there is no legal impediment to the marriage, they will prepare a Marriage Schedule from the information that you have given. The Schedule is a most important document- no marriage can proceed without it.
- If you are having a religious marriage the Marriage Schedule will be issued to you by the registrar. The schedule cannot be issued more than 7 days before the marriage and the registrar will advise you when to attend to collect it. The Schedule can only be collected by the prospective bride or groom.
- The Marriage Schedule must be produced before the marriage ceremony to the person performing the marriage
- Immediately after the ceremony the Schedule must be signed in black fountain pen, by both parties, by the person performing the marriage and by the 2 witnesses. Thereafter it must be returned to the registrar within three days so that the marriage can be registered
- If you are having a civil marriage a Marriage Schedule will not be issued, but the registrar will have it available at the ceremony for signature, they will then register the marriage
- A fee for the marriage and, if applicable, for the attendance of the registrar at an agreed authorised place is payable to the registrar in advance.
The Marriage Certificate
After the marriage has been registered you can obtain copies of the Marriage Certificate from the registrar on the payment of the appropriate fee.