Legal requirements

Getting married in Scotland  Getting married abroad

The legal requirements

  • 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. If you intend to lodge Notice in person please contact the local Registrar before doing so as an appointment may be required.
  • Notice must be given in the three month period prior to the date of the marriage and NOT LATER THAN 29 DAYS BEFORE THE DATE OF MARRIAGE. Please contact your local Registrar for further information.

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 capable of understanding the nature of a marriage ceremony and of consenting to marriage.
  • In the case of opposite sex marriage, the marriage would be regarded as valid in the party's country of domicile.
  • If you are in a qualifying civil partnership, you can change it to a marriage - a qualifying civil partnership is a civil partnership which was registered in Scotland and which has not been dissolved, annulled or ended by death.

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 10-12 weeks before the marriage. The minimum period is 29 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 29 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.

Documents to be produced

When giving or sending the marriage notice forms to the registrar each of you must supply the following:

  • Your genuine birth certificate, or, if you are adopted your adoption certificate. An unauthorised photocopy is not acceptable. If you are unable to produce your birth or adoption certificate, state the reason.
  • You will require to provide evidence of nationality.
  • You will require to provide evidence of your usual residence.
  • 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.  If the decree of divorce or dissolution was granted outwith the UK you may have to complete a further questionnaire please check with the Registrar.
  • If your spouse or civil partner is deceased, the death certificate of your former spouse or civil partner.
  • If you are a foreign national domiciled in another country outside of the UK, a certificate of no impediment may be required confirming that you are free to marry. Please contact local registrar for more information.
  • 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 subject to immigration controls you will have to provide extra documentation. In particular, you will need to provide a Declaration of Immigration Status Form which can be obtained from the local registrar or NRS Website. Evidence to support the statement you make on the Declaration of Immigration Status form will also be required. If you are in any doubt about what is required, or if you need further information, you should consult the registrar or contact NRS.

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 live 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. A Form for their details is available here
  • 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 or other belief 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 parties.
  • 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.

I want to get married abroad. What documents will I need to provide?

You should contact the Consulate/Embassy for the relevant country for advice on what documentation will be required.
If you are asked to provide a Certificate of No Impediment (CONI) and you are resident in Scotland, you can apply to your local registrar for this by submitting notice as if you were getting married in Scotland.  You should complete a M10 marriage notice form, and submit it with your birth certificate and any other relevant documentation, plus the £30 fee to the registrar.  The registrar will then be able to issue the CONI 29 days after submission of the marriage notice and fee.  The CONI is valid for 3 months from the date of issue.

I am getting married abroad and require my birth extract "authenticated". How do I go about this?

An "authentication" can be provided by the National Records of Scotland for a fee. Please visit the National Records of Scotland website.