MARRIAGE AND CIVIL PARTNERSHIP DURING PANDEMIC RESTRICTIONS Q&A (last updated 21st December 2020)
Applies to Argyll and Bute or Level 4 local authority areas.
Are registration offices now permitted to accept notice forms?
Yes, offices may now process marriage and civil partnership notice forms if they have capacity to do so.
By law both parties to a proposed civil, religious or belief marriage or civil partnership are required to submit notice forms to the registrar of the district in which the marriage or civil partnership is to take place, you can find more information here. Please send your notice forms by post as registration offices are not yet open to the public.
Are all couples required to wait the minimum 29 day notice period?
Yes, unless they are granted dispensation (please see below for reasons for dispensations).
The date that notices are lodged will begin the 29 day minimum notice period.
If a couple posted their notice forms during lockdown but it was not lodged until now, would that qualify a dispensation?
The notice-lodged date is the date the notices are entered on our systems, not the date they arrive at the registration office.
Dispensations are currently still only permitted for consideration for terminal illness, armed forces deployment and imminent visa expiry.
Can couples who lodge notice now extend their notice period if required?
Yes, if notices are lodged over the next few weeks and the date of the ceremony has to be changed due to the coronavirus, the notice period can be extended up to 31 December, 2020 (if required).
Where a couple has already lodged notice to be married and cannot re-arrange their ceremony to take place by 31 December, 2020, they should submit new notice forms. If they have already paid the notice fee and that fee has not been refunded, there will be no additional charge to lodge these new notice forms.
I am in the UK on a working VISA, can I get married in Scotland?
If you are a national of a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland for example, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States etc., and you intend to get married or to register a civil partnership in Scotland, then you will need an entry clearance.
If you are already in the UK and are subject to immigration control but do not have a VISA which is specifically for the purpose of being married or entering a civil partnership we will have to refer the marriage to the Home Office for their approval. This can increase the notice period from 29 to 70 days so it is recommended you submit your paperwork to the registrar as early as possible. Further information is available here.
How many people can now attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony?
From Friday 8th January 2021 maximum number of attendees at a marriage or civil partnership ceremony of 5 (including the registrar but not any necessary interpreter)
Does this maximum number of attendees include children under 12 years of age?
Yes, all children are included in the maximum number of attendees at a marriage or CP ceremony at a public venue.
Does this cover public spaces, such as registration offices and wedding venues?
Yes, marriages and civil partnerships can continue in public spaces; the new restrictions focus on limiting contact, and numbers, within private spaces.
How about outdoor marriage or civil partnership ceremonies?
Outdoor ceremonies can continue, as long as you follow the same guidance as previously described - maximum number of attendees of 5 (including the registrar but not any necessary interpreter) and with existing measures, such as appropriate distancing, remaining in place.
However, marriages in private dwellings – whether indoors or outdoors – are restricted. Please see below.
What restrictions now exist on marriages and CPs in private dwellings?
The new regulations prevent members of the public meeting anyone socially in a private dwelling. However, there are some exceptions to this, and one of the exceptions relates to attending a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration.
Scottish Government strongly advises marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations should only take place indoors in private dwellings where it is not possible for them to take place in a public place or outdoors, because for example:
- A party to the marriage or civil partnership is seriously ill
- Disability prevents such a party from attending a ceremony or registration at a public or outside venue.
Where a ceremony or registration does take place indoors at a private dwelling, the number of attendees should be kept to the absolute minimum (the couple, two witnesses and the registrar, as well as an interpreter, where one is needed).
Physical distancing between households should also be strictly observed.
What about marriages/CPs outdoors – in a garden, yard or other outdoor space – at a private dwelling?
Following a recent policy decision, marriage/CP ceremonies are allowed in outdoor spaces at a private dwelling.
There are a number of conditions which must be fulfilled to allow such ceremonies to go ahead (which align outdoor ceremonies at private dwellings with outdoor ceremonies at public venues):
- The ceremony must observe physical distancing
- Numbers should be kept to the minimum possible
- A maximum of 5 people can attend
- This maximum includes the couple, witnesses, children, guests and carers supporting attendees at the ceremony, as well as any professionals such as photographers employed by the couple
- It does include the registrar or celebrant but not any necessary interpreter.
What do you mean by a private dwelling?
The definition of a private dwelling includes self-contained, self-catering and other private hire holiday accommodation. The use of private hire exclusive use premises (such as castles and historic houses) for ceremonies will depend on the arrangements in place.
If the venue is managed and regulated, with venue staff to ensure that the relevant guidance, including this guidance and statutory hospitality guidance is followed, then the ceremony or registration will comply with the applicable regulations and guidance. The venue would not be classified as a private dwelling and indoor marriage ceremonies and civil partnerships could proceed there under this guidance.
What about numbers attending wedding/CP receptions directly afterwards?
Receptions following wedding/CP ceremonies are not permitted in Tier 4 areas.
And receptions following a marriage/CP ceremony at a private dwelling?
Receptions following wedding/CP ceremonies are not permitted in Tier 4 areas.
Do the restrictions place any limits or conditions on travel in regard to marriage and civil partnership?
As no receptions can take place within level 4 areas, travel to, within or between level 4 areas for the purpose of attending a marriage or CP reception is not a reasonable excuse for travel.
Under the Health Protection regulations, travel from other parts of the UK Common Travel Area to attend a marriage/CP ceremony is also considered a reasonable excuse. As of December 21, 2020, therefore, travel from England into Scottish level 4 areas for the purpose of attending a ceremony is allowed (though not for attending a reception)
Does this mean it is okay for a couple (or other attendees) to car-share on their way to or from a ceremony?
At this time, Scottish Government is strongly advising against car-sharing. People should only share a vehicle with those from their own household or extended household. If they have no other option, they should follow the safe travel guidance at the Transport Scotland website which provides advice on how to share vehicles safely (https://www.transport.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/transport-transition-plan/advice-on-how-to-travel-safely/).
Have the regulations on face coverings changed since the last update?
From Friday October 16, couples have been exempted from the requirement to wear a face covering during a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, provided that there is a distance of at least two metres maintained between the parties and any other person (or, alternatively, a partition between the parties and any other person).
There is no requirement for a distance of at least two metres, or partition, to be maintained between the parties to the marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration.
If the registrar or celebrant who is conducting the ceremony is content that existing restrictions – such as those on numbers in attendance, physical distancing and guests wearing face coverings indoors – are being properly observed, the registrar or celebrant may agree to the couple removing their face covering.
It is important to note that guests are still required to wear a face covering during the ceremony, unless exempt under existing regulations, and the couple must still wear a face covering to any reception held afterwards, up to the point under existing regulations where regulations allow them to be removed (i.e. when seated in the hospitality premises).
The size and layout of a venue may also determine the need for face coverings to be worn at certain points in the ceremony – for example, walking down an aisle where a two metre distance cannot be observed, or at the signing of the schedule. Registrars should continue to work with couples to ensure the ceremony is able to be conducted safely for everyone throughout.
Beyond the period in which the ceremony is being conducted – for instance, whilst guests are gathering beforehand, or moving through any rooms or corridors – face coverings should continue to be worn in line with existing regulations.
Has there been any change to the guidance on the playing of live music, including at marriage/CP ceremonies?
Recently, the performing arts guidance has been updated to reflect new evidence on transmission risks in relation to wind instruments and singing:
Generally, indoor live performance of music to an audience is not advised but Scottish Government guidance for marriages and civil partnerships advises that if musical instruments require to be played, only those instruments that do not require to be blown into should be played. An organ can be played, but should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use. This guidance will be updated to reflect new evidence and the performing arts guidance shortly.
Are these conditions likely to change again soon?
Scottish Government is keeping all of these issues under active review. The restrictions introduced this week will be reviewed in 3 weeks’ time, and we will update our information as we are made aware of any changes.
What difference is there between a Registrar and a Non Belief/Faith Celebrant?
If the ceremony is conducted by a Registrar the paperwork and ceremony arrangements are all included as one service. A civil ceremony is conducted by a registrar who can add personalised content to a ceremony.
When using a non-belief or faith celebrant you still need to contact the local registrar to complete the legal paperwork. The schedule you sign on the day of your ceremony must be collected on the week of the wedding which can only be done by the couple being married or civilly partnered. The Schedule must then be returned to the Registrar within 3 days of the ceremony.
What time/days of the week do you conduct your ceremonies?
Ceremonies are carried out Monday to Saturday during times set by the local registrar. If you have special requirements, please discuss these with us and we will look at the options available.
Where can I have my ceremony?
Any venue with owner’s permission. This could include a hotel, on a boat, family home, woodland, a beach, a field, your old school, your garden, a tea room, the place where you first met. You can book any venue that hires out rooms for social events or gives you permission to do so as long as we receive a copy of the public liability insurance. Before the ceremony we would make arrangements to carry out a visit to the venue. Each area of Argyll and Bute has their own ceremony rooms for holding a ceremony.
Do I need to pay a deposit when I book my Marriage Ceremony?
Yes, we require a £60 non-refundable deposit at the time of booking.
If we are getting married outside, what happens if it’s raining on the day?
When you are booking your ceremony, your registrar will explain that you must have a wet weather alternative in case of poor conditions on your wedding day.
How much does it cost for a civil wedding?
The cost of your wedding can vary and will depend on where and when your wedding is to take place. Please see are fees and charges page on this website, if you need more information please contact us.
How long can a ceremony last?
We want to help you in making your ceremony a memorable day for you and your guests. The ceremony can be as long as you wish it to be, ideas and suggestions can be discussed with the registrar beforehand once you have handed in your paperwork.
How can I make my ceremony special or unique?
Ceremonies tab has many suggestions on different enhancements that can be included in your marriage ceremony. When submitting your paperwork for marriage to the registration office you can make arrangements by phone, email or in person to discuss your ideas with the registrar.
Can we include music?
A selection of music is available at our offices but please feel free to discuss choosing your specials pieces of music. Our main registration offices have facilities to play music either by Bluetooth or CD player. You can also decide to have lice music to compliment your ceremony if you wish.
If I wanted my ceremony to have some religious element to it, would that be okay?
You can have whatever you want in your ceremony; after all, it is your day, we would just request that a guest or family member reads out the religious wording.
What pen can I use to sign my marriage schedule?
All Marriage schedules are permanent records and therefore all signatures on the schedule must be made with a fountain pen with archive quality permanent black ink.
What name do I sign on my marriage schedule?
You sign with them name on the marriage schedule which will be the same as the details you gave on your marriage notices.
How long do I need to wait after my wedding before getting my marriage certificate?
If having a civil ceremony then once the registrar returns to the office they will register your marriage and post your marriage certificate to you that day.
If you have had a religious or other belief ceremony, the marriage schedule has to be returned within 3 days of the wedding. Once it has been returned, it will be registered and your certificate posted out to you that day.
I have lost my marriage certificate how much does it cost for a replacement?
£10 within the calendar month thereafter £15
Can you provide witnesses?
You will need two witnesses for your wedding, both aged 16 years of age or older. Your registrar may be able to provide witnesses for you if your ceremony is due to take place Monday to Friday; this will of course be discussed when booking your ceremony.
Do we have to have wedding rings?
You can choose whether to exchange rings or not during your ceremony, if you choose not to have rings be assured it will not affect the validity of your marriage. The registrar will check this over with you before the day of your wedding
Can we have photographs taken and a film recording of our ceremony?
Our registrars are happy for photographs/video recording to be taken during the ceremony as long as it doesn’t distract from the dignity and solemnity of the ceremony. The registrar will discuss this with you before your wedding day.
If being married by a registrar you will be asked if we can have permission to use some for your photos for inclusion on our social media pages, registration page or for promotional purposes.
Can we throw confetti?
Confetti can be used, but only outside the building. Please remind your guests to dispose of empty boxes carefully.
Chinese Lanterns and Helium Balloons
Council decision in January 2017, Chinese Lanterns and helium filled balloons cannot be released on Council properties and Council owned land