Marriage in Scotland
By law, both parties to a proposed civil or religious marriage, which includes other belief systems, are required to submit marriage notice forms to the registrar of the district in which the marriage is to take place informing him of their intention to marry.
Forms for giving notice can be obtained from any registration office in Scotland or from the National Records of Scotland website. [Opens in a new window]
Notice must be given in the three month period prior to the date of the marriage and no later than 29 days before.
You will need to book a place, date and time for your ceremony. You should also be aware that, whether you intend to have a civil ceremony solemnised by a registrar or a religious/belief marriage ceremony solemnised by an approved celebrant, you must by law lodge marriage notice forms and the associated documents, and pay the statutory fee, to the registrar in whose district you intend to be married.
How do I make an appointment?
Call our Customer Services on 0300 123 4510 from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm or call into any of our community hubs to arrange your appointment. If you need to change or cancel your appointment please contact us as soon as possible.
Who can be married in Scotland?
Any two persons, regardless of sex or where they live, may marry in Scotland, provided that:
- Both persons are at least 16 years of age on the day of 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*
- They are capable of understanding the nature of a marriage ceremony and of consenting to marrying.
- In the case of an 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, England, Wales or Northern Ireland and has not been dissolved, annulled or ended by death or an overseas relationship registered outwith the UK which is treated as a civil partnership in Scotland and has not been dissolved, annulled or ended by death.
Types of marriage?
You can be married in either of two ways in Scotland - by a religious or belief ceremony or by a civil ceremony.
A religious or belief marriage, may take place anywhere and may be solemnised only by a minister, clergyman, pastor, priest or other person entitled to do so under the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977.
A civil marriage may take place in a registration office or at any place agreed between the registration authority and the couple and may be solemnised only by a registrar or an assistant registrar who has been authorised by the Registrar General.
How and when to give notice
You can obtain marriage notice forms and information about fees from any Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Scotland or from the National Records of Scotland website. [opens in a new window]
Each contracting party to a marriage must complete and submit a marriage notice, along with the required documents (see below) and the appropriate fee, to the registrar for the district in which the marriage is to take place. This means that both parties must be aware of the marriage and independently complete and sign the declaration on the marriage notice form. Failing to give proper notice can result in a marriage being postponed or prevented from proceeding.
The notices must be submitted early enough to enable the registrar to satisfy themself that you are free to marry one another. Normally notices should be submitted about ten to twelve weeks beforehand. The minimum period is 29 days before the date of the proposed marriage, but if you leave things as late as this, 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.
When giving or sending marriage notice forms to the registrar, both parties must supply the following:
- birth certificate, or if you are adopted, your adoption 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 is required. A decree of divorce or dissolution granted outside Scotland must be absolute or final - a decree nisi is not acceptable
- if your spouse or civil partner is deceased, the death certificate of your former spouse or civil partner
- A passport or other document to provide evidence of nationality.
- Evidence of your usual residence.
- If you are in a qualifying civil partnership, an extract from the entry in the civil partnership register relating to the civil partnership.
- If you are in an existing marriage, your marriage certificate.
- if your domicile is abroad, a certificate of no impediment issued by the competent authority to the effect you are free to marry
- if any of the documents are in a language other than English, a certified translation in English must also be provided.
You will need to arrange for two people to be present to act as witnesses to your marriage. The two witnesses must be aged 16 or over and must be capable of fully understanding the proceedings. The registrar must be notified of the full names and addresses of both witnesses. If, for any reason, you wish to change the names of the witnesses please tell the registrar as soon as you can.
If you are having a religious/belief ceremony the registrar will give you details of when to collect your Marriage Schedule. The Marriage Schedule is the legal document the celebrant conducting your marriage requires; without this your marriage cannot proceed.
Do not delay giving notice simply because you are waiting for any of the above 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 marriage.
Provided the documents are in order the marriage may proceed as arranged.
Are you subject to immigration control?
If you are subject to Immigration Controls you will have to provide extra documentation to that outlined above. In particular, you will need to provide a Declaration of Immigration Status form which can be obtained from the registrar or the 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.
If you are just visiting Scotland to change your civil partnership registered in Scotland to a marriage, you do not need entry clearance but will need to provide evidence to show that you are in an existing civil partnership when you enter the UK.
If you have any questions, contact the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigration Contact Centre (Tel no: 0300 123 2241).
Registrars have a statutory duty to report any marriage they suspect has been registered for the sole purpose of evading statutory immigration controls.
Civil Marriages in Scotland
The nature of civil marriage has changed dramatically since it was first introduced in Scotland in 1940.
Historically, civil marriages were governed by strict rules, and could only take place in the office of an authorised registrar, on Monday to Friday, in a short ceremony which focused mainly on the legal requirements of marriage.
However, today this couldn’t be further from the case. The rules have changed and there is much greater flexibility – there are almost as many different kinds of civil marriage ceremony as there are couples.
Registrars understand the diverse needs of people today, and can reflect the culture and social mix in our communities.
As a result, many civil marriages now include personal touches such as live music, readings and additional vows, making the ceremony unique to the couple.
A modern registrar will encourage couples to make their own contributions to the ceremony, and there is huge scope to include friends, children and family members. Guests can also be encouraged to take an active part in the ceremony, and these changes make everyone feel really involved.
Although traditionally civil marriages were entirely non-religious, there is now no set format and religious context can be included if the couple wish.
If you are considering a civil marriage, you may want to think about hand fasting, sand ceremonies, remembrance candles or the well-known Scottish tradition of drinking from the Quaich, all of which are now possible.
Civil marriage ceremonies take place almost anywhere, and at times including Saturdays and Sundays. Local authorities no longer need venues to be licensed for a wedding, and this freedom allows for much greater choice of venue – you can be married in a hotel, castle, beauty spot, on a beach, in your garden or even on a boat; essentially any location that is special to you.
The role of the registrar is also unique – only registrars can guide you through the whole marriage process, including:
- Choosing a venue
- Submitting marriage notices and checking all the required documentation
- Tailoring the ceremony
- Registering the marriage
- Issuing a marriage certificate
A civil marriage gives you the opportunity to have a ceremony truly reflecting your personalities, and registrars will help you every step of the way to make sure it is a day to remember.