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Civil ceremonies – your day, your way

You’ve decided to make it official. So what do you need to consider when choosing your wedding or celebration venue?

Choose a marriage or civil partnership ceremony

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    There are two types of ceremonies available. Simply choose the one that's right for you and your partner.

    All ceremonies are held in English, so an interpreter must be present if either partner cannot speak or understand English.

    To get advice or book a ceremony, get in touch with our team.

Civil marriage

Marriage ceremonies are available to both opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples.

You will need to say legal vows to solemnise your marriage and civil marriages cannot include any religious content.  If you book a civil marriage in one of our registration service ceremony rooms or approved venues, our trained registrars will work with you to make sure your ceremony is personal and memorable.  If you book a civil marriage in our statutory register office our trained registrars will conduct a short ceremony just with you and 2 witnesses.

There will be two registrars at your wedding; one to conduct the ceremony and the other to register your marriage. 

The only other requirement on the day is that you have two adult witnesses (over 16 years) present who must also be able to speak and understand English.

Civil partnership

A civil partnership does not need to include a ceremony and is for both opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples. A civil partnership is formed when the couple signs a civil partnership schedule, in front of the registrar and two witnesses.

You can also choose to include a ceremony and your civil partnership can take place at either an approved venue or at one of our registration service ceremony rooms, or in our statutory register office. If you book our statutory register office our trained registrar will conduct a short ceremony just with you and 2 witnesses.

The only other requirement on the day is that you have two adult witnesses (over 16 years) present who must also be able to speak and understand English.

Couples who form a civil partnership have comparable rights to married couples.

Choose your perfect venue and book your ceremony

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    With the Oxfordshire Registration Service, you can have the day of your dreams without the stress and, if needed, on a budget.

Our registration office ceremony rooms allow you larger or more intimate civil and commitment ceremonies. They're all in great locations, so it's easy if you want to continue your celebration with a reception nearby. 

You don't need to choose the ceremony room closest to you. If you'd like to select the one closest to your reception venue, or because you prefer the room, that's no problem.

If you’d prefer to you have your ceremony at an approved venue, there are almost 100 approved civil ceremony wedding venues across the county.

Take a look at what you'll need to pay for a ceremony in one of our registration office ceremony rooms or to have our registrars come to another approved venue.

Outdoor ceremonies

You can hold a legal civil ceremony outdoors at an approved venue if the venue agrees and if their outdoor location has been pre-approved by the Registration Service.  It is not possible to hold legal marriage or civil partnership ceremonies outdoors at a venue which does not hold an approved premises license.

In case of inclement weather, ceremonies must be held indoors in the licensed room.  Venues and couples must consider how the same number of guests can be safely accommodated indoors. The registrars will make the final decision on whether the ceremony must take place indoors.

All couples planning outdoor ceremonies must complete an outdoor ceremony agreement at least four weeks before the ceremony is due to take place.  Without this agreement, the ceremony will take place indoors.

The only registration office which has a suitable outdoor space for ceremonies is Bodicote House in Banbury.  Please note that guests would need to stand throughout the ceremony.

Outdoor ceremonies are not available at the Oxford Registration Office and The Dexter Room (Oxford), The Garth (Bicester), Windrush Rooms (Witney) The School House (Abingdon), Broadway Room (Didcot) or Regatta Court (Henley).

To get advice or book a civil ceremony, get in touch with our team.

Book your notice of marriage or civil partnership appointment

You can give notice up to a year in advance of your ceremony, but this must be done at least 29 days prior to your ceremony or 71 days (if you are subject to immigration control).

We strongly recommend giving notice at least 3 months before your ceremony.  We may not always be able to accommodate short-notice appointments.

Book your notice appointment

Plan ahead without the stress

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    Decide your budget and stick to it. Then it’s all about getting ahead with the planning.

It's your day, so the choice is yours, but here are some things you could consider planning.

Eighteen months before

  • Draw up a rough budget for your ceremony plus the guest list 
  • Book the ceremony room with us or approved venue and pay your ceremony fees
  • Book the reception venue and any caterers and entertainment 
  • Book the photographer and/or videographer 
  • Decide on what sort of transport you will be using and book it 
  • Make any travel arrangements required 
  • Start shopping for your outfits 

Twelve months before

  • Book a notice of marriage or civil partnership appointment for you both 
  • Choose your bridesmaids, attendants, best man, and ushers, if applicable! 
  • Order your invitations, if you are having them made 
  • Decide on and speak to a hairdresser and/or your beauty salon for your big day.

Three months before

  • Order the cake
  • Choose the rings
  • Send out the invitations, order menu cards and place cards
  • Book a florist and choose flowers for the reception, including buttonholes and corsages
  • Decide on your gift list
  • Have the first fitting of your outfit (if it is being made to measure)
  • If you are travelling abroad, arrange any necessary visas and vaccinations
  • If you are changing your name, allow at least six weeks (preferably more in the peak holiday season) for a new passport. Remember to change your driver’s licence and bank details
  • Book a hotel for the night of the celebration.

Eight weeks before

Six weeks before

  • Finalise your guest list
  • Choose any gifts for guests and those supporting you
  • Attend a second fitting (if appropriate).

Four weeks before

  • Have the final fittings for your outfits
  • Book an appointment with your hairdresser for a trial run
  • Confirm numbers and plan how you want your reception to run if you’re having one
  • Prepare thank you letters for the presents you will receive.

Two weeks before

  • Order foreign currency if travelling abroad
  • Wear in your new shoes at home
  • Double-check the travel timings to and from your ceremony/reception venue(s) - allow for heavy traffic.

On the day

On the day, arrive at the ceremony venue 20 - 30 minutes before, and then relax and let the registrar guide you through your ceremony.

After the day

  • If you have chosen to change your name following your marriage or civil partnership ceremony, don’t forget to notify relevant organisations.
  • Prepare and send thank you letters to your guests.