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Licensing your venue

How to apply for your building to be licensed for civil marriages or partnerships.

Oxfordshire - the place to marry or have your civil partnership

Oxfordshire sits conveniently between Greater London and the West Midlands and presents the perfect opportunity to entice couples out of the city to choose a venue in the country for their big day.

  • Is your venue set in the picturesque countryside or in one of Oxfordshire's enchanting towns?
  • Do you have majestic rooms capable of elaborate ceremonies or intimate rooms for a softer, more romantic ambience?
  • Do you have a distinguished venue, which has quirky, unusual rooms or surroundings?

If you can answer 'yes' to the above, then licensing your venue for civil marriages would be the ideal business venture for you.

Checking the suitability of your venue

Are your premises suitable?

Your venue doesn't have to be in the ceremony business or be able to offer reception facilities. Many of our approved venues concentrate on the ceremonies only. It is completely up to you to decide how many and how regularly you accept civil ceremony bookings at your venue. We will not accept a booking until we are certain the couple has arranged a suitable, licensed venue.

Before completing the application form ensure that you already have the required planning consent and that your premises are likely to meet the requirements on fire precautions and health and safety.

If the premises are already covered by a current fire risk assessment and the local district council's health and safety requirements, then they may already comply with the guidance. However, we will still need to check with both the Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and the local district council on every application.

What type of premises are suitable?

  • Premises for approval must be fixed and permanent. Civil ceremonies held in the open air, marquees, tents or any other temporary structure are not permitted.
  • Outside structures must be a minimum of 3m x 3m or equivalent.
  • No recent or continuing religious connection to the building is permitted and this extends to any furnishings or furniture housed in the rooms for civil ceremonies. Advice will be given by our representative at the time of inspection if there is any doubt.
  • The premises must be in keeping with the dignity of the civil ceremony.

What other requirements are there for premises?

  • You must ensure the public have access without charge to the ceremony room(s) for one hour before and during the ceremony.
  • There must be access for disabled people.
  • Notices are required at each public entrance giving directions to the ceremony room(s), names of the couples, time of wedding and room of wedding so that the public can find the venue easily.

What requirements are there for ceremonies?

  • The 'responsible person' must be available for one hour before and during the ceremony. The council must be given full details of this person and of a deputy who needs to be appointed to cover absences and updated when necessary.
  • The ceremony must have no religious content. Introductions and conclusions are regarded as part of the ceremony.
  • Bar areas must be closed and suitably screened for one hour before and during the ceremony, if in the room where a ceremony is to be held.
  • Other functions held in the premises should not interfere with or detract from the solemnity of a ceremony.
  • Access to a telephone should be easily available for registration staff.

The room(s)

At least one room in a venue must be licensed for civil ceremonies. The room(s) in which proceedings will take place must meet the following requirements:

  • they must have a minimum seating capacity for 20 people
  • they must be identifiable as a distinct part of the premises
  • food and drink must not be consumed or available for consumption in the ceremony room(s) for one hour prior to and during the ceremony.
  • any bar area in the room to be used for the ceremony must be closed for at least one hour prior to and during the ceremony.
  • if using an outside structure an alternative internal room suitable to accommodate all guests must be licensed and available to use in the event of inclement weather

Access for disabled people

Access must also be available for disabled people, including:

  • a parking or a drop-off point at the main entrance for people with mobility difficulties
  • level access to ceremony room(s) or appropriate ramping for wheelchair users
  • handrails to assist people with mobility difficulties where there are steps
  • if ceremony room(s) are not on ground floor, appropriate lifts should be available
  • clear signposting from the car park, and internally, to the ceremony room(s) for wheelchair users.

Planning consent

There is no specific planning class use applicable. You must consult with the local planning authority and, if necessary, obtain any further planning consent required. We must be assured that any local planning requirements have been complied with at the time you make your application.

How to apply

The application procedure for a licence is very straightforward and advice is available throughout the process. We are more than happy to visit your venue to do a free pre-inspection to check that it is suitable and that all your questions are answered before submitting your application.

The fee for a licence is £2,325 and is for three years and will be included on the list of venues available for civil ceremonies in Oxfordshire for that period of time.

The process

  • When your application is received, 21 days must be given for the public to make an objection. Advertisements will be placed on our website as soon as possible following receipt of your application.
  • The premises will be inspected by the operational services manager, the superintendent registrar, or their deputy. Arrangements for the inspection will be agreed with you beforehand.
  • If we decide that the premises do not meet the requirements or attach conditions that you consider unfair, there is a review process for you to object. However, there will be a separate charge for this.
  • The approval will last for three years. A renewal pack will be sent out six months prior to the license expiry date. This should be returned as soon as possible to ensure the license does not lapse.
  • A register of all approved premises will be kept by the council and by the registrar general. Details of all approved premises are also published on this site.

Does tacit consent apply?

No. It is in the public interest that we must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period, please contact us. You can do this online if you applied through the UK Welcomes service or use the contact details below.

For further information or to be sent an application pack please contact us. You can also read a summary of the regulations regarding this licence.

Benefits of registering

When your licence has been granted you will receive:

  • an Oxfordshire Registration Service Certificate of Approval for you to display at your venue
  • professionally trained county council registrars to conduct and register the marriage, and ensure the ceremony runs smoothly
  • entry into the 'Oxfordshire: the place to marry' wedding brochure and the 'Oxfordshire Civil Partnerships' brochure
  • promotion of your venue and links to your website from this website
  • the opportunity to be profiled when we attend national wedding and civil partnership shows, promoting Oxfordshire as the place to marry or have your civil partnership.

Your responsibilities

When the ceremony is booked

  • The ceremony has to take place at the given venue - the licence document must be prominently displayed
  • The ceremony has to take place in a registered room
  • If the venue is altered, the paperwork is void
  • Marriage and civil partnership ceremonies can now take place at any time subject to staff availability
  • You must not take bookings which exceed the licence period unless the conditions of approval remain exactly the same (ie same ownership, usage, planning etc and an application for renewal is in hand).

On the day

  • Notices and ceremony room direction signs should be displayed for one hour prior to and during ceremonies
  • Notices to enable people to find their way from the car park/main entrance must be displayed
  • Notices to enable people to find their way to the room must be displayed
  • Disabled access must be in place
  • Disabled parking must be available
  • Registrars should have reserved car parking.
  • In the event of inclement weather it will be the decision of the registrars, in discussion with the couple, to move the ceremony inside. The decision of the registrar is final.

The role of a responsible person

Only those people registered can act as a 'responsible person' or an authorised deputy. Any changes to personnel must be notified to the superintendent registrar at Oxfordshire County Council.

Deputies must have adequate authority or be of suitable seniority to tactfully direct wedding parties and their guests.

The responsible person must be on the premises for a minimum of one hour before and during the ceremony and must be aware of the conditions of approval, including the maximum number permitted for each ceremony room:

  • No food or drink to be sold or consumed in the ceremony room for one hour before or during the ceremony
  • No other activity or conflict of interest should take place which may directly affect the solemnisation of the ceremony, for example, nearby noise or other potential disturbances
  • Content and arrangements for the marriage including any music must have no religious content or source and meet the approval of the superintendent registrar
  • Religious blessings are permitted under the 1994 Act, however if requested these may take place as a separate ceremony on an occasional basis once the registrars have left the premises
  • Total and complete public access, including disabled persons, must be permitted without charge (for example, No ‘private’ signs).