Marriage and civil partnership ceremonies during coronavirus

Advice on giving Notice, limits on guests and ceremonies during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Road map out of lockdown

15 June - latest update

We are assessing the implications of the Prime Minister's announcement on Monday 14 June and will update this web page with further details shortly.

We are currently in step three on the road map out of lockdown: national restrictions remain in place for marriages and civil partnerships.

  • Step three: the legal limit on attendees has been increased to a maximum of 30. This includes the couple, witnesses and guests but not registration officials, venue managers and others working at the event.  The size of each ceremony room will determine how many people may safely attend. It may be less than 30.

Bookings for new ceremonies in Oxfordshire

We are currently not taking any new ceremony bookings in our own registration offices until after 1 October 2021 so that we can give priority and dates to those couples who have had ceremonies cancelled during the current lockdown.

We are taking bookings for venue ceremonies but please ensure that you leave enough time for a Notice appointment and check that we can fit your Notice in as we have limited appointments.

Ceremonies in our registration offices

Ceremonies can proceed only where they can be carried out in a COVID-19 secure environment. Our ceremony rooms in Oxford, Banbury, Didcot, Witney, Abingdon, Bicester and Henley are open.

All our ceremony rooms have been assessed as COVID-19 Secure. The maximum number of attendees for each ceremony is detailed below. Please note that babies and children, photographers and videographers count as a person and must be included in the numbers.

Contact us if you have specific questions but please be aware we are very busy at present and are dealing with requests for ceremonies happening this year as a priority. We will respond within 15 working days.

Ceremonies in a licensed venue (e.g. hotel, town hall or country house)

The government has indicated that ceremonies should proceed only where they can be carried out in a COVID-secure environment.

Contact your venue to check that they are still able to accommodate your ceremony and adhere to the current social distancing guidelines.

Notice expired due to postponement 

If your ceremony has been rebooked due to postponement but your original Notice has expired you will need to give Notice again. Notices of marriage or civil partnership are only valid for one year and it is not possible to automatically extend this.  

Contact us to discuss your options on how to give Notice again. 

Shorter civil ceremonies and other changes

In line with government guidance, ceremonies will be concluded in a reasonable time and be limited to those elements to ensure the ceremony is valid in law.

  • Social distancing – we require our staff to stay 2 metres apart from anyone they do not live with.  Attendees can make their own decisions on social distancing but are encouraged to follow social distancing guidance and make space for other people to keep their distance if they wish to.
  • Face-coverings – all attendees must wear face coverings in indoor settings, unless exempt. The couple and the people officiating the ceremony may remove their face coverings during the ceremony.  We request that you wear a face-covering while moving around for outdoor ceremonies but you may remove them while seated.
  • Entrance - where space permits you can make an entrance and walk down the aisle with bridesmaids or family.
  • Giving away/presentation – we can add a brief 'giving away' to the ceremony if you wish to be presented to your bride/groom/civil partner.
  • Readings – you are welcome to include one short reading in your ceremony
  • Personalised vows – you may write and read your own brief vows to each other
  • Ring exchange – couples are welcome to exchange rings, however, please be aware that the registrars will not touch them.  
  • Hand hygiene – hands should be sanitised or washed before entering the ceremony room and before signing the schedule.
  • Photographs –  a designated photographer may take a few photos of the couple after they have signed the schedule and guests are welcome to take photos from their seats.  We ask that group photos are taken after the ceremony has concluded.  The photographer must remain 2 metres apart from our staff and be mindful of guests' social distancing.
  • Pets/animals – we cannot accommodate any pets/animals at ceremonies.
  • Certificates – You will receive a commemorative certificate on the day.  Your legal certificate of marriage/civil partnership will be posted out to you within 11 days of the marriage/civil partnership being registered.

The ceremony will consist of: 

  • legal preliminaries with a couple interviewed together by the registrar in the ceremony room 
  • welcome 
  • reading
  • repeating declaratory and contracting words after the registrar 
  • exchange of rings and/or promises (optional) 
  • the signing of marriage/civil partnership schedule by couple and witnesses 
  • conclusion of ceremony and congratulations.  

Before your ceremony, you will be sent an option sheet. This will avoid delays on your day and allow you to indicate your choice of legal words. 

See more guidance on the GOV UK website.

Moving outside

Marriage or civil partnership must take place within the venue as specified on the Notice, and as specified in the licence for approved premises. We are unable to move the ceremony outside unless an outside structure is included as part of the venue licence.

Giving Notice for ceremonies 

We are giving priority to couples who have booked ceremonies which are due to take place in the next three months.

In order for your ceremony to go ahead you must have valid Notices of Marriage in place at least 30 days before the date of your ceremony or 70 days if one or both of the couple are subject to immigration control.

Changing your ceremony 

The latest government guidance can be found on the GOV UK website.

Please be aware that government guidance on ceremonies can change suddenly and without notice. We do not get any advance notice of any changes nor do we have any control over any of the restrictions imposed.

We must follow any local and government guidelines that are in place at the time of the ceremony. When you booked your ceremony, you were advised of the restrictions in place at the time of booking.

If there is a substantial difference between the restrictions at the time of booking and the restrictions at the time of the ceremony, and you wish to postpone or cancel, please contact us via our enquiry form to discuss your options.