how to get married in England if you’re currently living abroad

By January 28, 2020wedding planning
bride & groom kiss

Can you get married in England if you don’t live here?

We often get enquiries from Brits living abroad who want to come back for their wedding and get married in England.   Whether they’re living in the  US, Canada, Oz, NZ, Dubai, we’ve had couples from quite a few different places plus people from Switzerland, Italy and France.

They’ve all got one thing in common, they want to get married ‘at home’.

So how can you arrange that when you’re living abroad?   It’s definitely possible but it takes some planning.  So let’s dive in…

signing register wedding barn bride groom wedding bouquet

Photo: Clare Kinchin

Can I book wedding Registrars from abroad?

There are two parts to the booking your wedding date with the Registrars to get married in England if you’re not living here right now.   The first is to book the date with Tavistock Registrars (or the Registrars local to whichever venue you’re getting married at).  That’s pretty easy and can be done at any time.    To do this, either of you can phone the Registrars and book the date (and time) of the wedding over the phone for a fee of £50. You can be overseas/living abroad, you just need to make a phone call.

bride and groom barn ceremony

Photo: Clare Kinchin

giving notice of marriage

So that’s the first bit done, now onto the second bit which is called ‘giving legal notice to marry’.   Ok you ready?   You must have been living in England or Wales for 8 nights before giving notice.   So you need to have been in the country for a week before you can give notice.

You may think that’s fine, you’ll come over for a week at some point and give notice and it’s all hunky dory.   But giving the legal notice is not like booking your date over the phone.  There are time restrictions.   You can’t give notice more than 12 months before your wedding date.   This is one time when being organised and wanting to get things done early won’t help you.  So you’ve got to have less than 12 months before your wedding date.  And there’s another time restriction.   You must give at least 28 days notice.

So you can see there’s a window of effectively 11 months before your wedding date for you to give notice.   That doesn’t usually matter if returning to the UK is relatively easy for you.   But we’ve had couples living in Oz and NZ where that’s been tricky as they need to come back to the UK again within that year for their actual wedding.    They potentially need to make 2 trips to the UK in the 11 months before the wedding.  That can be mighty pricey.  You need to know that both of you need to give notice of your wedding so that’s a trip with both of you.

One thing you might be able to do is visit the UK shortly (but not that shortly) before the wedding and give notice when you’re here.   You’d need to be here a week before you give notice and you have to give at least 28 days notice so you can see you need to be here about 6 weeks in total before your wedding and be staying here for at least a week.   Is that doable for you?

So that’s why it’s tricky for some couples.  They’ve both got to come back to the UK to give notice, they can only do that with less than 12 months to go before their wedding, they must stay at least a week to give notice.   They’ve got to do that at least 28 days before the wedding date AND they’ve got to come back again for the wedding.

And that’s why a lot of our overseas couples opt for a non legal ceremony if they live a long haul flight away.   You can read more about those here and here.

bride & father aisle walk

Photo: Dan Ward

is that it?

If you’re both UK citizens then that’s the end of the process and you can get legally married in England – yay!  But if one of you is not a UK citizen you’ve also got to apply for a marriage visa.  That’s the visa you need if the two of you are going back overseas to live.    You can only do that 3 months before the wedding date and it takes about 3 weeks to process.    You can see that’s a nerve wracking part of the process because potentially you won’t know you can get legally married until about 2.5 months before your actual wedding date.   And that’s cutting it pretty fine dontcha think?   You might need nerves of steel for that one.

If one of you is not a UK citizen and you both want to live in the UK after you get married, there are different visa rules (you need a family visa) and you need to look at those carefully.   If you’re from the EU, the EEA or Switzerland there are different rules again – you need a family permit.

Confused?   You might be.   You def need to get out your fine tooth comb for this lot.

bride & groom celebration

Photo: Clare Kinchin

You can read some more official info about booking Registrars while living abroad here on the Govt website.

If you’ve got any questions about how to go about booking the Registrars for your wedding – get in touch.  You can reach me on nicola@lowergrenofen.co.uk