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How to have an independent wedding ceremony in Devon & Cornwall


This hugely useful guide to How to have an independent wedding ceremony in Devon & Cornwall comes from guest blogger Kim Murray, an independent celebrant at Free Range Weddings, and formerly deputy registrar/superintendent registrar for five years here in Devon.

independent wedding ceremony in Devon & Cornwall credit charliedaviesphotography


Usually, after the congratulations, people will ask you: “Where are you getting married?”And, after reading this, you will know that you can answer: “Wherever we want, any place we like”

“Any place” can be, [but doesn’t have to be]

  • a church
  • a Registration Office
  • a grand licensed-for-marriages venue

OR, it can in fact be held in any place at all.

There are some fantastic wedding venues without a licence, providing amazing indoor/outdoor/tented options for magical personalised ceremonies.

But you don’t even have to actually have an established venue because, with a bit of careful planning, it is possible to have your ceremony on a beach, in a field, on the moor. You might also want to think about a village hall with a garden or even your own home and garden.

How can this work?

It helps to think of your wedding in two parts:

  • the legal requirement
  • the actual ceremony

In the UK we’re used to having to choose between a religious ceremony and a civil ceremony; in both cases the legal requirement and the ceremony take place at the same time.  Because of the legal status of these ceremonies there are necessarily certain restrictions on the words used and, because of the number of marriages held on one day, limits for flexibility on timings and content.

In many other countries this is not the case at all.  The legal requirement is dealt with quite separately from the ceremony, even when that ceremony is held in a church. In France, for example, the couple first go along to the town hall and sign a legal document and then go elsewhere for their actual ceremony.

In this country there’s a growing popularity for choosing a similar route: a simple, fifteen minute,  legal marriage at a Registration Office with just two witnesses held in the weeks/days before a full wedding ceremony, which is conducted by an independent celebrant in front of all your family and friends.

So how do I organise this? 

It’s pretty simple with this 8 step guide:

  1. Choose the place you want to have your independent wedding ceremony
  1. Choose the date of your independent wedding ceremony

Once you have decided these two things you can start planning all the preliminaries around your date and place.

And now for the legal niceties …

GIVING NOTICE of marriage is the first legal step.  Everybody has to do this before they may marry.

So ~

  1. Choose a registration office  for your legal marriage.

You may choose any office in England and Wales for the marriage.

If you are coming to Devon (yay!) in the week before your wedding, and you wish to do the legal bit here you can find a local Registration Office here: I have conducted ceremonies on two occasions where the couple have been to the Registration Office in the morning and had their independent wedding ceremony in the afternoon of the same day – but I’m in awe of their organisational skills!

You need to decide on the registration office first, because it will be recorded when you give notice and if you change your mind later you would have to go through the whole process, including paying the fee, all over again.

  1. Now you need to make a phone call to the Registration Office where you would like to have your legal marriage, to book a date and time.

In Devon, this telephone number is 0345 155 1002.

You just need to ask to book a marriage ceremony and they’ll ask all the relevant questions. It’s good to confirm you can have the date and time that you want.

The registration service may ask you to pay in full at the time of booking. The statutory fee for a ceremony with the minimum of two witnesses is £46.

  1. Next you need to make an appointment to give notice.

If you’re having your legal marriage in your home registration office, the person you spoke to at step 4 will almost certainly ask you about booking your appointment.

BUT if you are getting married at a registration office outside of your home district, you will need to make an appointment to give notice in the district where you  live.

Remember to check which documents you will need to take with you to this appointment.

Notice to marry MUST be given NOT LATER THAN 28 days before your legal marriage; it can be given up to one year before your legal marriage.

TOP TIP: try to make an appointment as soon as you can – it’s great to get this formality completed; one less thing to worry about.

Twenty-eight days after you have given notice, the registration service produce your “certificate for marriage”.  This piece of paper is extremely important because it’s a crucial legal document: no document = no marriage.

When you’re giving your notice to marry, the date and venue of your independent ceremony are not relevant to the registration service: they need to know which registration office, date and time you are planning your legal marriage.

When you arrive at your appointment you’ll be seen separately and, as well as producing the required documents, you’ll each be expected to know how long you’ve been together, how long you’ve lived at your current address, and each other’s occupation, full name & date of birth.

Giving notice will cost you £35 each.


  1. Attend the right office (!) for your legal marriage

In this legal marriage ceremony you are legally required to:

  • Confirm your full names
  • Make a declaration that you are legally free to marry by repeating the words after the Registrar
  • Say the contracting words that you each take the other to be your lawful wedded spouse by repeating the words after the Registrar.

Because Registrars are lovely they’ll  make a bit of a ceremony around these legal words and you can, but you are not obliged to, exchange rings or vows – just tell the registrar that you do not wish to do that and they will be really nice about it.

You are legally married!

  1. Have an amazing independent wedding ceremony at your chosen place
  • Find inspiration on how to have an a beautiful independent wedding ceremony in Devon or Cornwall here

You’ll be united in love, witnessed by all the  people who are important to you.

  1. Love each other forever……

Kim Murray is an independent celebrant at Free Range Weddings, and formerly deputy registrar/superintendent registrar for five years here in Devon. For an independent celebrant in Cornwall, also see Cornish Celebrants.

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