(Picture by Martin Weir Photography)
The legal procedures for all weddings in Scotland fall under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014. We sometimes get inquiries from couples abroad or in England and Wales who are concerned about the legalities. This is because Humanist marriages aren't yet legal south of the border and in fact, Scotland is one of only 8 countries in the world where you can legally marry in a Humanist ceremony. So if you're not from Scotland, just a few points to reassure you :
- Yes, we can legally marry you!
- Yes, a Humanist ceremony conducted by a Celebrant of Humanist Society Scotland is fully legal.
- Yes, that means that your marriage has legal status in the same way as if you were to marry in any other part of the UK or in a religious or civil ceremony (with a Registrar).
- No, you don't need to have a separate ceremony with a Registrar, as you currently do south of the border.
- No, there are no residence requirements, so you don't have to live in Scotland in order to legally marry here.
Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you need further clarification - I'm always happy to help!
As far as the legal procedure is concerned, the first thing to stress is that it's all very straightforward and the following points should help you through the process:
What does the paperwork consist of?
In order to be legally married, you need to obtain Marriage Notice (M10) forms. You fill one in each - basically to inform the registrar that you want to marry each other! It is always advisable to phone the Registrar before submitting your Marriage Notices, to make sure that you have all the necessary supporting documents and to check their fees. This is what the Marriage Notice Form looks like:
The Marriage Schedule
The Marriage Schedule is the document that you, your Celebrant and your two witnesses sign on the day and this is what it looks like (though yours won't have 'specimen' written all over it obviously!):
The Marriage Certificate
You will be sent your Marriage Certificate when the Marriage Schedule has been submitted to the Registrar after the wedding. This is the document you get to keep, your proof that you are legally married!
What if we aren't UK citizens?
It is important to check carefully with the Registrar to see what additional documentation you need in order to marry in Scotland. You will need evidence of your nationality and if you are not a European (EEA) citizen, other documentation will also be required. The website for the National Records of Scotland gives useful information and guidelines on this.
It would also be advisable to phone the local Registrar for advice too and you should do this as soon as you possibly can so that there is no danger of the paperwork not being through on time!
When do we have to submit our paperwork?
You can't submit the paperwork until 12 weeks before the wedding, but you can get the forms all ready to send off. You can collect a marriage pack from the Registrar or go onto the website for the National Records of Scotland to download everything.
The guidelines suggest that you submit your Marriage Notices to the Registrar 4-6 weeks before the wedding, but it can be done 12 weeks before and personally, I always advise couples to do it as early as possible within this time. It's an important job that you can then tick off your TO DO list!
The Marriage Schedule (the document you sign on your wedding day) is usually available to collect from the Registrar about a week before the wedding and you will need to collect it in person (either you or your partner, not necessarily both of you). All you have to do then is to remember to bring it along on the day!
(photo by Jill Porter)
Your Celebrant will almost certainly remind you about it - but bear in mind that they will not be able to legally marry you without the Marriage Schedule! In fact, they wouldn't even be able to pretend to do so and catch up with the paperwork later on - solemnising a marriage without the necessary documentation is actually a criminal offence, believe it or not! So, don't give us a heart attack on that one folks! Remember to collect your Marriage Schedule from the Registrar and remember to bring it along on the day of the wedding!
The signed Marriage Schedule then has to be returned to the same Registrar within 3 days of the marriage taking place (note, 3 days, NOT 3 working days!) and anyone can do this for you, so you can breath a sigh of relief if you're going away on honeymoon immediately after the wedding and don't have time to do it yourselves! Well, you can if you've entrusted this important job to someone responsible anyway! Once the Registrar has your signed Marriage Schedule, they can register your marriage and issue your Marriage Certificate.
Which Registrar do we submit our Marriage Notices to?
It is important to submit the paperwork to the right Registrar and one quick phone call to them in advance will put you right. Basically, it has to be a Registrar within the Registration District where the wedding is to take place - i.e. not the one local to your home, but the one local to the wedding venue. Registration Districts cover large areas and there will be several Registration Offices in each district. You can submit your paperwork to any one of these offices, as long as it is the right Registration District for the venue. So, for example, if you were getting married at the Roman Camp Hotel in Callander, it would make sense to submit your Marriage Notices to the Callander Registrar, but you could, if you wanted to, submit them to any other Register Office in the Stirling district, including Aberfoyle or Dunblane for example.
Registration districts are now aligned with Local Authority areas and the main Register Officer for venues in the central belt are as follows:
- Stirling – Customer First Shop, 1-5 Port Street,
Stirling, FK8 2EJ. Tel. 01786 432343. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: Stirling Registrar
- Alloa – Marshill House, Alloa, FK10 1AB. Tel. 01259 723850. Email: email@example.com Website: Alloa Registrar
- Falkirk –
, Old Burgh Buildings Newmarket Street, Falkirk, FK1 1JE. Tel 01324 506580. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website:Falkirk Registrar and Kinross – Perth 5 High Street, Perth, PH1 5JS. Tel. 01738 475121. Email: email@example.com Website: Perth and Kinross Registrars
If you choose a Humanist ceremony, don't forget that the venue doesn't have to have any kind of licence. This means that you can have a legal Humanist marriage ANYWHERE IN SCOTLAND and the only proviso is that the location is "safe and dignified".
It is important to stress that the marriage MUST take place on the date and in the place detailed on the Marriage schedule. So for example, if you plan to marry outdoors and have a contingency plan to move to another location indoors if the weather is bad, you will need to double check those arrangements with the Registrar before the day.
What happens on the day?
On the day of the wedding, it is vital to remember to bring along the Marriage Schedule and to hand it to your Marriage Celebrant before the ceremony. You need 2 people to witness and sign it and they can be anyone, known or unknown to you, related or unrelated, as long as they are 16 years of age or over. The Registrar may ask you for the details of the witnesses before the day of the wedding.
"I Mary Jane Jones / solemnly and sincerely declare / that I accept you Peter John Smith / in marriage to be my lawfully wedded husband"
Once you have each made such a declaration, the Celebrant is required to make a declaration that you are legally married and to pronounce you husband and wife - and I can safely say that this makes our job the best in the world! It's a pleasure and a privilege!
Immediately after these declarations, the Marriage Schedule is then signed. I've had a few unusual signing tables over the years by the way, including in santa's grotto, on the trig point at the top of Dumyat near Stirling (just before the rain soaked us to the skin!) and on the bride's (yes, the bride's) Suzuki Intruder motorbike!
As regards the signing, please note the following:
- Signing: the bride signs in her maiden name or the name she was known by before the wedding (a previous married name for example). In other words girls, you don’t sign in your new married name (if you’re changing it of course)! The Schedule is also signed by the Celebrant and by the two witnesses.
- The pen: A special pen is required for the signing, but your Celebrant will supply it. It has to be a permanent black ink pen and if the Registrar mentions it, you can reassure them that your Celebrant has such a pen!
- The signatures: There may also be a signature form with the Schedule – so that the Registrar can decipher your signatures (do you sign as Mary Jane Jones, M. Jones or M.J. Jones for example?) Your Celebrant should fill this form in for you.
This woman is very happy at her work! (aye, it's me!)
- Returning the Schedule: Once the Marriage Schedule has been signed, it is essential that it is returned to the same Registrar who issued it, within 3 days of the wedding. If you are unable to return it yourself, you will need to ask someone trustworthy and responsible to do it for you. The Celebrant will ask who that person is and ensure that the Schedule is in their safekeeping after the ceremony. Once the Registrar has the signed Marriage Schedule, they will then prepare and issue a copy of the Marriage Certificate - and now that you're legally married, you can celebrate and live happily ever after!
(This is Mike and Alison Swan after their 2006 wedding at Doune Castle)
What if we have any questions?
If you have any queries about the legal stuff, you Celebrant might be able to help, but the first port of call should ideally be the Registrar. The contact details of all Registrars in Scotland and advice of a more general nature can be found on the website for the National Records of Scotland
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