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Frequently asked questions about ceremonies

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Here you will find frequently asked questions about ceremonies.

Do I have to wear a mask?

The Government has updated the guidance on face coverings at Marriages and Civil Partnerships in England and Wales. From Saturday 8 August 2020, guests at your ceremony will be required to wear a face covering. This applies for ceremonies taking place in Chelsea Old Town Hall or at an approved venue in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Face coverings are not required for the bride, groom or those becoming civil partners during the ceremony, but must be worn as you enter and exit.

What is the difference between a marriage and civil partnership?

A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people and offers many of the same benefits as a conventional marriage. For more information on the similarities and differences between the two, please visit the GOV.UK Marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales web page.

How to check availability and book a ceremony

How much does it cost to get married or register a civil partnership?

The cost of a marriage or civil partnership ceremony depends on the venue, day and time you choose. Please see our venues for your ceremony and click on the relevant room to view the fees in full. Find out all of our ceremony fees.

When is the Statutory Register Office room available?

The Register Office room - also known as the statutory marriage or civil partnership room - is for those who merely wish to sign the paperwork to complete their legal union in the presence of just two witnesses in a small interview room without readings, music, personal vows, floral arrangements or any fanfare at all.


We regret that we are unable to take bookings for the register office room if it is your intention to have more than two guests or if you wish to incorporate music, readings, personal vows, floral arrangements or  tailor your ceremony in any other way, as the register office room is a small interview room.  Should you wish to have more than two guests and/or tailor your ceremony to your personal wishes, please make a booking for one of our ceremony rooms online by visiting our marriage and civil partnership page.

If you opt for a marriage, you will be required to exchange statutory vows as part of a brief

ceremony.  If you opt for a civil partnership, vows are not required, and you will just be asked to sign the paperwork.  Please note that these are legal stipulations.

 

The cost for a register office marriage or civil partnership is £57 which consists of £46 for the registration and £11 for one certificate.  The fee is non-refundable. We regret that due to legal stipulations it is not possible to change a current booking to / from the register office if you have already given notice of intention for a different room / venue.

 

There is very limited availability for the register office option as they only take place on a Monday at 09:15am. If you would to find out when the next register office timeslot is available, please email us at registrars@rbkc.gov.uk

 

Do remember that even for a marriage or civil partnership in the register office, you will be required to complete the legal requirement to give notice of intention at the latest 29 days before the registration (71 days, if either of you is a non-EEA national).  You can find full information about giving notice of intent on our website via our marriage and civil partnership page.

Do I need a rehearsal of my ceremony?

No, there is not a rehearsal before a civil ceremony. You will be asked to complete a ‘Programme of Events’ in advance of your ceremony which will give choices of words, readings and music.

What do I need to bring with me on the day of my ceremony?

Neither you, your witnesses nor your guests need to bring anything with them on the day of the ceremony – just bring yourselves. No-one needs to bring ID as you’ve already shown your ID when you gave notice.

Do you need to see ID on the day of the ceremony?

We don’t need to see ID for anyone on the day: neither for you nor for your witnesses. In the very rare circumstance that you’ve legally changed your name between giving notice and the day of the ceremony, bring along your change of name deed document

Is there parking?

We regret that there is no allocated parking at Kensington Town Hall. We therefore recommend that you arrive at the venue either by taxi, or by public transport. The nearest tube station is High Street Kensington.

We regret that there is no allocated parking at the Chelsea Old Town Hall.  We therefore recommend that you arrive at the venue either by taxi, or by public transport.  The nearest tube stations are Sloane Square or South Kensington. You can also reach the Chelsea Old Town Hall on bus numbers 11, 19, 22, 49, 211 or 319.

There is an unloading bay at the front of the Town Hall. This cannot be used for parking, however it can be used as a drop off or pick-up point, whether this be for a car, bus or other mode of transport.  It cannot be booked or reserved.

What time should I arrive?

You and your guests should all arrive at least 15 minutes before the ceremony start time. Due to the current COVID restrictions, couples must arrive together and be interviewed together before the ceremony.

Can I arrive late for my ceremony?

Unfortunately not, as the ceremony needs to start on time so that later ceremonies are not inconvenienced. All ceremonies are subject to our lateness policy below.

Our lateness policy

We understand that arrangements can sometimes go awry, but it is important that your ceremony commences at the agreed time. In order for this to happen, you and your guests are expected to be assembled a minimum of fifteen minutes before the ceremony start time.

The Registrar in attendance will need to conduct a legal interview with both of you, in private, prior to the ceremony, and will need to check that your witnesses and any others involved in the ceremony fully understand what is required of them.

The Registrar will have other ceremonies to attend after your own, and these may be in different locations within the Royal Borough. If you are running late you must make contact with us (if your ceremony is being held at Chelsea Old Town Hall) or with the Approved Venue you have chosen as soon as possible to let us know your whereabouts and how late you may be.

In order to treat all our customers fairly we will not disrupt the timing of a later service because of delays to an earlier one.

Please note that we cannot guarantee that your ceremony will proceed if you and/or your guests are late. We will wait for fifteen minutes after the agreed start time and after this we reserve the right to leave the premises. Given that you are expected to arrive fifteen minutes prior to your ceremony this means that the maximum we will wait is fifteen minutes after the agreed start time.

Please ensure that all those attending your ceremony are aware of our policy as, if any of your guests are running late, the ceremony may have to commence without them.

Where do we go when we arrive?

Please arrive via the Chelsea Manor Street entrance when you arrive and report to our reception desk and security staff. 

How long does the ceremony last?

As a rough guide, your ceremony usually is completed 25 minutes after the start time. This allows time for your exit, and for the registrars to clean the room for the next ceremony.

What time will the ceremony finish?

The ceremony usually finishes around 25 minutes after it started, although sometimes this can be a little shorter and sometimes it can be a little longer.

Why do we have to be interviewed before the ceremony?

The registrar is legally required to interview you both before the ceremony. They are checking that all your details are correct before they are entered into the register, and that you are still free and willing to go ahead with the marriage or civil partnership. They will also run through the personalised choices that you’ve made for your ceremony so that everything is clear before it starts. You’ll find that this personal time with your registrar before the ceremony will be a welcome period of calm on your wedding day.

Who can be witnesses?

Anyone can be witnesses, as long as they understand what they’re witnessing. We therefore recommend that they speak English and are of an age to understand the meaning and purport of a marriage and civil partnership ceremony, however this is not set in law. They do not need to bring ID with them.

Regrettably, registrars cannot provide witnesses or be witnesses themselves – you must provide your witnesses yourselves.

How many witnesses can I have?

You can have a maximum of two witnesses, therefore one each.

Can you notarise or legalise my certificate(s)?

All certificates issued to you are genuine, original certificates, stating “certified copy of an entry” at the top. This means that they are an official and original copy of the entry in the marriage or civil partnership register, which will always be held with us.

Should you require your certificates to be notarised or legalised – such as for foreign governments’ administrative processes – you can do with this with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Legalisation department. Full information on the process can be found on the Get your document legalised page on the GOV.UK website.

Please note that UK marriage and civil partnership certificates meet the EU’s required format.

Why is my maiden name on my marriage certificate now that I’m married?

There is no legal requirement in the UK to change your surname after marriage; it is merely a tradition. The marriage certificate will indicate the surname that you entered your contract of marriage in; it does not indicate the surname that you intend to use after marriage as this is an entirely personal choice which differs from couple to couple. Therefore, we are unable to amend the name on your marriage certificate as by law it must be the name that you were using when you contracted your marriage.

If you are changing your name after marriage or civil partnership, we recommend that you first update your passport into your new name (you’ll need to present the marriage or civil partnership certificate to the relevant passport authority for this), then use the new passport and the marriage or civil partnership certificate to update everything else such as: bank accounts; employer records; HMRC; council tax and other utility bills.

There’s something wrong on my marriage or civil partnership certificate. How can I correct it?

In your pre-ceremony interview, the registrar will ask you to check that all your details are correct on the schedule, and at the end of the ceremony, they will ask you to check that all the details are correct on the schedule before you sign. 

It’s important to check that the details are correct before you sign. If anything is incorrect, it can be easily changed before you’ve signed. If you spot something that’s wrong after you’ve signed, there is a legal procedure to apply for a correction via the General Register Office. There is a statutory fee of £90 for applications for corrections to marriage or civil partnership registrations, which doesn’t include the cost of new certificates.

Full information on this process can be found on the Correct a marriage registration page on the GOV.UK website. We are able to assist you with this process – please contact us at registrars@rbkc.gov.uk.

What music formats can be used?

Our music systems will support any iPhone, iPad, iPad, Android smartphone, tablet or digital device that has a lightning port, micro USB port or audio jack, or is Bluetooth capable.

We recommend that you unlock any passcodes on your device and set it to silent. It’s useful if you are able to put your music choices into an ordered playlist.

We regret that Chelsea Old Town Hall doesn’t have public WiFi available yet, therefore if you are using a live streaming service, this would rely on your 4G connection which is usually good in the ceremony rooms but is of course subject to variations in quality of service dependent on the network.

What is the ceremony wording like?

Each of our registrars gives a slightly different but equally professional and heartfelt ceremony. There is an example ceremony in our Ceremony Information Pack which you’ll receive via email link once you make a booking with us and have both given notice of intention to marry. They all follow a similar format which includes:

  • Welcoming and introduction;
  • Reading the ceremony proper;
  • Asking you both to repeat the declaratory and contracting vows;
  • Guiding you through the exchange of rings (optional);
  • Declaring you as legally married / civil partnered at the end of the ceremony;
  • Inviting you and your two witnesses to sign the register;
  • Presenting you with your certificate at the end of the ceremony and guiding you out of the room

Can we make our own vows?

Yes, you have a choice of three types of legal vows that would unite you in marriage. You can make this selection on your ceremony choices form. You can say additional vows if you wish, however remember that these must be non-religious in content, and you would either need to memorise them or bring them written so that you don’t forget them on the day.

Do we have to exchange rings?

No, there is no legal requirement for you to exchange rings at a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, even though most people do.

Can I meet my registrar before the ceremony?

The register office delivers many services alongside ceremonies, and our team has to flex to meet customer demand. As such, it’s not possible to promise that a particular registrar will conduct your ceremony as our team duties won’t be fully allocated until each morning, and therefore a pre-meeting with them is also not possible. However, by putting your ceremony choices on the Programme of Events form, the registrar allocated to conduct your ceremony on the day will have a very clear picture of the ceremony that you want and will be able to deliver this. If you want to speak to or meet any registrar before your ceremony to ask further questions, please don’t hesitate to call into the Register Office in person, telephone us on 020 7361 4100 or email us at registrars@rbkc.gov.uk.

We also regret that you aren’t able to choose a particular registrar, however please be assured that all of our registrars are fully trained and display the utmost professionalism and customer care in how they deliver their ceremonies.

We’re having our main ceremony elsewhere. What do we need to know?

You may be having a non-legal wedding blessing, or religious ceremony, as well your legal marriage ceremony with us and are therefore hoping for something quite small and simple. This is certainly something we accommodate however it’s still useful if you could return the completed Programme of Events form so that we are aware you are looking for something very simple and low key.

Please be aware that any non-legal blessing ceremonies or religious / (non-)belief ceremonies must take place after your legal marriage ceremony with us.

I’m having a ceremony that isn’t a marriage ceremony. What do I need to know?

We also do civil partnership ceremonies, civil partnership to marriage conversion ceremonies, renewal of vows ceremonies, commitment ceremonies and baby naming ceremonies.

Civil Partnership ceremonies are exactly the same as marriage ceremonies and will require you to have given notice, at the latest 29 (or 71) days before the ceremony.

Civil Partnership to Marriage Conversion ceremonies require you to give a declaration before the ceremony, ideally in advance of your ceremony date, and a registrar would advise you of this when you book. You can request an example ceremony script by e-mailing us at registrars@rbkc.gov.uk.

Renewal of vows ceremonies, commitment ceremonies and baby naming ceremonies are non-legal ceremonies and so no preliminaries are required.  You are able to request example ceremony scripts by emailing us at registrars@rbkc.gov.uk.

If you are having a renewal of vows ceremony, please call into the register office in advance of your ceremony date so that we can see your original marriage / civil partnership certificate (with translation into English if required) and your passports.

Can I pay for the ceremony on the day?

You should pay for your ceremony in advance of the ceremony date online or by calling us on 020 7361 4100.

Is there standing room in the ceremony rooms?

We regret that there is no standing room available in any of the ceremony rooms.

What can we take into the ceremony room?

You can take any items of clothing / accessories into the ceremony room as unfortunately there is no cloakroom at Chelsea Old Town Hall. Do remember to take these with you at the end of the ceremony.

We regret that suitcases, large bags, prams or pushchairs cannot fit into the ceremony rooms but can be left in the ceremony waiting area.

Can we decorate the ceremony room?

The décor of the rooms is such that they don’t need to be redecorated for your ceremony. Flowers are provided. We regret that it is not possible to change the layout of the ceremony rooms or to add / remove chairs.

Can we have food and / or drink in the ceremony or at the end of the ceremony?

We regret that food and drink is not allowed in the ceremony rooms at Chelsea Old Town Hall or Kensington Town Hall.

Is there step-free access to the ceremony rooms?

Yes there is. At Kensington Town Hall, there are lifts in the civic reception area. At Chelsea Old Town Hall, there is a lift at the library entrance to the building. A security porter at the library’s entrance would be able to assist any wheelchair users through the building to the Registrars' department. If you or any of your guests require wheelchair access, please let us know in advance either at the time of booking, on your Programme of Events form or by emailing us at registrars@rbkc.gov.uk and we can ensure that a porter will be on hand for your arrival.

Are animals allowed in the ceremony?

We regret that pets and other animals are not allowed in the ceremony rooms. Assistance animals are an exception to this rule.

There is a dog pampering parlour a few doors down from Chelsea Old Town Hall which is popular for those who wish to bring their dog to their reception with them immediately after the ceremony.

What are the rules with confetti?

Confetti can be thrown outside, including on the main steps. Confetti must be biodegradable. You can bring your own or buy some from our reception desk for £2.50 per packet.

What terms and conditions do I need to be aware of?