Before the ceremony
On the day of the ceremony, we ask that you and your guests arrive 15 minutes before the start of the ceremony so we can ensure, wherever possible, that it will start on time.
You and your guests should enter via the side entrance of the Registrars department at Chelsea Old Town Hall, on Chelsea Manor Street. Your guests can go straight upstairs into the ceremony waiting area, whilst you should report to the reception desk to let a registrar know that you have arrived.
If you and your partner don’t wish to be seen by each other before the start of the ceremony, then we advise that you stagger your arrival times slightly.
In this case, one of you should arrive 20 minutes before, report to the reception desk, and then wait upstairs in the ceremony waiting area with the guests arriving at the same time. The second party should arrive around 10 minutes before the ceremony start time, report to the reception desk, and then wait downstairs in the appointment waiting area to avoid being seen by your partner.
Your registrars will need to do a short and easy interview with you before the start of your ceremony. You do not need to bring any documents with you to this interview – except in the rare circumstance that you’ve officially changed your name after giving notice but before getting married. You can do this interview together or separately. This ceremony will be done in private and shouldn’t last more than 5 minutes per person.
This pre-ceremony interview is a legal requirement. The registrar is ensuring that all your details are correct before they go into the marriage or civil partnership register
and that you are still happy to proceed with the ceremony. The registrar will also run through the choices you’ve made for the ceremony – such as vows, music, readings, rings, and any other special requests – to be sure that they can deliver the ceremony that you want.
Getting ready for your entrance
Whilst you’re having your interview, another registrar will invite your guests to enter the ceremony room, and set any pre-ceremony music to play. If you have selected a guest to control your music – which we recommend – the registrar will speak to them.
Once you’ve finished your interviews and your guests are all seated in the ceremony room, your registrars will get you ready for your entrance.
If you’re walking into the ceremony room together (usually the case if you’re being interviewed together), the registrar will get you ready in the correct order outside the ceremony room with anyone else you may wish to walk in with (such as father/mother, other family member/s and bridesmaids for example – all of which are optional). One registrar will enter the room, welcome the guests, start your entrance music (which is optional) and ask your guests to stand to welcome your entrance, at which point the other registrar will open the door for you to walk down the aisle.
If only one of you is walking into the room (usually the case if you’re being interviewed separately), the same process as described above will take place, but just for one of you, as your partner will already have entered the ceremony room with your guests and will be waiting for you at the front of the ceremony room.
As you walk down the aisle, make your way to the front desk. When you arrive there, your ceremony is ready to start.
During the ceremony
Two registrars will be with you throughout your ceremony: one to conduct the ceremony; and the other to enter the details into the register, assist you and your two witnesses with the signing, and to issue you with your marriage or civil partnership certificate at the end of the ceremony.
The registrar conducting the ceremony will welcome your guests again, quickly introduce themselves again, and start with the ceremony.
Each of our registrars gives a slightly different but equally professional and heartfelt ceremony, almost identical to the example ceremony provided in the Frequently Asked Questions section. 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);
- Inviting any reader(s) to step forward to read out their reading;
- Declaring you as legally married / civil partnered at the end of the ceremony;
- Inviting you and your two witnesses to sign the register;
- Inviting your photographer to take photographs;
- Presenting you with your certificate at the end of the ceremony and guiding you out of the room.
You do not need to memorise any words for your ceremony – the registrar will ask you to repeat the legally required vows after them. Your registrar will say the words clearly, in short parts, so that they’re easy to understand and repeat. Your registrar will guide you through every part of the ceremony.
Music is optional and can be played at any (or all) of the following parts of the ceremony:
- Whilst your guests are entering the room and are waiting for the ceremony to start;
- As you walk down the aisle after the registrar has welcomed the guests;
- During the signing of the register;
- As you leave the room at the end of the ceremony.
Once you and your partner have exchanged vows, exchanged rings, the readings have been read, the register has been signed, and photographs taken, the registrar will congratulate you and present you with your marriage or civil partnership certificate.
After the ceremony
After you have been presented with your marriage certificate and the ceremony itself has ended, you will exit the room and your guests will line the famous stone steps at the front of Chelsea Old Town Hall, whilst you wait at the top. Your registrars will assist you with this. Once everyone is ready, you will walk down the steps as your guests throw confetti on you (which is optional).
After you’ve got married or had your civil partnership
- Await any additional certificates that you’ve ordered to arrive to you in the post;
- If you are changing your name, update your passport using your marriage certificate, and then use your passport in your new name with all other official bodies e.g. driving licence, employer, banks, financial, mortgage, legal, insurance, etc.