How to get married in the UK (as a non-UK citizen

What steps you need to follow in order to get married in the UK

Congratulations! You’ve decided to have an international wedding in the UK… perhaps you’re both non-UK citizens or just one of you. Maybe you’re from the Philippines, the USA, Scandinavia, Australia, Japan, China, South Africa, or elsewhere in the world, and you have family in the UK and you’d love your wedding to be an occasion that brought everyone together in a special place. Or perhaps you’ve always dreamed of a fairytale castle or stately home wedding in the UK.

You might be using a wedding planner to organise everything, or you might be booking the venue directly. This blog post covers what to expect, if you’re a non-UK citizen, when applying for your marriage visitor visa, and the paperwork side of things regarding booking your wedding in the UK.

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What county is your venue in?

You can either choose your venue and then check what county it’s in, or check the County Council’s website in your chosen area for licensed venues.

England and Wales are very strict on where you can legally get married. If you want to get married somewhere which isn’t licensed, you’ll need to have a Registry Office wedding to be legal, and then you can have a blessing in an unlicensed venue.

If you plan to get married in Scotland or Northern Ireland, scroll down to the bottom of this post to find out how they are different.

The visa process for non-UK citizens getting married in England and Wales

First of all

Find the venue and reserve the date

If you know the country and county you want to get married in, each county council has a list of licensed venues, where your wedding will be legally recognised. As well as reserving the venue you’ll need to book the wedding date with the Registrar. Often this will need to be done by phone or email.

Normally you’ll then book your photographer, videographer, florist, hair and make-up, etc, along with your flights and any accommodation you’ll need.

If you change your mind over which venue you want to get married at, bear in mind that you’ll need to start the process of giving notice again from the beginning if you’ve already started or done this.


Book your appointment at the Register Office

Again, depending on how ‘modernised’ their systems are, you may need to book this on the phone or via email. You both need to attend, and you can book a double or separate appointments. You don’t have to have your Marriage Visitor visa when you book but ideally you should have this before your notice appointment.


Apply for your marriage visitor visa

The earliest you can apply for your marriage visitor visa is 3 months before you travel to the UK, and you’ll need to get married within 6 months of the visa being issued. I strongly recommend applying as early as possible.

As part of the process you’ll need to attend an appointment at a visa application centre to prove your identity, provide your fingerprints and other information for your biometric data, which you’ll then need to return to collect and attach this with your application.

You should receive a decision on your marriage visitor visa between 3 and 12 weeks of applying.


Be resident in the UK

You’ll need to provide written proof of your being resident in the UK at least 8 days before your appointment at the local Registry Office. Personally I would allow a couple of extra days to be on the safe side.


Give notice of your wedding

You’ll need to attend the Register Office in person; this is called ‘giving notice’. You also need to give notice in the county you’re staying in. So if you’re staying in Dorset, you’ll need to give notice in Dorset. You don’t have to give notice in the same place you’re getting married in

If you’ll be attending during your period covered by your marriage visitor visa the latest you can do this is 29 days before your wedding. Which is fine if you have your Marriage Visitor visa through, and you’ll be able to prove you’re allowed to get married in the UK.

If your Marriage Visitor visa hasn’t yet been issued, the Register Office will need to refer your notice to the Home Office, who may extend the notice to up to 71 days. So you can see why it’s important to apply for your visa as early as possible. If your notice has to be referred, you’ll usually also have to pay more for your notice appointment.

Registrars can only accept certain documents so having your Marriage Visitor visa when you attend is going to make life a lot easier for you.

Let’s see how this works in practice…

A real-life example

So let’s imagine you live in the Philippines and you’re planning to get married in England on 23rd June 2023. You can work backwards from this date to work out the key dates for applying for your Marriage Visitor visa and for giving notice. These are just sample dates to give an idea of what you visa schedule will look like…

Click on one of the dates below for more details about what was done at that point of the wedding timeline.

Wedding date booked in with the Register Office

Check the county council’s website for the earliest and latest dates for booking in your marriage date.

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Earliest date to apply for your Marriage Visitor Visa

You can apply 3 months before your travel date to the UK. It can take between 3 and 12 weeks to get the decision.

Travel to England

Once you’ve booked your flight you’ll be able to work out the earliest date you can apply for your marriage visitor visa.

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Latest date to give notice

The latest you can give notice is 28 full days before your wedding.

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Your wedding day


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Be prepared and check, check, check…

How to mitigate any problems with the marriage process for non-UK citizens


Start the application as soon as you can

As you’ve probably found out by now, it can take between 3 and 12 weeks to get a decision on your Marriage Visitor visa. So I recommend applying as soon as you can, 3 months before you plan to travel, especially if the gov.uk site is reporting delays.

Also book your appointment to give notice as soon as you can, as the last thing you want is to find out you can’t get an appointment at least 28 days before your wedding.

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Prepare in advance

I don’t know if you’ve downloaded the Marriage Visitor visa but like most of our government forms, it asks for a ton of information about you, which you might need some time to gather up the answers to—things like knowing which countries you’ve been to and when in the past 10 years.

So it’s worth preparing well in advance, so there’s no last minute panic. Contracts of employment, evidence of you being together as a genuine couple, payslips and bank statements: keep all this information ready in a folder ready to roll for when the date comes and you can send off your application.

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Keep calm…

It can take a few weeks for the decision on your Marriage Visitor visa. The government aims to give decisions within 3 weeks, but there are often delays.

As long as you’ve filled in the form correctly, and supplied all the documents correctly, all you can do is wait. If you are a genuine couple who want to get married in the UK, and can offer enough evidence that you’re not planning to stay permanently, and you’ve filled in all the paperwork truthfully and accurately, then you should be fine!

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What do I do if my visa is delayed or I have questions?

The process can be confusing and sometimes difficult to navigate. I’ve been told that it’s often much easier to get married in other countries like the USA or New Zealand, where you can get married on a tourist visa! But hang in there if you want to get married in the UK.

If you do have concerns or questions either before or during the process, definitely get in touch with your Registrar where you’re giving notice. They often consult with each other to check what to do, so they’re likely to have experience of how to deal with your specific problem.

What about if I want to get married in Scotland or Northern Ireland?

Regardless of whether you get married in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, if you’re a non-UK citizen, you will need to apply for a Marriage Visitor visa to get married legally in the UK. There are exceptions, but you’ll need to check the GOV.UK website to find out if these apply to you.

Scroll down to the end of this post for links to the government websites for the most up-to-date information on getting married in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, the rules about where you can get married are much more relaxed. As long as the celebrant agrees, you can pretty much get married anywhere. If you’ve set your heart on getting married against a turquoise blue sea backdrop on a beach, you can!

You can also get married on the beach in Northern Ireland, as long as you get permission from the council to do so.

In addition, in Ireland you can send in your Marriage Notice by post instead of attending in person.

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Looking for a photographer or videographer for your

international wedding in the UK?

You’ve booked your once in a lifetime dream wedding in the UK, I’d love to be part of it too as your photographer or videographer. As someone who’s lived overseas and speaks Spanish as well as English, I absolutely love working with international couples from different cultures who may also speak other languages.

Regardless of whether you’re using me through your wedding planner or directly, I’m not just another supplier you book in. I get to know what you’re like and what kind of wedding experience you want. I’d love to be part of your fairytale wedding.

And if you’re coming to the UK in advance of getting married, I’ll do everything I can to meet you in advance. I also give special offers of a teaser of your wedding venue if you’d like these for your wedding website.

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