National Records of Scotland

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Getting Married or Civilly Partnered in Scotland

Getting Married or Civilly Partnered in Scotland

Marriage and Civil Partnership update – January 7, 2021

On January 4, the First Minister announced a tightening of Covid restrictions within mainland Scotland, all of which will continue within tier 4 of the Scottish Government strategic framework.  (Island authorities continue at their current Level 3 status.) The new restrictions will be in place for the whole of January and be reviewed after an initial two week period.

Attendance at marriage and civil partnership ceremonies

Please see Scottish Government guidance on marriages and civil partnerships during this current phase of restrictions.

Additional restrictions on numbers at marriage and civil partnership ceremonies taking place in a Level 4 area come into force on Friday January 8.  From that date:

  • No more than 5 people to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony (or 6 where an interpreter is necessary)
  • This figure represents the minimum number of participants for a legal ceremony in Scotland (the couple; two witnesses; the registrar or celebrant; and any interpreter)
  • No receptions are to take place anywhere in Level 4
  • Venues must also continue to be able to safely accommodate those attending, with appropriate physical distancing and other safety measures remaining in place.

Scottish travel restrictions

Guidance on travel is provided on the Scottish Government website.

Persons who live within Level 4 areas must not leave the local authority area where they are living.  However, attendance at a marriage or civil partnership ceremony is to be a reasonable exception to this where the person is one of the parties to the marriage or civil partnership, a witness, a registrar or celebrant, or a necessary interpreter. 

Persons in the above categories living in areas which are not in Level 4 will also have a reasonable excuse to enter a Level 4 area to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony. Any such marriage or civil partnership which does occur in a Level 4 area, however, will be required to occur in accordance with the requirements of the Level 4 regulations. 

Otherwise people must not travel out of their local authority area to attend a marriage ceremony or wedding reception elsewhere in Scotland.

As no receptions can take place within Level 4 areas, travel to, within or between Level 4 areas for the purpose of attending a marriage or CP reception remains disallowed.

Travel from the rest of the UK, the ROI and Jersey

Under amended Health Protection regulations, travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Jersey to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony will no longer be considered a reasonable excuse other than in terms of the minimum legal number of attendees, as noted above. Therefore, travel from the rest of the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Jersey into Scotland for the purpose of attending a marriage or civil partnership ceremony is no longer allowed other than for the couple, the witnesses or celebrant, as well as any necessary interpreter. (The same applies for travel from within Scotland to other parts of the common travel area.)

International travel

If it is your intention to travel to Scotland from abroad to attend a marriage or civil partnership ceremony, please read the guidance about international travel on the Scottish Government website. 

Scottish Government keep the restrictions and guidance under regular review.

Guidance issued by the Registrar General for Scotland on Phase 3 of the Routemap through and out of COVID-19

1.  In Scotland, all paperwork for marriages and civil partnerships is dealt with by local authority registrars. This is the case whether you intend to have:

  • a civil ceremony (for marriage)
  • civil registration (for civil partnership)
  • a religious or belief ceremony or registration.

National Records of Scotland (NRS) has published a contact list of local authority registrars (90 KB PDF).

2.   This guidance concerns the implications of changes at Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s Routemap in relation to marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations.

3.  The Scottish Government has published guidance for couples considering marriage/civil partnership, and for religious and belief celebrants, which can be found on the Scottish Government's website. The Scottish Government’s website has up to date information and support on coronavirus (COVID-19) more widely.

4.  There is published guidance for anyone who has developed coronavirus symptoms, however mild, about getting tested and the need for self-isolation. All of us must continue to minimise the opportunity for coronavirus (COVID-19) to spread from one person to another.

Submitting notice of intention to marry or enter a civil partnership

5.  The first step is to submit a notice of intention to marry or enter a civil partnership, to the registration office for the district where your marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration will take place. Notices can be submitted in person or by post. We would encourage people to submit notices by post to reduce the amount of face to face contact time spent in the registration office.

6.  NRS has published information on the requirements when submitting notices of marriage and notices of civil partnership. The requirements have not changed as a consequence of the pandemic.

The nature of marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations that are available during Phase 3

7.  The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) Regulations 2020, which are being kept under close review, are in place to tackle COVID-19. The Regulations, amongst other things, implement physical distancing and impose restrictions on public gatherings, events and the operation of business activity.

8.  In Phase 3 of the Scottish Government’s Routemap through and out of the crisis, special guidance relating to marriage and civil partnership ceremonies has been introduced.

9. In particular, from January 8, 2021, this means:

  • The number of people who may attend a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration depends on restrictions in place in the local authority area where the venue sits Coronavirus (COVID-19): wedding ceremonies and civil partnership registrations - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
  • Marriage and civil partnership ceremonies should only take place indoors in private dwellings where it is not possible for them to take place in a public place, because, for example:
    • a party to the marriage or civil partnership is seriously ill
    • disability prevents such a party from attending a ceremony at a public venue.

The number in attendance at a private dwelling should be limited to the couple, two witnesses, the registrar or celebrant, and an interpreter (where necessary).

  • The wearing of a face covering is now mandatory in certain indoor premises, such as hotels and places of worship. There are exemptions to this requirement, including for individuals who are leading a ceremony or registration. In addition, from October 16, a couple being married or registering their civil partnership will not have to wear a face covering during their ceremony or registration. Scottish Government advice on the wearing of face coverings can be found on the Scottish Government website.
  • Ceremonies and registrations should be kept as short as possible and be limited, as far as reasonably possible, to the elements required in order for a valid marriage or civil partnership to be constituted.
  • People should avoid singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting. The celebrant’s declarations and the couple’s spoken responses during marriages or civil partnerships should also not be in a raised voice
  • Activities such as singing, chanting, shouting and/or playing of instruments that are blown into should be specifically avoided. This is because there is a possible additional risk of infection in environments where individuals are singing or chanting as a group, and this applies even if physical distancing is being observed or face coverings are being used.
  • Where required for the marriage or civil partnership, only one individual should be permitted to sing or chant, and the use of plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect guests, as this will further prevent transmission and the screen can be easily cleaned.
  • If musical instruments are being played, we advise that only those instruments that do not require to be blown into, are played. An organ can be played, but should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.

10.  If you are planning a civil ceremony conducted by a registrar, you should be aware that during Phase 3, not all local authorities will be able to accommodate a ceremony or registration taking place outdoors, or indoors with the maximum number of attendees spelled out above; please contact the registration office to discuss what arrangements the local authority will be able to make.

11.  If the registrar or the religious or belief celebrant considers that the arrangements at a venue are unsafe – whether because of COVID-19 risks or any other risks – they may refuse to carry out the marriage or civil partnership or may stop the service if circumstances change (for instance, if more attendees than the maximum number arrive during the ceremony).

Reception after a marriage or civil partnership

12.  From January 8, receptions to mark a wedding or civil partnership cannot take place in a Level 4 area. 

13.  In a Level 1-3 area, up to 20 people can attend a wedding or civil partnership reception taking place in hospitality premises, such as a hotel. This number includes the couple, guests (including children) and third-party suppliers (such as a photographer), but does not include venue staff or third-party catering staff. The venue must be able to safely accommodate those attending, with physical distancing in place.

14.  A wedding reception or other celebration at a private dwelling must comply with the rules applying in the appropriate protection level for meeting others indoors or outdoors. 

Dealing with your marriage or civil partnership notice

15.  In line with usual practice, the registrar will process your marriage or civil partnership notice. This includes checking that you are free to marry or enter into a civil partnership. Separately, where you are seeking a civil marriage or civil partnership conducted by the registrar, they will consider carefully whether they are able in the circumstances to provide the service at the venue you propose.

16.  The minimum notice period is 28 clear days. In practice, most couples submit notices well in advance of this, to give sufficient time for all of the arrangements to be in place.

17.  As a consequence of COVID-19, registration offices may be working with limited staff numbers. Registration offices, which vary significantly in lay-out across Scotland, may also have been reconfigured to introduce physical distancing. All of this means that it may take longer than normal for your marriage or civil partnership notice to be processed.

Marriages and civil partnerships where there is a pressing need

18.  Please contact a registrar local registration office (90 KB PDF) or the National Records of Scotland at marriage@nrscotland.gov.uk if you believe there is a pressing need for your wedding or civil partnership to proceed to a shorter timescale than the normal notice period. You will be asked to provide details of your circumstances. The Registrar General for Scotland will consider your request carefully and let you know whether your marriage or civil partnership schedule can be completed without the 28 clear days’ notice period having taken place.

Marriage or civil partnership notices submitted during the COVID-19 pandemic

19.  If you submitted notice of your intention to marry or register a civil partnership to the registrar and have decided, as a consequence of the restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19, that you do not wish to proceed with your marriage or civil partnership at the moment, please advise the registration office where you submitted notice local registration office (90 KB PDF) in writing. Your marriage or civil partnership notice will be cancelled and the marriage or civil partnership notice fee refunded. Please note the refund may take slightly longer than usual to arrange.

20.  If your notice has been lodged for more than three months and you have decided to postpone the date of the ceremony to a new date the registrar for the district where you submitted notice will, following any required consultation with the Registrar General, advise you whether you will need to submit new notices.

Visiting the registration office

21.  You may still need to visit a registration office to:

  • Hand in notices of intention to marry or enter a civil partnership. As indicated above, however, we would recommend that you submit notices by post at the moment, if at all possible, to minimise physical contact
  • Hand in supporting documents not previously submitted with a notice form (such as a passport or other identity document)
  • Deal with any inquiries arising out of your notices which cannot be dealt with by phone or in writing
  • Collect the marriage or civil partnership schedule, if you are having a religious or belief marriage or civil partnership. (If your marriage is to be solemnised, or your civil partnership registered, by a civil registrar, the registrar will keep the schedule.)

22.  In line with good practice within newly-opened registration offices, visits to the office will be kept as brief as possible, with physical distancing measures put in place by the local authority. Scottish Government guidance on face covering recommends the use of a face covering in an enclosed environment. This includes registration offices. Be prepared to show identification and be aware that you may be asked to remove your face covering.

23.  Not all registration offices may be open. You may wish to check the local authority website to see which offices the council is operating during Phase 3, and their hours of operation.

Issuing the marriage or civil partnership schedule

24.  Once the registrar has processed your marriage or civil partnership notice, the registrar will prepare a marriage or civil partnership schedule.

25.  If your marriage is to be solemnised, or your civil partnership registered, by a civil registrar, the registrar will retain the schedule for completion on the day of the marriage or civil partnership.

26.  If you are having a religious or belief marriage or civil partnership, one of the parties will need to visit the registration office to collect the schedule to be completed on the day. The registrar who issues the schedule will discuss with you the best arrangements for returning the signed schedule after the marriage or civil partnership. You may be asked to return the completed schedule to the registration office by post, in order to minimise physical contact.

NATIONAL RECORDS OF SCOTLAND

January 7, 2021

The Registration Privacy Notice (433 KB PDF) tells you what happens to personal information when a life event is registered.