National Records of Scotland

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Getting Married or Civilly Partnered in Scotland

Getting Married or Civilly Partnered in Scotland

Guidance issued by the Registrar General for Scotland on Phase 2 of the Route map through and out of the COVID-19 crisis

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 (528 KB PDF).

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

3.    The Scottish Government has now published indicative dates for amendments to current restrictions planned for the remainder of Phase 2 and early in Phase 3, to assist businesses, individuals and organisations to prepare. 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 your local registration office.  Notices can be submitted in person or by post.  As Phase 2 will allow high-priority activities in registration offices to resume, 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 2

7.   All marriages and civil partnerships taking place at the moment must comply with the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (SSI 2020/103, as amended).  These Regulations, which are 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 2 of the Scottish Government’s Routemap through and out of the crisis, the Regulations have been amended to relax some, but not all, of the restrictions.  As a consequence, more marriages and civil partnerships will be able to take place than was the case in Phase 1.  In Phase 1, small numbers of emergency marriages and civil partnerships occurred, but only under limited circumstances.

9.    In particular:

  • With effect from 29 June 2020, in phase 2, the changes permit further public gatherings outdoors and so additional marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations can take place out of doors. The Scottish Government will review further at phase 3.
  • The persons participating in such a public gathering outdoors must not constitute more than three households. The Scottish Government is advising that there should be no more than 8 in the group of three households.
  • The limits of 3 households and 8 people do not include the celebrant or registrar carrying out the service and any interpreter required. An authorised registrar or approved celebrant may consider it necessary or desirable to use the services of an interpreter, for example where one or both of the couple has a hearing, or hearing and speech, impairment, or cannot speak or understand English.
  • Physical distancing should still be observed.  This means that people should stay at least 2 metres apart (unless they are members of the same household).  The Scottish Government has published guidance on physical distancing in Phase 2.
  • The Scottish Government has also published guidance on Phase 2 changes, including travel. 

10.    If you are planning a civil ceremony conducted by a registrar, you should be aware that during Phase 2, not all local authorities will be able to accommodate a ceremony or registration that takes place outdoors.  Please contact the registration office to discuss what, if any, arrangements the local authority will be able to make in this regard. 

11.    If the registrar or the religious or belief celebrant consider that the arrangements at an outside 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 members of more households than the maximum number of three arrive during the ceremony).

12.    The Scottish Government and NRS intend that it should be possible for more marriages and civil partnerships to take place as we go through the Routemap out of the crisis.

Dealing with your marriage or civil partnership notice

13.    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.

14.    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.

15.    As a consequence of Covid-19, registration offices have been closed to the general public since late March.  Over this period, registrars have also been focused primarily on carrying out the remote registration of significant additional numbers of deaths.  As birth registrations were also postponed to allow registrars to concentrate on death registration, many registration offices have a back-log of birth registrations to carry out.  Registration offices, which vary enormously in lay-out across Scotland, are also being reconfigured to introduce physical distancing.

16.    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

17.    The Scottish Government and NRS recognise that, in limited circumstances, there may continue to be a pressing need for couples to enter into a marriage or civil partnership.  Examples of pressing need include where one of the parties:

  • is seriously ill
  • is imminently to be posted overseas in the armed forces
  • is resident in Scotland, and has a marriage or civil partnership visa issued by the UK Government which is about to expire.

18.    Please contact your local registration office (528 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.  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 normally required.”

Where marriage or civil partnership notices have already been submitted

19.    As explained above, registrars have been unable to process all of the marriage and civil partnership notices submitted before mid-March or in the period since then.  However, where you have already submitted your marriage or civil partnership notice, registrars will now be starting to process these.  More information on the issue of marriage and civil partnership schedules is outlined below.  A marriage or civil partnership cannot take place without a schedule.

20.    If you 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 your local registration office (528 KB PDF) in writing (contact e-mails are available on the list linked to above).  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, given other pressures on registration at the moment.

21.    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 your local registrar will, following any required consultation with the Registrar General, advise you whether you will need to submit new notices. 

Visiting the registration office

22.    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 any 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).

23.    Visits to the registration office will be kept as brief as possible, with physical distancing measures put in place by the local authority.  Scottish Government guidance on face coverings 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. 
 
24.    Not all registration offices may be open.  Please check your local authority website to see which offices the council is planning to open during Phase 2, and their hours of operation.

Issuing the marriage or civil partnership schedule

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

26.    If your marriage is to be solemnised, or your civil partnership registered, by a civil registrar, the registrar will keep the schedule to complete on the day.

27.    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.  After the marriage or civil partnership has taken place, please return the completed schedule to the registration office by post, in order to minimise physical contact.
 

NATIONAL RECORDS OF SCOTLAND
JUNE 2020