National Records of Scotland

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What Was and Is The Minimum Age For Marriage in Scotland?

What Was and Is The Minimum Age For Marriage in Scotland?

The minimum age for parties to marry in Scotland is sixteen. In other countries, you may have to be older to marry. This includes England and Wales, where you must be 18 to marry. 

If you are not domiciled in Scotland, the law in the country where you are domiciled can still affect whether you can validly marry here. This includes where your age or that of your partner means that your marriage would be treated as void ab initio (ineffective from the outset) in your country of domicile. This would constitute a “legal impediment” to your marriage. 

‘Domicile’ is a complex legal concept. In general terms, your domicile is the country that you treat as your permanent home and with which you have a substantial connection. 

Before completing your Marriage Schedule (which allows your marriage to go ahead and which is signed at the conclusion of a marriage ceremony), the registrar must be satisfied that under section 6(1) of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977, there would be no legal impediment to your marriage in Scotland. The registrar may seek additional information and evidence from you after they have examined your notices of intention to marry, if they have a concern that because of age, you might not be able to enter a valid marriage here.  

If you provide incorrect information to the registrar either in your notice of intention to marry or before the Marriage Schedule is completed, then should the marriage ceremony proceed it may not be recognised in your country of domicile, and the validity of the marriage may later be challenged on the basis that there was a legal impediment in Scotland because of age. 

If you do not intend to live permanently in Scotland after your marriage, you should always consider whether your marriage would be recognised in your country of residence. You may need advice about the law in that country.  

Before 1929, Scots law followed Roman law in allowing a girl to marry at twelve years of age and a boy at fourteen, without any requirement for parental consent. However, according to one early 20th-century source*, marriage in Scotland at such young ages was in practice almost unknown. No doubt if marriages between children had become common, there would have been public pressure to raise the legal minimum age of marriage earlier than 1929. The Age of Marriage Act 1929 (applying in Scotland, England & Wales but not in Northern Ireland) made void any marriage between persons either of whom was under the age of sixteen.

*Source: Vital registration: a manual of the law and practice concerning the registration of births, deaths and marriages. (G T Bisset-Smith. 1st edition. Edinburgh: William Green & Sons, 1902)