National Records of Scotland

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Registering Civil Partnership in Scotland

Registering Civil Partnership in Scotland

Marriage and Civil Partnership update – April 23, 2021

On April 13, 2021, the First Minister announced the latest protection level information within the Scottish Government’s national framework in response to Covid-19.

Please see the latest guidance for marriages and civil partnerships.

Attendance at marriage and civil partnership ceremonies

From Monday April 26, marriages and civil partnerships may take place with the following restrictions:

Level 4 area

  • Up to 20 attendees, with appropriate physical distancing in place
  • No receptions allowed

Level 3 area

  • Up to 50 attendees, with appropriate physical distancing in place
  • Receptions allowed, with a maximum attendance of 50
  • Alcohol permitted at receptions

Level 2 area

  • Up to 50 attendees, with appropriate physical distancing in place
  • Receptions allowed, with a maximum attendance of 50
  • Alcohol permitted at receptions

Level 1 area

  • Up to 100 attendees, with appropriate physical distancing in place
  • Receptions allowed, with a maximum attendance of 100
  • Alcohol permitted at receptions

Level 0 area

  • Up to 200 attendees, with appropriate physical distancing in place
  • Receptions allowed, with a maximum attendance of 200
  • Alcohol permitted at receptions

In all cases, numbers depend on the venue having sufficient capacity to accommodate people safely, with appropriate physical distancing in place.

Travel to attend a marriage or civil partnership registration

Please see the latest Scottish Government guidance on travel.

Mixed-sex Civil Partnerships

The Scottish Parliament recently passed legislation which will make civil partnership available to mixed-sex couples.

It will be possible to submit a notice of intention to enter a mixed sex civil partnership to the local registrar from June 1, 2021. 

A couple who want to enter a mixed-sex civil partnership must submit their notices at least 29 days before the date they want to register their civil partnership. This is the same as for marriage. This means that the first mixed sex civil partnerships in Scotland could take place on June 30, 2021.

You can read more about mixed-sex civil partnership on the Scottish Government website.

Guidance issued by the Registrar General for Scotland on marriages and civil partnerships during the COVID-19 pandemic

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.

2. 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.

3. 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

4. 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.

5. 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

6. 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.

7. From April 26, 2021, in particular, 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.
  • 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, a couple being married or registering their civil partnership will not have to wear a face covering during their ceremony or registration. Please see the latest Scottish Government advice on the wearing of face coverings.
  • 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.
  • Scottish Government guidance on signing, chanting and music at ceremonies.

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

9. 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

10. Please see the latest guidance for receptions after a marriage or civil partnership.

Dealing with your marriage or civil partnership notice

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. 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

14. Please contact a registrar local registration office or the National Records of Scotland at [email protected] 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

15. 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 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.

16. 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

17. 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 from 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.)

18. In line with good practice within registration offices, visits to the office will be kept as brief as possible, with physical distancing measures put in place by the local authority. The wearing of a face covering remains mandatory according to Scottish Government guidance and this includes registration offices. Be prepared to show identification and be aware that you may be asked to remove your face covering.

19. Not all registration offices may be open. You may wish to contact the local authority where your marriage or civil partnership is to take place to discuss their hours of opening.

Issuing the marriage or civil partnership schedule

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

21. 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.

22. 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
April 23, 2021

The Registration Privacy Notice tells you what happens to personal information when a life event is registered.