National Records of Scotland

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Registering Civil Partnership in Scotland

Registering Civil Partnership in Scotland

Marriage and Civil Partnership update – October 6, 2020

Following the First Minister’s recent announcement of additional COVID-19 restrictions focused on reducing the risk of virus transmission within private dwellings, some additional restrictions have been put in place on the operation of marriage and civil partnership in Scotland.

While both indoor and outdoor marriages and civil partnerships can continue in public spaces, such as registration offices and wedding venues, with the existing maximum number of attendees remaining at 20 people (including children of any age but not the registrar or celebrant and any necessary interpreter), indoor marriages and civil partnerships in private dwellings are now restricted.

Marriage ceremonies and civil partnership registrations may take place outdoors at a private dwelling, with up to 20 people attending, subject to physical distancing.

Marriages and civil partnerships should only take place indoors at private dwellings where it is not possible for them to take place outdoors or 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 definition of a private dwelling includes self-contained self-catering and other private hire holiday accommodation. The use of private hire exclusive use premises (such as castles and historic houses) for ceremonies will depend on the arrangements in place.

If the venue is managed and regulated, with venue staff to ensure that the relevant guidance is followed, then the ceremony or registration will comply with the applicable regulations and guidance. The venue would not be classified as a private dwelling and indoor marriage ceremonies and civil partnerships could proceed there with 20 being the suggested maximum number of attendees .

Where a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration is to take place indoors in a venue which is classified as a private dwelling, the number of attendees should be kept to the absolute minimum. The minimum for a marriage or civil partnership is usually 5 (the couple; two witnesses and the registrar or celebrant) and 6 where an interpreter is required. Physical distancing between households should be strictly observed.

If you believe you may need to have a marriage or civil partnership indoors at a private dwelling, please contact your local registrar, who will work with NRS as a priority to provide more information to you.

Scottish Government keep the restrictions and guidance under regular review.

Mixed-sex Civil Partnerships

A mixed-sex civil partnership is one between two people of different sex. The Scottish Parliament recently passed a new law which will make civil partnership available to mixed-sex couples in the future.

We do not yet have a date for this, but will update this page when we know the available date. Until that point it won’t be possible to have a mixed-sex civil partnership in Scotland. You can read more about the future of mixed sex civil partnership on the Scottish Government website.

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 September 25, 2020, this means:

  • Indoor marriages or civil partnerships can take place in public spaces, such as a registration office or wedding venue, provided the cap on attendees of 20 people is maintained. This figure includes children, carers supporting an attendee, photographers, musicians or anyone else employed by the couple but does not include the registrar or celebrant, an interpreter, venue staff or third party catering staff. This maximum number puts marriage and civil partnership on a different footing from wider gatherings (where household and number restrictions remain).
  • 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).

  • Outdoor marriages or civil partnerships can take place in a public space or at a private dwelling, as long as the cap of 20 attendees and appropriate physical distancing is maintained.
  • 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 September 14, 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.

13.  While receptions are possible after a ceremony at a private dwelling, they must comply with strict regulations on social gatherings at home i.e. no more than six persons from no more than two households (children under 12 do not count towards these particular limits) may meet outdoors only.

Dealing with your marriage or civil partnership notice

14.  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.

15.  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.

16.  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

17.  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

18.  If you submitted notice of your intention to marry or register a civil partnership 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.

19.  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

20.  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.)

21.  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.

22.  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

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

24.  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.

25.  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

October 6, 2020

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

 

I want to Register a Civil Partnership in Scotland.  How do I go about it?

The Civil Partnership Act 2004, which applies throughout the UK, came into force on 5 December 2005. The following notes will guide you through the necessary legal formalities.

Please note that notice must be given not later than 29 days before the date of the intended registration of the Civil Partnership.

If you are subject to Immigration Control please read the attached information carefully.

There is some paperwork to be completed, and you will need to book a place, date and time.  You may find it useful to download the following documents about our requirements.

Pdf files require Acrobat Reader. Download Acrobat Reader free Get Acrobat Reader.

The RCP1 leaflet should answer most of your questions, but please bear in mind the following points:

  • Always telephone the selected local Registrar before filling in form CP10.
  • If you want to register a Civil Partnership, the Registrar will be able to help you choose a day and time, and tell you what fees you are likely to pay.
  • It will also enable you to confirm what form of payment the Registrar can accept.
  • Both parties intending to register the Civil Partnership should provide the Registrar with a postal address and a contact telephone number (and if possible, a fax number).
  • You must post (not email) the completed forms to arrive normally 10-12 weeks before the date of the intended registration of the Civil Partnership and certainly no later than 29 days before. You must include:
    1. the questionnaire if you are submitting divorce or dissolution documents from outside the United Kingdom;
    2. original or certified copies of documents provided by the issuing authority;
    3. the Declaration of Immigration Status form if you are subject to Immigration Control;
    4. the Witness Details form (if you have chosen your witnesses);
    5. the appropriate payment to the relevant local Registrar (not to the National Records of Scotland). The registrar will not be able to accept forms without payment.
  • If you intend to submit the completed forms in person please be aware the opening hours of registration offices vary between local authorities and some operate an appointments system. You should check with the relevant local authority before attending an office.
  • The names of the parties registering a civil partnership and the date of the civil partnership registration will be published on a List of Intended Civil Partnerships which will be on public display at the registration office.

If you want a religious or belief civil partnership the civil partnership schedule needs to be collected in person by one of the parties to the civil partnership from the registrar no more than 7 days prior to the date of the civil partnership during office hours. The civil partnership schedule must be returned to the registrar within 3 days of the civil partnership so the civil partnership can be registered. If you cannot take the civil partnership schedule back personally, you can ask someone else to take it for you or you can post it so that it is received by the registrar within that 3 day timescale.

I want to change my Civil Partnership into a Marriage . How do I go about it?

There is some paperwork to be completed, and you will need to book a place, date and time. You may find it useful to download the following documents.

Are you subject to immigration controls?

If you are a national of a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland such as, for example, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the United States etc., and you intend to visit Scotland to get married or to register a civil partnership, then you will need an entry clearance.  You should check the information which is available on the GOV.UK website.

If you are just visiting Scotland to change your civil partnership registered in Scotland to a marriage, you do not need entry clearance but will need to provide evidence to show that you are in an existing civil partnership when you enter the UK.

If you have any questions, contact the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigration Contact Centre (Tel no:  0300 123 2241).

Registrars have a statutory duty to report any marriage they suspect has been registered for the sole purpose of evading statutory immigration controls.

I want to register the Civil Partnership as a “surprise” for my partner.  Is this possible?

No.  By law both parties to the registration of the Civil Partnership are required to submit notice forms to the registrar of the district in which the registration of the Civil Partnership is to take place.  This means that both parties must be aware of this and independently complete and sign the declaration on form CP10  (94 KB PDF) to the effect that the information given is correct.  Failure to give proper notice can result in registration of the Civil Partnership being postponed or prevented from proceeding.

Will we be able to have a ceremony in Scotland and what form will it take?

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 does not set out a legally prescribed form of ceremony to be used at the time of the registration of Civil Partnerships in Scotland. The Registrar General sets out a suggested form of ceremony in guidance to local registrars. So, if you would like a ceremony to form part of the registration of your Civil Partnership, and it is to be registered by a registrar, then you should contact the registrar for the district in which you intend to register your Civil Partnership. She or he will be able to explain to you what arrangements may be made locally. She or he would also be happy to confirm in advance the form of words that might be used during the ceremony.

If your Civil Partnership is to be registered by a religious or belief celebrant, you should discuss arrangements for any ceremony with them.

I want to register a Civil Partnership abroad.  What documents will I need to provide?

You should contact the Consulate/Embassy for the relevant country for advice on what documentation will be required.

I am registering a Civil Partnership abroad and require my birth extract "authenticated". How do I go about this?

An "authentication" can be provided by National Records of Scotland for a fee.

However, as a result of COVID-19, staff currently have very limited access to our building so NRS is unable to accept applications for an authentication at this time. Please contact General Registration Unit if you require any further information.

Please note that an "authentication" is not acceptable to every foreign government and some ask for what is called an "apostille" to be written on the back of an extract. This procedure is governed by international convention and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is responsible for adding the "apostille".  If you require an "apostille" please contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Tel: 020 7008 1111).

Can we register our Civil Partnership in places other than a registration office?

Section 93 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 allows 2 people to be registered as civil partners of each other at a registration office or at any other place which they and the local registration authority (i.e. the local Council) agree is to be the place of registration.

However, Section 93 makes it clear that the place must not be in religious premises, that is to say premises which-

  • are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or
  • have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.

So, you should contact the registrar for the district where you would wish your Civil Partnership to be registered to discuss what places may be suitable. You can download the Directory of Registrars in Scotland using the link above.

A religious or belief system Civil Partnership may be registered anywhere agreed between you and the approved celebrant.  You should discuss your proposed location with your religious or belief celebrant.

Contact Points for further information:

Please email civilpartnership@nrscotland.gov.uk if you require any further information.