Marriages and Civil Partnerships
Getting married is one of life’s most important and special occasions but one which can also be daunting and confusing. We hope the information on this website will guide you through the process however feel free to contact the Register Office at any time for advice.
Our contact details are:
The Register Office, Town Hall, Darlington, DL1 5QT
Telephone: 01325 406400.
Email: [email protected]
- Choosing a venue
- Marriage Venues in Darlington
- Booking a Wedding
- Legal Paperwork – Notice of Marriage
- Organising the Ceremony
- Advice for Same Sex Couples
- Religious Marriages
- Getting Married Abroad
- Scotland and Northern Ireland
- Non European Economic Area Citizens
- Persons Under 18
- Urgent Marriages and Civil Partnerships
- Passports and Name Changes
Where can I get married?
You can be married in either:
- A Register Office
- An approved Venue (for example, a hotel licensed for marriages)
- A Church or other Religious Building licensed for marriages.
This applies for England and Wales. There are separate laws and arrangements if you intend to get married in other parts of the United Kingdom for example, Scotland and Northern Ireland or if you are being married in another country. Further information of about this is detailed below.
You do not have to live in the place where you want to be married (if you are a resident of Darlington you can marry elsewhere and similarly if you live outside of Darlington you can still be married here in Darlington). If you do not live in the district where you live then you should contact your local Register Office for initial advice.
When can I get Married ?
There are now no time restrictions on when you can be married, the law provides that you can be married any day of the year at any time. However each Register Office, Venue and Religious Building can choose to provide availability depending upon its resources and other needs so the time of the wedding will depend upon availability of the Registrar or Church and the venue.
In Darlington our availability for a civil marriage is:
The Superintendent’s Office (see below for more details)
- Monday to Thursday only at either 9am, 10am or 11am
The Council Chamber (The Register Office Marriage Suite) and Approved Venues (Licensed Hotels):
- Monday to Friday – 9am to 3pm
- Saturdays – 9am to 4pm
- Sundays and Bank Holidays – 9am to 3pm (Not in the Council chambers)
If you have any queries about this contact the Superintendent Registrar at the Register Office. You should note that a marriage booking is only valid if you follow the booking procedure detailed below.
The Superintendent’s Office
By law, each Registration District has to designate a 'register office' and provide a Civil Marriage or Civil Partnership Ceremony at a statutory rate which is currently £46 plus certificates.
Features of this wedding will be:
- Only the couple and up to four guests can be present
- The venue is a working office and not a marriage room furnished and decorated accordingly
- There is no choice of vows only a short standard option
- There is no opportunity for photographs or music played
- The ceremony is very short lasting no more than 10 minutes
- The venue is in the working Register Office where other customers will be nearby registering births, deaths and other queries
Most couples who choose this option do so because they have had a non-legally binding ceremony elsewhere and want to legalise their relationship without guests or the traditions of a marriage ceremony.
If you are unsure of whether to choose the Superintendent’s Office or the Council Chambers, The Superintendent Registrar will show and explain to you both options.
The Council Chamber and The Council Chamber Foyer are our approved marriage rooms and are where most of our couples will be married.
Features of this wedding venue will be:
- Couples can choose one of two areas for their ceremony, either:
The Council Chamber (70 guests maximum); or
The Council Chamber Foyer (20 guests maximum)
- Allocated parking is provided for one wedding car. Guests are advised to park in one of the nearby pay and display car parks.
- There is a separate waiting room for the Bride and Bridal party should they not want the guests to see them before the ceremony starts.
- Guests can arrive and wait in the main town hall foyer but there are no on-site refreshment facilities.
- Guests are welcome to take photographs in the Council Chamber and the Town Hall Foyer. However there is no designated outside area for photographs.
- The ceremony will last between 20 and 30 minutes.
- An official or nominated photographer/videographer is welcome to stand near the Registrar during the wedding to capture the event.
- Couples have a choice of vows and the option of including a reading(s) by one of the guests.
- Couples can bring your own music for their ceremony or the Registrar will select some suitable music.
- This venue is only available Monday to Saturday and is not available on Sundays or Bank Holidays.
Approved Venues (Hotels and other licensed buildings)
Darlington has a number of approved venues, mostly hotels, at which the Registrars attend to perform and register marriages. Please note that only a civil marriage can take place in these venues and not a religious one. The law provides that if you want a religious ceremony then you can be married in a church or other religious building.
Features of these wedding will be:
- Each approved venue has a number of rooms licensed with in it varying capacities and can accommodate small or larger weddings.
- You are given more choice on the content of the ceremony including the words the registrar will say and also your vows.
- The ceremony will last between 20 and 40 minutes depending upon the choices you make for the content of the wedding.
- The Bride may arrive by car to the venue for the wedding or get ready at the hotel, often staying the night before.
- The guests will be in one venue only for the wedding and reception.
- You are encouraged for guests to be involved in the ceremony including a candle ceremony and performing readings during the ceremony.
- An official or nominated photographer/videographer is welcome to stand with the Registrar during the wedding to capture the event.
- You are welcome to bring your own music for the wedding (on CD or MP3 player) or we can provide something suitable (chosen by ourselves).
- An official or nominated photographer/videographer is welcome to stand with the Registrar during the wedding to capture the event.
- Music for the wedding ceremony can be recorded or you can have musicians. You must organise or take the music to the venue yourselves.
- More information about these options will be provided once you have booked the wedding.
Booking and availability
The dates and times of availability for ceremonies are managed and at the discretion of the Superintendent Registrar.
For Approved Venues including hotels approved for weddings, once you have chosen the venue for your wedding and have agreed with the venue that they are available on that date that you require then you should contact the Register Office to make a booking.
Available times for weddings in approved venues are either 11.00 am; 13.00 pm; 2.30 pm or 4.00 pm. You should have an idea of what date and time you want when you ring to book.
For Register Office Weddings in the Council Chamber you should speak to the Superintendent Registrar to set the date and time of the wedding. You should have an idea of a date or range of dates when you call.
Available times for Council Chamber weddings are on the hour with the last wedding being at 3.00 pm Monday to Friday or 4.00pm on a Saturday. The Register Office is not open for weddings on Sundays or Bank Holiday.
For Register Office Weddings in the Statutory Marriage Room, for example a short basic wedding for the couple and a maximum of four guests, available times are either 9.00 am; 10.00 am or 11.00 am Monday to Thursday only.
Making a booking
Bookings for weddings can be made by telephoning the register office on 01325 406400 - we will hold these provisionally for one calendar month from making the booking. During this time a booking form must be returned to us.
Fees for the Wedding
Weddings in Approved Venues or the Council Chamber.
Fees for these weddings must be paid in full with the booking form. Paying the wedding in instalments is not available.
It is recommended that you do not pay any fees to venues until you have confirmed our availability to attend your wedding as we can't be responsible for not being able to accommodate agreements with venues prior to checking our availability.
Weddings in the Statutory Marriage Room
For this type of wedding, the short basic wedding for the couple and a maximum of four guests only the fee should be paid in full:
For Darlington Residents: At the time of booking when also giving notice of marriage.
For non Darlington Residents: At the time of returning the booking form. You will then follow up giving Notice of Marriage in the district where you live.
You should also note that a wedding in the Statutory Marriage Room can only be booked up to a maximum of a year in advance to link to the requirement to give Notice of Marriage at the same time as the booking.
How to book and pay
You can return your completed booking form and pay your fees by either
- Visiting the Register Office (another family member of friend can pay the deposit on your behalf) and pay by cash, cheque or card
- Return the completed booking form with a cheque or postal order for the appropriate amount payable to “Darlington Borough Council” and a receipt will be posted to you.
- We currently do not have online booking system or telephone payment facility for weddings.
- A wedding is only a confirmed booking once we have received both the booking form and the payment.
Booking Form [pdf document]
Terms and Conditions [pdf document]
Why do I have to give notice of Marriage?
- It is a legal requirement to give notice of your intent to be married. Without giving a valid notice of marriage the ceremony cannot go ahead.
- This can be done at the earliest one year and no later than 29 days before the marriage.
- Residents outside of England and Wales (even if you are a British Citizen) should contact us to arrange to discuss the required residency rules to be able to give Notice of Marriage, including those who live in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
What documents will I have to bring?
Each person giving notice is required to bring the following documents (original versions only):
Proof of your name, date and place of birth and nationality
- A Current Passport and/or
- A Birth Certificate
(if you were born from 1983 onwards and you do not hold a current passport, a full birth certificate, and your mothers birth certificate must be provided)
- Current Photo National Identity Card if you are a non British Citizen
- Any change of name documents such as a Change of name deed or official deed poll.
- A completed parental consent form is you are under 18 at the time of giving notice.
Proof of your status:
- A decree absolute if you have been divorced
- A death certificate of your former husband/wife if you have been widowed.
Should your divorce have been granted in a county outside of England and Wales, there will be a fee payable at the time of your appointment for verifying the validity of these documents and this fee depends upon the country where the divorce papers were granted.
If your divorce is from outside England and Wales you should make this known to us when making an appointment as it will affect the process of giving Notice of Marriage.
Proof of your current address:
- This must be dated within 3 months of you giving notice of marriage and can include a Current Driving Licence, Bank Statement, Council Tax Bill, Utility Bill, Payslip or details of Benefits or Income Tax.
Is there a fee?
Yes, the current statutory fee is £35 per person and is payable at the time of giving notice. This can be made by cash, cheque or card.
Do I need an appointment?
Yes, we operate an appointment system and you must both attend in person for your appointment. Contact us on 01325 406400 to book an appointment.
Non EEA (European Economic Area) Citizens
- Non EEA Citizens are also required to give notice of marriage to be married in England and Wales.
- However to comply with immigration control requirements, you must give notice at a “designated register office” who only have the authority to grant authority for non EEA citizens to be able to be married.
- Our local designated office for Darlington Citizens is Middlesbrough Register Office (01642 729004) who can advise you on the documents and procedure that you will need to follow.
- You should still contact the Register Office or place of marriage to make the appropriate ceremony booking before giving notice of marriage at Middlesbrough.
Darlington Register Office: 01325 406400
Middlesbrough Register Office: 01642 729004
General Register Office: 0300 123 1837
Government Website: www.gov.uk
The date, time and venue of the ceremony also form part of the notice of marriage or civil partnership. Therefore you will also need to either have a provisional booking with a venue or know an approximate date for your ceremony when attending for your appointment.
The legal requirements for a Civil Ceremony are minimal and allow you to personalise your ceremony in terms of vows, readings, music, dedicating candles, making promises to children and lots more.
You will be provided with information which will guide you through the order of the ceremony, the legal requirements and also some suggestions for ways to make the ceremony more personal and meaningful.
Before the ceremony you will be asked to complete a questionnaire and return it to us so that the Registrar performing the ceremony has all of the necessary information. You will also be provided with information which will clarify how the ceremony works including timescales for the day.
If you are having a marriage at an approved venue we encourage you to make an appointment with the Registrar for a pre-ceremony meeting two to four weeks beforehand to discuss the ceremony and pay any outstanding fees.
If you are having a marriage at the Register Office, if you give notice of marriage in Darlington as a Darlington Resident you will be shown the venue and given some information about what will happen during the wedding as part of your notice of marriage appointment.
If you are having a marriage at the Register Office and are giving notice of marriage elsewhere as a resident of another district, then you can make an appointment to meet the Registrar before the wedding who will show you the venue and give you some information about what will happen during the wedding.
The purpose of a Civil Ceremony is to provide an alternative to a religious ceremony and therefore a Civil Ceremony cannot include any words, music, readings or rituals which are intentionally (for example, readings from the bible, or hymns) or obviously religious.
We do try to be as flexible as possible to accommodate requests to make your ceremony personal and many pieces of music and readings are allowed which you might not think are.
If you have any questions or concerns about this you should contact us for further advice.
- Council Chamber - Getting married at Darlington Register Office [pdf document]
- Council Chamber - Marriage Ceremony Choices Form [pdf document]
- Approved Venues (Hotels) Wedding Choices Form [pdf document]
- A guide to weddings in Approved Venues [pdf document]
- Ceremony Readings [pdf document]
Same sex couples now have several options to be able to legally recognise and celebrate their relationship together:
If you are not currently in a Civil Partnership then you can either have a marriage or a Civil Partnership.
Since the Introduction of Same Sex Marriages in March 2014 no same sex couples have chosen to have a Civil Partnership in Darlington although if you need advice or clarification about which option to choose contact the Superintendent Registrar at the Register Office to discuss further.
If you have formed and are still in a Civil Partnership then from 10 December 2014 you can (but you are not obliged) to convert your Civil Partnership to a Marriage.
If you wish to convert your Civil Partnership to a Marriage then you should contact the Superintendent Registrar to arrange this who will also be able to clarify any further queries you have.
The following information about Converting a Civil Partnership into a Marriage may help before you contact the Register Office:
What does the Conversion Process involve?
The Conversion of the Civil Partnership into a Marriage is an administrative process and both Parties are required to attend together for a 30 minute pre booked appointment. The Registrar will:
- Ask both of you for some documentation (as below)
- Ask some questions to ascertain and confirm some information to be able to produce a declaration for you to both sign.
- Ask you to both sign a declaration at which point the Civil Partnership becomes a legally binding marriage. The signing of this declaration:
- Does not require Witnesses
- Does not involve signing a marriage register
- Can be done either at the same time as the declaration of the information for example one stage in the Register Office or;
the signing of the declaration can be done at a different location pre-arranged with the Registrar for example Backhouse Hall, the Register Office Marriage Room, an approved venue (for example, a hotel or an approved religious building).
If you are considering the two stage process signing the declaration at a different location then you should discuss this further with the Superintendent Registrar who will advise you of the process and fees involved.
Most couples will choose the one stage process declaring their details and signing the declaration in the Superintendent’s Office at the Register Office.
Do I need any documentation?
Yes and you will both be advised of what documents to bring with you when you make your appointment but these will be:
- Evidence of your name, date and place of birth for example, a Birth Certificate or Passport together with any change of name documents if relevant.
- Evidence of your current address such as a driving licence, bank statement, payslip or utility bill which must be dated within the last 3 months.
- Evidence of your current Civil Partnership for example, your Civil Partnership Certificate.
Do I need to live in Darlington?
No, the usual residency rules for marriage do not apply, you can choose to Convert your Civil Partnership to a Marriage with us in Darlington regardless of where you live. Also unlike a new marriage you do not have to give Notice of Marriage or have a waiting period before you can convert the Civil Partnership to a Marriage.
Are there any fees?
Yes. You have two options:
One Stage Conversion:
This is the most popular means of converting your Civil Partnership to a Marriage and involves one appointment at the Register Office with both parties, no witnesses, a Copy of your original Civil Partnership Registration and personal identification as advised. The appointment will take approximately 30 minutes, no ceremony takes place and a Marriage Registration is created and certificates provided.
Cost is £46.00 plus marriage certificates (currently at £11.00 each).
Two Stage Conversion:
This means of converting your Civil Partnership to a Marriage involves two stages:
Declaration of your details and intent to convert the Civil Partnership to a Marriage.
Cost for Stage 1 is £27.00 for the couple payable to the Register Office at which you attend.
Signing of the conversion declaration by the parties at another venue which may involve a form of celebratory ceremony or blessing (another legal marriage ceremony cannot take place).
Cost of stage 2 is:
- At our decommissioned marriage room (Backhouse Hall) or any other of our approved venues the fees are as per all marriage ceremonies.
- At a religious building in Darlington the fees are £91.00 for our attendance and also the fees that apply set by that building.
- At a venue in a registration district outside of Darlington the fees are those that apply set by that district.
Can I have a ceremony?
As explained above there is no ceremony as part of the conversion process as the conversion process is an administrative one. However if you choose a two stage conversion process whereby you sign the declaration at another location then you can arrange for a celebratory ceremony similar to a renewal of vows ceremony which would involve vows, the exchange or rings and vows, walking down the aisle and photographers. However there would be no signing of a marriage register or witnesses required.
If you would like to have a celebratory ceremony it is important to note that the signing of declaration converting the Civil Partnership Ceremony to a Marriage must happen before the main celebratory ceremony and will probably happen in a different room at the location.
If you are considering a celebratory ceremony then you should discuss this with the Superintendent Registrar.
Can I convert my Civil Partnership to a Marriage in a Religious building?
Yes provided that the specific building has been approved for same sex marriages.
If you are considering this option you should speak to the Superintendent Registrar for more advice. There are separate arrangements to be advised on for the converting of a civil partnership to a marriage in a religious building.
Church of England
Notice of marriage for a Church of England ceremony is given directly at the church and are known as 'banns'.
You should seek advice from the church where the marriage is taking place to arrange for banns and you are not required to attend the register office to give notice of marriage unless one or both of you are not nationals of the EEA (European Economic Area) in which case you should contact the local Designated Register Office, Middlesbrough Register Office (01642 729 004) for advice.
All other denominations
Marriages in religious Buildings other than Church of England Buildings (otherwise known as 'Non Conformist' religions) require a couple to give Notice of Marriage with the register office in the district which they reside (which may not be the district of the location of the marriage) and are given the authority to marry by Superintendents Certificate for Marriage rather than Banns as in a Church of England.
Again if one or both of you are not nationals of the EEA (European Economic Area) in which case you should contact the local Designated Register Office, Middlesbrough Register Office (01642 729 004) for advice.
These rules apply to all marriages in the Catholic, Methodist, Modern Christian, Spiritualist and Sikh religions.
A marriage in a mosque according to the Islamic faith may not always be legally recognised in this country and couples who have been through a form of marriage ceremony in a mosque usually require a civil marriage (for example, in the register office) for them to acquire the legal rights of marriage.
The Jewish and Quaker faiths are bound by different marriage rules to civil and all other religious groups and you should contact the synagogue or friends meeting house where the marriage is to take place to make the appropriate arrangements or contact the Register Office for initial advice.
If you are getting married outside of the United Kingdom you should make the appropriate arrangements with the authorities for that country.
You do not have to inform anyone in this Country that you have been married for example you do not have to register, deposit or record details of the marriage here.
A marriage is only ever registered where it occurs and therefore your local register office does not need to know that the marriage has taken place upon your return.
Some countries, but not all, require you to provide the authorities of the country where the marriage is taking with a 'Certificate of no impediment'. Should you be asked for this document you should contact the register office in the district where you live for further advice on how to obtain one.
Not all foreign marriages, particularly some religious marriages, are legally recognised in the United Kingdom. Should you have any queries about the validity of a marriage you should contact the General Register Office on 0300 1231837 for further advice.
Although part of the United Kingdom, marriage laws in Scotland and Northern Ireland are different to those in England and Wales.
If you are a resident of England or Wales and you want to marry in Scotland or Northern Ireland you should make the appropriate arrangements with the place of the ceremony or contact the Scottish Registrar General [external link] or the Northern Ireland Registrar General [external link].
If you are a resident of Scotland or Northern Ireland and you want to marry in England and Wales you should contact the Register Office in the district of the Marriage for advice as you may be required to complete a period as a temporary resident of England & Wales before being able to give Notice of Marriage.
If your nationality is that of a country not in the EEA, but you want to get married in England or Wales, contact the Register Office in the district you live for further advice.
If you are under 18 on the day of your Marriage you will need to obtain consent from an appropriate parent or legal guardian before being able to give notice of marriage. Contact the Register Office in the district you live for further advice.
Where a Marriage is required to take place sooner than 16 days a Registrar General’s Licence may be obtained and the ceremony will take place somewhere not approved for a marriage or civil partnership (for an example, an individuals' home or a hospital).
Registrars Generals Licence’s are most commonly granted for Marriages where one of the parties is terminally ill and can't be moved to a place currently registered for Marriage.
Should you be in this situation contact us on 01325 406400 during office hours or on our emergency out of hours number 07932 538910 for advice.
On the day of your wedding after signing the Marriage Register your will be provided with two marriage certificates, the fees for which are included in the quoted ceremony fees.
These certificates are proof or evidence of the marriage and you should keep them safe. You may be asked to produce this certificate to notify people that you have been married providing them with an update of your current legal status.
Following the marriage you have a number of options in how express your surname:
- You can both keep your individual names as they were prior to the marriage (you are not obliged to change your name because you have become married).
- One of you can change your surname to that of the other (the bride most often changes her name to that of the groom but the groom may change his name to the bride's).
- One or both of you can change your name to a double barrelled version of the two surnames.
The marriage certificate should be sufficient evidence as an entitlement to use any of the surnames or combination of the surnames of the bride and groom. There is therefore no need to do a deed poll following a marriage if you are intending to use a surname or combination of surnames of the parties to the marriage.
If you are changing your name on a passport you can change your name after the marriage or up to 3 months before the marriage.