Trying to get a piece of paper from City Hall? The availability, accessibility, and administration of the register office wedding

Probert, Rebecca; Pywell, Stephanie; Akhtar, Rajnaara; Blake, Sharon; Barton, Tania and Vora, Vishal (2022). Trying to get a piece of paper from City Hall? The availability, accessibility, and administration of the register office wedding. Journal of Social Welfare and Family law (early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09649069.2022.2067651

Abstract

In principle, it is possible for a couple to get married in a register office in England or Wales for £127 (including the cost of giving notice and a certificate). In this article, we draw on empirical research to show how limited this option is in practice. Its availability is constrained by the scarcity of register offices limited slots for weddings, and the addition of other fees not provided for in the regulations. Its accessibility is often not obvious from local authorities’ websites, and the administration of such a wedding varies hugely, with some local authorities treating it as a no-frills legal procedure, and others regarding it as a significant ceremony that is incomplete without music or a reflective introductory speech by the superintendent registrar – even if the couple wanted neither. With significant numbers of couples having a register office wedding because the marriage ceremony they choose to have to reflect their beliefs is not legally binding, there is a need to address these issues of availability, accessibility and administration so that couples are not put off or discriminated against. Further research is also needed to explore how these issues impact those with limited means.

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