Marriages & Partnerships
Your guide to getting married or forming a civil partnership in Somerset & North Somerset.
A wedding is a wonderful occasion filled with hopes and dreams and we look forward to being part of your special day.
Your ideal ceremony may be a traditional celebration with bridesmaids and pageboys, or a relaxed family gathering, a quirky themed wedding or an intimate exchange of vows: This is your day, and the choice is yours.
We are here to guide you through the process of getting married, and hope that this guide will tell you everything you need to know. If there’s anything we’ve missed, we’re happy to answer your queries. Please go to the Forms & Downloads section in More Information for your pre-ceremony check form and guidance.
What is the difference between a full ceremony and a basic "2+2" ceremony?
The basic or “2+2” ceremony is a short ceremony that includes the legal elements needed to perform a marriage. The only people to attend will be yourselves, your two witnesses and the registrars. It is the cheapest and shortest option available. It only includes a declaration, contracting words and an optional ring vow, chosen from a short standard selection. Couples often choose this if they don’t want the expense of a larger ceremony, or if they want to have a reception elsewhere or on another day. It’s available at selected Registration Office locations and will take place in a small private office.
The full ceremony option is available at our Taunton, Yeovil and Weston locations and at all our licensed ceremony venues. You can customise this ceremony to include readings, music and personal vows on top of the basic legal declaration, contracting words and ring vow. You can invite friends and family to a full ceremony, and we have a great range of locations to suit all sizes and budgets. It can last a little longer and costs more than the basic ceremony, and the price varies depending on the day and location.
How do I book my ceremony?
You need to book your ceremony with the Register Office, and also with the venue if you want to get married at one of our Approved Premises. Do check that your chosen venue is available before booking a Registrar to avoid disappointment. Phone us with your preferred date and time to see if we are available. Unfortunately online booking isn’t an option as each ceremony will have different requirements depending on where it is held. Payment can be made by card at our offices or over the phone. Online payment for ceremonies will be available later in 2018.
How much will it cost?
Our Basic Ceremony costs just £50, while the price of a Full Ceremony varies depending on the location and date. Please see our Costs section in More Information for full details. You will need to pay for your Full Ceremony at least 8 weeks before the event. If you are having a Basic Ceremony you may pay on the day by card or cash, or we can accept a cheque 8 weeks prior to the ceremony.
How do we choose what will happen in the ceremony?
You will need to agree about what legal declarations and vows you want to say to each other. If you’re having a full ceremony, you can also choose music and readings as well. We need to have details of everything you want to include at least 4 weeks before the ceremony, or we will prepare a standard ceremony format. Download our Pre Ceremony Guidance and Ceremony Form from the Forms & Downloads section in More Information for either the Basic or Full Ceremony, as appropriate. If you have any queries, we’re happy to help – just email the team or give us a call. Email or post your completed form back to our Taunton office.
What details do I need to put in the register?
You will need to provide your name, age, occupation, marital status and address, and sign the register using your normal signature of your pre-marriage name. You will be asked to provide your father’s name and occupation. This should be your biological father, legally adoptive father, or step-father if he is or has been married to your mother. It is possible to leave this entry blank if you wish to do so. In England there is no opportunity to include your mother or other second parent’s details. If you would like to include them in the official documents, you could ask them to be a witness.
How long will the ceremony last?
A simple wedding will last between 15 and 20 minutes. If you want to personalise the ceremony with readings and take photographs it can last up to around 30 minutes. If you’ve booked your ceremony at a Register Office, you will have a 45 minute time slot. If you choose to get married at an approved venue you will have a booked time for the ceremony itself. You can then be more flexible with your time after the ceremony for the rest of your celebrations.
Can we write our own vows?
You do have to say the legal vows during your marriage, but you can add your own words if you want to. Let us have a copy of your personalised vows in advance so we can build them into the ceremony.
Can we have a religious ceremony?
You can’t hold a religious ceremony at a Register Office, and Approved Premises are only licensed for non-religious marriages.
For Church of England marriages you should make an appointment at the church where you intend to marry. Church of England clergy are authorised registrars so you don’t need to give notice at a Register Office.
For other faiths and denominations, you must give notice at a Register Office. You should contact the minister to check whether they are authorised to solemnise marriages. You will need to pay for a Registrar to attend your ceremony with a register.
Can we choose our own music?
Yes – as long as it is not religious. You can have a string quartet or a brass band, if there’s space! If you’re using a recording, check with the venue to see what format they will need. If you are getting married at an approved venue, please supply your music choices directly to them. See our downloadable Guidance sheets for suggested use of music during the ceremony.
Can we have readings?
You may have up to 3 readings if you wish, as long as they are not religious in nature. There are a huge range of popular choices on the internet, or you may have a personal or family favourite. Please provide your choices to us in advance. We need to make sure they are appropriate and work them into our ceremony preparations. You can ask a friend or relative to do the reading, or our registrar will be happy to do this.
Can we have a ceremony at our home?
A marriage or civil partnership must be held at a licensed venue. It could be possible to get your family home licensed for weddings but this is a costly and impractical option, especially if you don’t have room for guests. Somerset has over100 approved venues to choose from, so there should be something to suit everyone.
Can we have an outdoor ceremony?
Some venues are licensed to hold ceremonies in outdoor structures such as gazebos. They will normally have an indoor room available in case the weather is less than perfect. Browse our venue directory to see what is on offer. Licenses are granted for specific rooms or structures, so unfortunately you can’t get married in a garden, woodland or on a beach.
Can the ceremony be in another language?
Our ceremonies are all in English. If either of you cannot speak or understand English then you will need to bring an interpreter. You may also need a lip reader or interpreter if you have hearing problems.
Who can be a witness?
You will need 2 witnesses to sign the marriage register. They might be close friends and family, but don’t need to be. We ask that they are at least 16 years old, and they must be capable of understanding the proceedings, witnessing and signing the register. You will need to bring your own witnesses as Register Office staff can’t perform this function
Do I have to be given away?
You can start your ceremony however you choose. You can walk in alone, with a family member or enter as a couple – whatever would suit you best. Let us know who will be walking up the aisle with you and whether you would like to be given away on your pre-ceremony check form.
Do we need to exchange rings?
It is traditional to exchange a wedding ring or rings, but you don’t have to. You may wish to place these on a cushion or arrange for a ring bearer or best man to step forward at the appropriate moment. The wedding ring is placed on the third finger of the left hand, as this is traditionally thought to be connected to the heart. If you wish to exchange a different token, you may. Just let us know on your pre-ceremony check form.
Are photos and videos of the ceremony allowed?
Absolutely! This is your special day and we want you to be able to capture it. We do ask that photography doesn’t detract from the ceremony. You might consider just having a professional photographer take shots during the ceremony so your friends and family can relax and enjoy the proceedings. Let your guests know if you’d prefer them not to take their own pictures.
Can I invite a few extra guests to the simple “2+2” ceremony?
We’re afraid not. The rooms used for these ceremonies are small offices and are only licensed for Basic Ceremonies. Only you, your partner and your witnesses will be able to attend. If you want to bring along additional family members, children or friends – even if it’s only a couple of extra people – you will need to book one of our larger ceremony rooms.
Who arranges the seating?
This is something you’ll need to delegate, possibly to the best man or a wedding coordinator. It’s up to you whether you seat your guests according to “bride” or “groom”. Whoever you put in charge will need to make sure there’s enough seating at the front reserved for key family members, bridesmaids and groomsmen to sit during the ceremony and register signing.
Can I decorate the venue?
If you will be getting married in a Register Office, there won’t be an opportunity to decorate the room to a personal theme as we often hold several ceremonies a day.
However, if you have chosen to get married at an approved venue, you can arrange for flowers and themed decorations with their wedding coordinator. Browse our Wedding Supplier Directory for local professionals who can work with you to create your dream theme.