What Is A Civil Partnership? - Somerset Registration Services

Our site may just be called Somerset Wedding Registration Service, but don’t forget we also provide Civil Partnerships. Similar to a marriage but with some very subtle differences, this blog aims to explain civil partnerships and why you might choose one.

What Is A Civil Partnership?

Civil partnerships have been available since December 2005 as a way for same sex couples to legally recognise their relationship. Over 16,000 couples formed a partnership in year after the introduction of the act, settling to an average of 6300 over the next few years. When the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was introduced, the number of civil partnerships declined as many couples chose to marry instead. Just 908 couples chose to form a partnership in England and Wales in 2017. To put this into perspective, there were around a quarter of a million marriages last year.

It seems that the profile of couples choosing partnerships has shifted. Over half of people choosing this kind of union now are over 50, compared with only 19% in 2013. It would appear that marriage is the more popular option for younger same sex couples. Here in Somerset, we only performed two civil partnerships in 2017, compared with over 3000 weddings.

What’s The Difference Between A Partnership & A Marriage?

We often refer to weddings as a shorthand for marriages and partnerships. It’s simpler, and for the most part they function in the same way. If you choose to form a civil partnership you still need to give notice in the district where you live. You’ll need two witnesses for your schedule signing. You will have access to the same rights as a married couple for tax and legal purposes. This includes things like pensions, benefits, property rights, parental responsibility for a partner’s children, next of kin rights, life insurance, and a responsibility for maintenance of a partner and their children. As with weddings, you can have a simple ceremony with just 2 witnesses or a full ceremony with music, readings and personal vows.

Where there are differences, they are generally minor. A civil partnership is recorded in the civil partnership schedule, rather than the register used for marriages. The declarations used in the partnership ceremony are very similar to those used in a wedding, but couples are only required to sign a document rather than repeat vows. While marriages may be civil or religious, partnerships can only be civil. Obviously the biggest difference is that it is only available to same sex couples.

Why Choose A Civil Partnership?

Some couples choose to have a partnership because they aren’t comfortable with the institution of marriage. Historically, weddings were purely religious and presided over by church ministers. Despite civil marriage now being available some people see them as inextricably linked. While you no longer have to promise to love, honour and obey your spouse, the archaic notion of a wife being property may still cast uncomfortable shadows over marriage. Thankfully modern attitudes have moved on, but a principled stand around ideas of equality can still be a powerful factor in choosing a civil partnership. For some, just the simplicity of signing a document with no ceremony or spoken vows is the attraction.

Civil Partnership In Somerset

One Somerset couple who recently formed a civil partnership are Courtney and Colin. Having been in a relationship for 37 years, they finally decided to make it official. Colin explained that since they aren’t in the first flush of romance, it wasn’t important to them to have a big ceremony with bells and ribbons. They opted to have a very simple signing with two witnesses. While they could have recited their declarations or added their own personal vow, they chose to simply sign the schedule in a low key ceremony. They invited their friends Hilary and Amanda to bear witness. Hilary and Amanda have been in a relationship for many years and have been in a civil partnership since 2014. Their ceremony was a little more lavish, taking place at Drury Lane Theatre in London. Speaking to them just before their booking, the whole party were relaxed and full of laughter. Despite the aim of keeping the formalities brief and to the point, it was a pleasure to witness so much love and friendship in the party. It’s proof positive that it’s not the size or cost of the ceremony and celebrations that matters. More important is to choose the kind of union that you are comfortable with, and share it with people who will enhance that.

How To Book A Civil Partnership

You can find out more about forming a civil partnership in Somerset, such as costs and legalities, in our More Information section. You’ll find our guidance PDF download which includes optional vows and lists what can be included in both the simple and full ceremony options. To make a booking at any of our offices, go to the Contact page. If you’d like to invite friends and family to witness your partnership, you can book a ceremony at any of the approved premises listed in our Venue Directory.


The Government announced on 2 October 2018 that Civil Partnerships are to be extended to heterosexual couples as well as same-sex couples. This hasn’t yet been made law, as they will need to consult on details around legal and financial rights. No timetable has been announced, and changes will be made as soon as there is a suitable opportunity to change the law. If you have any specific enquiries, you can contact the Government Equalities Office on geo.correspondence@geo.gov.uk or 0300 200 3343.