A civil ceremony can take place at a register office or in any premises licensed to hold weddings under the Marriage Act. Such premises must be permanent and roofed (which rules out boats and gardens), open to the public and unconnected with any religion.

For a full list of legally approved premises, call the General Register Office on 0151 471 4817 or visit www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content to request a list (£10). Proposals to change the law to allow couples to marry wherever they choose as long as the celebrant is licensed are currently under discussion.

The vows spoken during a civil ceremony are fairly brief, but couples can add their own non-religious readings and music to personalise the service. The bride and groom declare there is no lawful impediment to their marriage and sign the register before two witnesses. Couples can wear whatever they like.

Notice of the marriage must be given at your local register office (or offices if you live in different areas) at least 15 days before the wedding.

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