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Solemnising a marriage in Scotland

Choosing when, where and how to solemnise your marriage

The law in Scotland currently does not allow Independent Celebrants to solemnise a marriage; that is the “legal bit”.  This means having your legal marriage conducted separately from your wedding (the fun part!). When my husband and I got legally married, it was almost a month before, late one Monday evening after work, and it took longer to drink a cup of tea beforehand than the registration.  I am told the fastest was eleven minutes!  Present was the registrar and our witnesses.

This can put couples off from choosing me to officiate their wedding because they consider doing this as too much hassle, but the reality is, it is less hassle than you might think.  It involves only one trip to the registrar’s office at a date and time that suits you.  Once the legal stuff is out of the way, you can relax knowing there will be no mishaps on your wedding day.

Being independent of any belief system frees me from their rules and regulations.  I am a free spirit and free thinker, so I choose to be independent.  It also means that you are free from following the process detailed below, which is much more “trouble than it is worth”.  Not my words; I am quoting a bride who described this process as a stress they could have done without. It was after this conversation that I decided to find out (from a celebrant who can solemnise marriages) what the process is and here it is!

The first paragraph applies to all marriages, regardless of whether you are using a celebrant, having a religious wedding or a civil ceremony.

You need to contact the district Registrar where the marriage is to take place to submit your completed marriage notice.  This is called form M10 and can be downloaded from your registrar’s website or the General Registrar of Scotland website.  The forms must be submitted at least 29 days before the marriage is to take place but no sooner than 12 weeks.  The earlier you can submit them within this timescale, the better.

For a celebrant to solemnise your marriage, the registrar has to be satisfied that there is no legal impediment to your marriage and has to confirm that the celebrant solemnising the marriage is an Approved Celebrant.  Once this is done, a Marriage Schedule is prepared.  This now needs to be collected from the registrar’s office, preferably by both parties to the marriage.  You will need to make an appointment first.  The schedule is issued no earlier than seven days before the marriage is to take place.  It is used as the license for the celebrant to solemnise your marriage.

You will then need to get this to your celebrant before the ceremony to ensure that all the details are correct. A marriage cannot be legalised without a schedule.

The marriage must then take place on the date and at the location stated in the ceremony.

The following are legal requirements and cannot be removed from the ceremony.

  • Each party must declare that they take the other in marriage in the presence of their witnesses.
  • The celebrant must declare that the parties are now married.
  • Full names of both parties must be used.
  • Both witnesses must be over the age of 16.
  • Immediately after the solemnisation of the marriage, the Marriage Schedule must be signed by the couple, by both witnesses and the celebrant. A fountain pen with black ink must be used.

The couple must arrange the Schedule’s return within three days of their wedding to the issuing Registrar to enable the marriage to be registered. This should be hand delivered to avoid delays (eg postal worker’s strikes), loss or damage.  Traditionally, the best man was tasked with this.

I hope you find this useful in deciding who will officiate your wedding.

Photo by Annika Wischnewsky on Unsplash