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Approved premises for weddings

The question

I have read that you have to get married in some sort of certified building if you want to marry in England; however I have read accounts of people getting married under an oak tree or in a barn so i feel that there must be some way to get around what seem to be quite rigid rules about where you can marry.

Can you tell me something about this? I'm trying to find a venue as a starting point for an extremely low budget and green wedding!


The answer

Dear Tirza,

Thank you for your question and congratulations on your engagement!

It is true, I'm afraid, that in England and Wales you can't get married outside; you must be within some form of permanent structure accessible by the public.

The General Register Office website says: 'Marriages can only be solemnized in a register office, a building approved for civil marriage, e.g. hotel, an Anglican Church or in any other religious building which is registered for marriage.'

For Civil Ceremonies, Wedding Guide UK reports: 'There are many restrictions on approved premises. For example, licences will not be granted to: private residences or buildings (as free public access must always be guaranteed); open spaces such as parks and sports fields; where there is a licensed bar in the marriage room (even if a shutter or folding door can be closed); mobile premises like ships, boats or aircraft (unless permanently fixed or moored).

The building must not have any religious connections, both past and present, and it must be deemed 'fit and suitable' and not 'degenerate the solemn institution of marriage'. The designated marriage room in the building may not be used for any other purpose during the ceremony and no hymns or religious readings and music is permitted.'

In Scotland, however, the regulations are a little more relaxed.

To find an approved licensed venue in your area, type in your postcode here

While this means that sadly your oak tree is not an option (although you could have a blessing there or re-read your vows after the legal part had been covered), a barn could well be a licensed venue. For example, although we got married in a church, the barn where we had our reception was a licensed venue:

If you have already found a venue you really love that is not licensed, it might be able to become licensed. You would need to contact the local Council on this as each Council is responsible for licensing venues in their area. For an example, see North Yorkshire County Council's website.

They also have a useful note on the type of buildings that can be licensed:

I do hope this information is helpful. Please let us know if you have any other queries.

Best wishes,


Answered by: Katie

Question by:Tirza