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At the end of 2019, it became legal for heterosexual couples to form a civil partnership, rather than get married. It was an important milestone in the UK as it meant that both straight and gay couples could choose either marriage or a civil union, depending on their own personal preferences. 

With civil partnerships being a relatively new thing, there aren’t a lot of traditions or expectations about how you celebrate one. The good news is, anything goes and you can choose to adopt some of the usual wedding traditions (such as a bridal dress) if you want to. 

What is a civil ceremony? 

Legally, a civil partnership has all of the same legal rights and protections as a marriage, but no religious connotations. The ceremony is performed by a registrar. 

Where can you have a civil ceremony?

You can choose any venue (excluding a religious one) that is registered to perform a civil ceremony. You can really get creative here and choose a venue that suits your personalities. If you’re in the Somerset area, somewhere like Clevedon Hall has a range of ceremony packages to suit you. 

The UK is filled with amazing venues from castles to classic cinemas. You’ll find something perfect to mark your special occasion. 

You must have chosen a venue in order to give notice. 

How to give notice

You are legally required to give notice no later than 28 days before your ceremony to the local registration office. Your notice will be displayed publicly there for 28 days. You need to use the registered office in the area that you live, not the area you are having the ceremony. If your partner doesn’t live in the same area as you, they will have to give notice at their nearest register office separately. 

You have 12 months to enter into a civil partnership, or you will have to give notice again. When you give notice you will need to provide proof of your identities, such as a passport or birth certificate, and proof of address. If you are widowed or divorced, you will also need to provide proof of this. 

Who performs the ceremony? 

A registrar will perform your ceremony. It is usual to book a registrar after you have booked the venue. Depending on where you are getting married, the fees will differ slightly. Contact your local register office for an up to date list of fees. 

How else does it differ from a traditional wedding?

Aside from the lack of religious context, the only other legal prerequisites of your partnership are that you both sign the register in the presence of two witnesses. 

When it comes to vows, rings, wedding dresses and other traditional wedding activities, then you are free to choose however your want to do things. 

Final thoughts 

For a lot of people, the lack of expectations and traditions around the ceremony is one of the things they love about it. You’re free to plan your day as you want to, whether that’s just a small ceremony with just you and your witnesses, through to a full-scale celebration with all of your family and friends.

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