2021 Changes to the Wedding Registration Regulations and what this means for your Wedding Ceremony

The signing of the register is a key part of any wedding and a legal requirement of getting married in the UK. It’s signed by the couple getting married, at least two witnesses (who can be anyone) and then the registrar.

The register is a physical record of all the weddings carried out and contains information about the couple, the witnesses and the name of the registrar or officiating minister. But being a physical book, it can take time for changes to be made. There are about 84,000 different registers in use at one time across the country so updating them isn’t an easy task. But they are changing and in a big way.

A pair of hands over a wedding register

4th May 2021 - Electronic Registers

From the 4th May 2021 the registers are going electronic. You will still need to sign a document as part of the wedding ceremony, but it won’t be the register; instead for a civil ceremony you will sign a schedule, which is a single piece of paper probably about A4 sized, which will be taken back to the Registry office after your wedding and entered into the electronic register. Some areas are trialling the use of an iPad rather than a document for collecting all the details. For a church wedding it’s fairly similar, but you sign a marriage document instead of a schedule. Either way, the actual register will be an electronic file that is updated at the Registry Office. You won’t get a wedding certificate on your wedding day either – this will be posted out to you at a later date.

A bride and groom, sitting and smiling as they sign the register

This change makes it easier to update the information that is required to be entered onto the register. Traditionally the register contained details of the couple’s names, their witnesses and their father’s names, but no mention of mothers (or any second parents). This move to an electronic register means that the mother’s details can be included for the first time as well. These changes will be carried over to the marriage certificate as well and means that marriage certificates have taken another step closer to reflecting modern life.

The move to an electronic register also means that any further changes will be easier to incorporate in the future, and might not take quite so long to implement.

More information about the changes can be found on the government’s website – the full legislation is available at https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukdsi/2021/9780348220308 but this is a good starting point: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7516/

Did you know:

There is actually a special ink, called registrar’s ink which is used for signing the registers, and why the registrar will want you to use their pen. This may appear blue when you first write with it, but it will fade to black over time, ensuring that the record will not fade or be washed away. At Hampton Court Castle, the registrars often bring a special quill pen for this part of the ceremony.

A bride and groom gaze into each other's eyes

What the change to a marriage schedule means for your wedding day.

You’ll still be signing on your wedding day and there will be a chance for photos of this moment. Instead of the marriage register you will sign a marriage schedule (for a civil ceremony) or a marriage document (for a religious ceremony) as part of your wedding ceremony.

You will have the option to include up to four parents in the schedule and subsequent marriage certificate.

You will still get your marriage certificate, just not on the day of your wedding.  This gives you one less thing to worry about on your wedding day, and you no longer have to keep track of it during your wedding celebrations and honeymoon! Instead these will be processed and either collected/posted out to you at a later date.

Bride and groom signing the register

Photos of signing the register

If you are wondering what this means for your wedding photos, the signing of the registers is often a staged shot, as registrars often request that the photographer doesn’t take photos of this part of the ceremony while the signing is going on. There are several reasons for this:

  1. The register may contain sensitive information about other couples which shouldn’t be on the photos.
  2. The registrar wants the couple and witnesses to focus on getting the details right in the register without being distracted by the camera. The registrar has a vital, legal role to play in the wedding ceremony – it doesn’t happen without them and the paperwork is the final part of that, so it is essential to get it right.
  3. The register is an important legal document and they don’t want to risk it getting damaged by something like flowers with a damp stem being moved closer for the perfect shot.
A pair of wedding rings resting on wood.

After the signing is complete, then the photographer steps in and can get as many pictures as they like with a dummy register, or a blank page on the actual register. We think that something similar to this will probably happen going forward. The schedule will be signed, whisked away to safety and then the photos will be taken. Because it is a single document rather than a book, it may be that the photographer can continue taking photos throughout the signing process. This is something that will be clarified in time.

If you’re planning a wedding and want to explore the options for your wedding ceremony at Hampton Court Castle, please explore our website for more information.