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How to become a Licensed Venue for Civil Marriage and Civil Partnership

3. Background

Since the introduction of legislation in the 1990s* there has been a much wider choice of venues that may be used for civil marriages.

More recent civil partnership and same sex marriage legislation also allows same sex couples to hold civil ceremonies at licensed venues, also known as ‘Approved Premises’.

All couples are allowed to have a civil ceremony in any district of England or Wales and not just the district in which they live.

The laws are intended to allow civil marriage and civil partnership ceremonies to take place regularly in hotels, stately homes, civic halls, theatres, restaurants, and any premises that are readily available to the public, without compromising the fundamental principles of English marriage law and Parliament’s intention to maintain the ‘solemnity and dignity’ of the occasion.

Please do not be overwhelmed by the requirements and conditions set out in this guide. Whilst ESCC sets minimum standards for Approved Premises, these are only issued as guidelines and need to be assessed against the age, condition and type of building.

If a business or venue owner is considering whether to hold marriages or civil partnerships within their premises or couples wish to hold their ceremony in a particular location, then ESCC is very willing to work with them to make being an Approved Premises a successful venture.

East Sussex County Council is totally committed to this service and will promote all Approved Premises through the publication of their ceremonies brochure and through advertising via the internet and other opportunities that may arise.

All our licenced venues appear on our Ceremonies Website. There is also a facility to advertise in our Register Offices.

*Legislation that currently provides for the approval of premises for civil marriages and civil partnerships is:

  • Marriage Act 1949
  • Civil Partnership Act 2004
  • The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005
  • The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises)(Amendment) Regulations 2011
  • Equality Act 2010
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