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Licensing your venue for civil marriages and civil partnerships

1. Overview

If you manage or own a venue, you can apply for a licence to hold marriage and civil partnership ceremonies.

Civil marriages and civil partnerships must take place in a permanent structure or linked outdoor area that is open to the public and non-religious in nature. This can include the building and the grounds of:

  • Restaurants and public houses
  • Hotels
  • Museums and galleries
  • Theatres and cinemas
  • Stately homes and castles
  • Tourist attractions

Many couples are looking for a wedding venue with a difference, your venue could be just the thing they are after. If you're not sure, email VenueLicensing@eastsussex.gov.uk.


Working together

The licence to hold civil marriages and civil partnerships can only be issued by East Sussex County Council.  

East Sussex Registration will work closely with our licenced venues, to promote civil ceremonies and to provide couples with a unique and memorable experience.

We will support new and existing venues to ensure they are fully prepared to facilitate statutory ceremonies and to keep them informed of any changes to legalisation that may occur. 

  • The licence will be valid for a minimum of 3 years.
  • You can apply to renew your licence if it expires in less than a year. 
  • Licence holders may apply to renew a licence not more than twelve months and not less than six months before the expiry of the existing licence.
  • The normal application procedure and fees will apply. Fees are due at the time of application.

East Sussex Registration staff will:

  1. Notify the Responsible Person(s) on duty of their arrival at the premises and liaise with them over the arrangements for the ceremony.
  2. Abide by any rules and regulations affecting the building and/or property provided they do not conflict with:
  • East Sussex Registration’s requirements and conditions for Approved Premises for Civil Marriages and Civil Partnerships.
  • Regulations and/or the Code of Practice issued by the Registrar General.
  • The various Marriage Acts and Regulations.
  • The Civil Partnerships Act and Regulations.
  • Their statutory responsibilities.

Statutory and local requirements

You need to identify specific room(s) or outdoor linked space(s) where weddings and civil partnerships take place. The outdoor area must be within the grounds of the host building.

East Sussex Registration must be satisfied that the premises are ‘seemly and dignified’ and that they will be regularly available for marriages and civil partnerships.

You must:

  1. Have all the necessary fire and safety provisions required by East Sussex County Council.
  2. Appoint a Responsible Person to make sure all terms and conditions of the licence are followed. In the absence of the Responsible Person, an appropriately qualified deputy will be available.
  3. Provide the contact details of the Responsible Person as the main point of contact for East Sussex Registration.
  4. Inform East Sussex Registration if the Responsible Person’s details change.
  5. Inform East Sussex Registration of any change to the premises, for example name or layout.
  6. Make sure your premises can be inspected by East Sussex Registration at reasonable times.
  7. Make sure that East Sussex Registration has approved all wedding or civil partnership ceremony content prior to taking place.

Ceremonies:

  • Must only take place in the specified licensed areas.
  • Must not have any religious content (for example music, readings and rituals).
  • Are freely open to the public. Doors must remain unlocked.

Once approved the following additional licence conditions, Once approved the following additional licence conditions, will apply. They may be amended from time to time by East Sussex Registration.

  1. Civil marriage and civil partnership ceremonies must be conducted by an East Sussex Registration member of staff. Licence holders would not be expected to supply anyone to conduct the ceremony, nor must they permit anyone other than staff from East Sussex Registration to officiate at a ceremony.
  2. Couples should be advised to contact East Sussex Registration as soon as they have made a provisional booking with their venue. East Sussex Registration will try to accommodate the time and date requested but may offer a suitable alternative.
  3. The Responsible Person (deputy) should notify attending registration staff of the fire evacuation procedures and how to call a First Aider.
  4. The ceremony and interview rooms must have suitable heating and ventilation to maintain the comfort of the ceremony parties and their guests.
  5. The ceremony room and outdoor linked spaces must have suitable lighting.
  6. The ceremony room and outdoor linked space must have a minimum of four chairs for the couple and registration staff, together with a desk or table large enough to accommodate the marriage or civil partnership document.
  7. The Responsible Person or deputy are available on the premises for a minimum of one hour prior to and throughout the proceedings.
  8. The number of guests and participants attending a ceremony must not exceed that shown on the licence application and the licence notice supplied for display. This does not include East Sussex Registration and venue staff.
  9. The person(s) booking the premises for a ceremony must be made aware of:
    • Any limitations imposed by accessibility of the premises
    • Any limitations imposed on the size of the ceremony party by the size of the ceremony room and the agreed capacity listed on the licence.
    • The fact that public access to the ceremony must be permitted.
  10. The use of confetti is at the discretion of the licence holder.
  11. Sources of ignition, such as candles are not permitted. Battery operated candles may be used.
  12. The ceremony room and outdoor linked space to be used should be set up and ready at least one hour before the agreed start time for the ceremony.
  13. Display the notice confirming the licence at public entrances for one hour before and during the ceremony. A notice must also be displayed at the entrance to any outdoor linked space.
  14. No food or drinks are sold or consumed in the specified area one hour before and during the ceremony. Water is permitted.
  15. Ensure the health and safety of registration staff, the couple and ceremony guests at all times, while at the venue.
  16. Provide full access for those with disabilities. Where this is not possible, due to the age and construction of the building, this must be clearly communicated to couples intending to hold their ceremony on the premises.
  17. Provide a separate room to be used for the pre-ceremony questioning of the couple by the Registrar. Hotel bedrooms are not appropriate for this confidential process.
  18. Provide two free and reserved car parking spaces for the use of the registration staff where available.
  19. Provide clean and accessible toilet facilities for the use of the couple, any guests attending and registration staff. 

Special licence conditions

ESCC reserves the right to apply special licence conditions, in addition to those set out above, to any licence at any time as it considers necessary.

The licence may be revoked if these requirements are not met.

For more information please see:

Registering a venue for civil marriage and civil partnership 


Outdoor ceremonies

Venues should have a suitable alternative space available in the event of inclement weather.

  • The Responsible Person (or their Deputy) will liaise with the couple and registrars to decide if it is safe to proceed (inside or outside) when adverse weather makes it difficult to continue with the ceremony (too cold, too hot, rain, high winds). The Superintendent Registrar (or their deputy) will make the final decision on whether a ceremony must move inside.
  • This could be an unlicensed temporary outdoor covered structure within the linked outdoor areas, a previously approved permanent licensed structure in the grounds of the built premises or a currently approved room in the licensed premises itself.
  • Ceremonies cannot take place with the legally required parties being split between a licensed room/structure and a linked outdoor area. The couple, two registrars and two witnesses must all be wholly inside a licensed room/structure, or wholly outside in a linked outdoor area.
  • You may have to limit the number of guests at proceedings due to take place in an approved linked outdoor area to the number that you can safely accommodate in your alternative for inclement weather.

Planning Permission

If you would like to apply for your premises to be used for the solemnisation of marriages and civil partnerships, you will need to get in contact with your local District or Borough Council as well as the South Downs National Park Authority, depending on your location, to see if planning permission is also required.

If you are unsure whether you require planning permission or would like to obtain pre-application advice, please see the relevant District or Borough Council page listed below for more information:

Rother District Council

Pre-application advice – Rother District Council

Hastings Borough Council 

Pre-application Planning advice (hastings.gov.uk)

Lewes and Eastbourne Councils 

Apply for pre-application planning advice - Lewes and Eastbourne Councils (lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk)

Wealden District Council 

Pre-Application Advice - Wealden District Council - Wealden District Council

South Downs National Park

Planning Applications - South Downs National Park Authority

 


Apply to license a venue

For your licence to be considered by East Sussex Registration, your application must include:

  1. Confirmation that no planning permission is necessary for the venue to hold marriage or civil partnership ceremonies on the premises.
  2. A copy of the plan of the premises, clearly showing the room(s) and outdoor areas to be used for ceremonies and pre-ceremony interviews.
  3. A copy of the Public Liability insurance.
  4. A current fire risk assessment.  Also see Event safety - Venue and site design (hse.gov.uk) for up-to-date health and safety guidance

How To Become A Licensed Venue For Ceremonies Flowchart 

Apply to become a licensed venue for marriages and civil partnerships [105.5 KB] [docx]

When your application form and supporting documents are ready to send, please send them by email to venuelicensing@eastsussex.gov.uk and to arrange BACS payment of the fee.

Once you have your licence, we will work with you to help make your approved venue successful.


If a licence application is refused or revoked

Revoking a license

ESCC has a policy for comments and complaints, all complaints are investigated. If complaints are received regarding Licenced Venues and, if those comments are ignored or the conditions of the licence abused, ESCC may revoke the licence. No refund of fees will be made if a licence is revoked.

Refusal of an application to license.

If approval is not granted to an application, the applicant will be notified in writing of that decision, the reasons why, and how they may appeal against that decision should they wish to. 

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