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Premises approval for marriage or civil ceremonies

The Marriage Act 1994 allows civil marriages to be solemnised at locations other than registration offices. Locations in County Durham must be approved by us before they can be used for marriage ceremonies.

Premises are licensed in accordance with the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005. Licences are issued in accordance with our guidelines and those issued by the General Register Office.

Eligibility criteria

You must be the proprietor or a trustee of the premises to apply for permission to hold marriages and civil partnerships. Where an application is made on behalf of a limited company there should be a separate statement of the names and addresses of all the directors along with the address of the registered office. Applications must include:

  • the name and address of the applicant
  • a plan of the premises which clearly identifies the room or rooms in which the proceedings will occur (three sets of plans required for postal applications)
  • fire risk assessment (if available)
  • the appropriate fee - see 'applicable fees' below

Download Icon for pdf Premises approval for marriage or civil ceremonies - requirements / responsibilities (PDF, 18.4kb)  to see the full requirements of premises, conduction of ceremonies and responsibilities of the licence holder.

Whilst many of these criteria are fixed, a flexible approach may be taken with some where appropriate. This is at the discretion of the inspecting officers. The basic requirements for premises approval can be summarised as follows:

  • The premises must be a seemly and dignified venue for the proceedings.
  • The premises must be regularly available to the public for the solemnization of marriages or the formation of civil partnerships.
  • The premises must meet the required fire precautions and other health and safety provisions.
  • The premises must not be of a religious nature.
  • The room or rooms in which ceremonies are to take place must be identifiable by description as a distinct part of the premises.

Please also note that the approved premises must be available at all reasonable times for our inspection.

Apply for a licence

Applicable fees

The fee to apply for this licence is currently £2,000 (2015/16). This is non-returnable. Once granted, the licence will be valid for five years. There is no fee to notify us of changes to existing circumstances.

The Approved Premises Licence Fee relates to properties that wish to be approved as a venue for marriages and civil partnerships for three years. These venues are licensed in accordance with the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005.

Apply online

Please read the  Icon for pdf Application information for marriage and civil ceremony venue: annexe (PDF, 195.0kb)  to find out the conditions for approval and additional information. 

Application evaluation process

When we receive your application and required documents, a mutually convenient date will be made for the premises to be inspected. The purpose of the inspection is to ensure compliance with fire, other health and safety issues and building regulations. It is also to ensure that the licence requirements can be met.

An advert will be placed in the local newspaper for a period of three weeks to allow public consultation on the application. Any person wishing to see the plans of the premises may do so by contacting us.

For your application to be granted, all requested information must be supplied in an appropriate format and the premises must be deemed suitable in accordance with the eligibility criteria. Much of this criteria will be made conditions of your licence.

Changes to circumstances

Licence holders have a responsibility to tell us of changes to existing circumstances. You can either Apply to change a licence to use premises marriage and civil ceremonies online, or you can contact us.

Examples of changes you must tell us about include:

  • The name, address and qualification of newly appointed responsible persons
  • Changes to the layout of the premises, as shown in the plan submitted with the approved application, or in the use of the premises.
  • Changes to the name or full postal address of the approved premises.
  • Changes to the description of the room(s) in which ceremonies are to be undertaken.
  • Changes to your name or address
  • Changes to the name, address and qualifications of responsible persons

If you are in any doubt as to what changes should be notified, please contact us for advice.

Renewal of licence

Licence holders may apply for the renewal of an approval when the current approval has not more than 12 months before it is due to expire. An application for renewal made in this period will extend the current approval until the application has been finally dealt with. A renewal will run from the expiry date of the current approval.

If the licence holder fails to apply for renewal before the expiry date and the approval expires, it will be reinstated by an application for renewal made within one month of the expiry date and continue until the application has been dealt with.

Revocation of licence

If, after considering any representations from the licence holder, we conclude that the use or structure of the premises has changed so that the licence requirements cannot be met or the holder has failed to comply with the conditions of the licence, it may be revoked.

The Registrar General may direct us to revoke an approval if, in his opinion and after considering any representations from the licence holder, there have been breaches of the law relating to marriage or civil partnerships on the approved premises.

When an approval has been revoked the regulations require the former holder to notify any couples who had arranged a ceremony on the premises.

Implied granting of licence ('tacit consent')

If you have not heard from us by the end of the target completion period, you have the legal right to act as though your licence has been granted or changed. This right is known as 'tacit consent'.

For the purposes of tacit consent, our target period for processing a correctly completed application is 60 working days from receipt. We aim to acknowledge your application within 5 working days of receipt. Please contact us using the details below if you have not received acknowledgement within 10 working days.

Failed application / licence holder redress

contact us if you want to seek a review of any decision we make to refuse to grant an approval, to attach local conditions, to refuse to renew an approval or to revoke an approval. Please note that an additional fee may be payable.

Any review will be carried out by a different officer, committee or sub-committee than that which made the decision which is being appealed against. The review panel may confirm the decision, rescind it or vary it with the imposition of fresh or further conditions.

A direction by the Registrar General to revoke an approval is not subject to a review by us.

Other redress

contact us to give notice of an objection to the granting of approval. Objections must be made in writing to the Proper Officer. Objections must be received within 21 days of the date of publication in the local newspaper

Consumer complaint

We would always advise that in the event of a complaint the first contact is made with the trader by you - preferably in the form a letter (with proof of delivery). If that has not worked, Citizens Advice Consumer Service will give you advice. From outside the UK contact the UK European Consumer Centre.

Public register

We hold details of approved premises that are available for public inspection. These details are copied to the Superintendent Registrar and Principal Registration Officers of the area in which the premises are situated and to the Registrar General. Please contact us if you would like details of this register.

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In partnership with

  • EUGO
Contact us
Register Office - Aykley Heads House
03000 266 000
Our address is:
  • Aykley Heads
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5TS