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Terms and conditions for granting a licence for civil ceremonies

Licence for civil marriages and registration of civil partnerships

Surrey County Council has agreed a minimum standard for the granting of a licence to those venues seeking to hold civil marriage or civil partnership ceremonies. It reserves the right to refuse a licence on these terms. Registration staff reserves the right to refuse to perform a ceremony, if they are satisfied that the standards do not comply with those set out in the original granting of the licence. There are some additional conditions that apply if you wish to licence a garden structure.

Terms and conditions for granting a licence

1. A non-refundable fee is payable on application of a licence, which will cover the total cost of the procedure.

2. The licence will be valid for a period of three years.

3. Any person wishing to apply for a licence must do so in writing by completing an application form and submitting a plan of the building, which indicates the room(s) to be licensed, together with a seating plan for each room, stating the total number permitted seated theatre style, in line with the risk assessment for the building.

4. The applicant must make the premises available for inspection at any time after the application has been made.

5. During the inspection the applicant must be able to show that a suitable notice will be provided, which states that the premises have been approved for the solemnization of marriages in pursuance of section 26(1)(bb) of the Marriage Act 1949, or the registration of civil partnerships in pursuance, in section 6(3A)(a) of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, identifying and giving directions to the room in which the ceremony is to take place. This notice must be displayed at each public entrance to the premises for one hour prior to the ceremony and throughout the ceremony.

6. Before any a licence can be granted, the premises to be licensed will be advertised on the Surrey County Council website to allow for any objections. Objections must be received in writing by the local authority within 21 days from the date the advertisement appears. Any objections will be considered as soon as practicable after receipt.

7. The holder of the approval must ensure that there is at all times an individual with responsibility for ensuring compliance with these conditions.

8. The building must be of a permanent non-demountable form and secular in nature. The secular nature of civil marriages, or the registration of civil partnerships, precludes the use of any building with a recent or continuing religious connection. This effectively rules out any building, or room, whose description, purpose, or appearance, is still considered to be linked to religion. A chapel of a stately home and a building containing furniture, or fittings, associated with a place of religious worship, or which has stained glass windows depicting a religious image are examples of a continuing religious connection.

9. Premises in which a religious group meets occasionally may be suitable if the primary use of the premises is secular.

10. If a gazebo or garden structure is to be used, the ceremony must take place within the structure. The bride, groom, witnesses and the registrars must all be within the building, although guests may be seated outside in the garden.

  • In the case of inclement weather conditions, the ceremony will take place in a designated room within the venue. The decision to move inside will be taken by the venue after consultation with the registrars. The decision of the venue and registration staff is final.
  • It is the responsibility of the venue to make it clear to the couple at the time of booking, that the ceremony must take place within the structure and to obtain their agreement, to moving the ceremony inside the main building if it is deemed necessary on the day. (We would suggest that the couple sign up to this agreement).
  • The venue will be the responsible for ensuring that the room to be used is readily available if the decision has been made to move the ceremony inside.

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11. The building must be available for civil marriages or the registration of civil partnerships, on a regular basis and cannot be licensed for a specific occasion. A private house is unlikely to be an appropriate venue for civil marriages or civil partnership ceremonies, as it would not be known to the public as a venue for such ceremonies, or regularly available for their use.

12. The primary use of a building would also render it unsuitable if that use could demean civil marriages or the registration of civil partnerships, or bring it into disrepute.

13. The building should not be a derelict or semi-derelict structure.

14. A licence will be revoked if a building has only been used for civil marriages or the registration of civil partnerships, on three or less occasions in the previous year, or will not be granted if it can be clearly seen that the building will not provide for regular use of such ceremonies.

15. For the purposes of defining a dignified and seemly location for the solemnization of civil marriages or the registration of civil partnerships, the following criteria will apply

  • The decor and furnishing of the designated room(s) must be of a standard appropriate to the occasion.
  • The location of the room(s) for civil marriages or civil partnerships will be prominently displayed in the building and access is always made available to any member of the public who may wish to attend a ceremony. If any member of the public wishes to object to the ceremony on legal grounds, they must have the right to unfettered access to witness the ceremony and make objections prior to, or during, the ceremony.
  • The designated room is separate from any other activity taking place in the building, whether accompanying the ceremony, or not. The sale or consumption of alcohol, soft drinks, beverages, or food is not permitted in the room where the ceremony is due to take place, for one hour prior to, or throughout the ceremony.

16. Civil marriages and registration of civil partnership ceremonies on approved premises may be followed by a celebration, commemoration, or blessing of the couples' choice, providing that it is not a religious ceremony and is separate from the civil ceremony. However, if a religious blessing were to regularly follow such ceremonies on particular premises, or be considered part of the service being offered on the premises, there may well be a religious connection, which would breach the requirements and lead to the local authority having to consider revoking the approval.

17. The applicant must hold a relevant fire risk assessment and comply with the health and safety regulations relevant to large numbers of people attending a building at one time. The applicant must also have planning permission to hold a public meeting, which will be accepted as permission to hold civil marriage or civil partnership ceremonies. There is no planning use class, which specifically allows ceremonies, so the applicant will have to consult with the local planning authority and, if regular use as a venue for such ceremonies constitutes development, obtain planning permission. Approval of these regulations must be produced before any licence can be approved.

18. A suitable adjacent private room must be made available for the superintendent and registrar at least 30 minutes before the ceremony, which allows for the registrar to interview the couple and carry out any other registration arrangements as necessary.

19. Surrey County Council provides facilities for those with a disability at their register offices. Similar facilities should be provided at other venues and a licence will not be granted if the applicant is unable to assure the licensee of suitable arrangements for this purpose.

20. The provision of other facilities at the ceremony must be agreed by the superintendent registrar or registrar attending the ceremony. Any music used as part of the ceremony must be secular in nature and must be in accordance with any instructions issued by the superintendent or registrar.

21. The superintendent or registrar can refuse to hold a civil marriage or civil partnership ceremony if he/she is satisfied that the premises are unsuitable for the holding of such a service under the terms and conditions of the licence. For this reason the applicant must allow access by the superintendent/registrar to inspect the building at any time during the day of the ceremony if he/she so wishes. The applicant must comply with any reasonable instructions given by the superintendent/registrar, or any other officer representing the registration service.

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Exceptions

22. Registration staff will not be available to perform ceremonies on Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Decision not to grant a licence

23. If a licence is not to be granted the applicant will be notified in writing and the reasons for reaching the decision will be given.

24. If the applicant wishes to appeal against a decision not to licence a premise, they must do so in writing to the Proper Officer within two weeks of the licensee's decision not to grant the licence. A further fee will be charged for any appeal made by the applicant.

Revocation of a licence

25. The licensee can revoke a licence at any time if the standard of the building is not acceptable, or there has been a change of use, both of which the licensee might consider to be unsuitable for the solemnization of civil marriages and/or the registration of civil partnerships. The licensee will be obliged to revoke a licence, upon instructions from the Registrar General, because there are breaches of the law relating to such ceremonies in, or on the approved premises. Any changes to the building, or designated room/s, therefore, must be notified in writing immediately if it will affect the terms and conditions of the licence.

Complaints

26. Complaints against either the Registration Service, or events occurring on the premises during civil wedding or civil partnership ceremonies, must be immediately directed to the Proper Officer.

Variations

27. The County Council reserves the right to vary these terms and conditions at any time without prior notification and will endeavour to inform applicants in writing of any changes which may affect the holding of the licence.

Timing of ceremonies

28. We offer set times to conduct a civil ceremony. We would ask the venue to ensure that the couples are advised to contact us regarding ceremony times so that we can confirm that we have availability on the day and time they have requested.

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