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Registrar General's Licence

A Registrar General's Licence is a special legal provision allowing a marriage or civil partnership to take place at very short notice in circumstances where one of the parties is seriously ill and is not expected to recover.  It is designed to be used when the normal legal procedures for marriage or civil partnership cannot be complied with due to their ill health.

It applies only if the person is too poorly to be moved to a place registered for marriages or civil partnerships; instead the ceremony is conducted where they are residing - this could be a hospital, hospice or at home.  

Legal requirements for a Registrar General's Licence.

  • Notice of marriage or civil partnership must be given by the partner who is not poorly to the superintendent registrar of the district where the marriage or civil partnership is to take place.
  • Medical evidence of the sick person's condition and their capacity to understand the meaning of the marriage ceremony or civil partnership will be required.  This will be in the form of a letter written by the doctor in attendance of the unwell partner and must follow a prescribed format - the superintendent registrar will be able to assist you with the contents of the letter when you contact us.
  • Both parties must be legally free to marry or contract a civil partnership and normal evidence of name, age and marital status will be required.

The superintendent registrar will contact the General Register Office to apply for the licence on your behalf - this can be done immediately after the notice has been given and therefore it may be possible for the marriage or civil partnership to take place extremely quickly afterwards at any hour of the day.  However, the ceremony must take place within one month of the granting of the licence.

Where a marriage or civil partnership is to be by civil ceremony, the superintendent registrar and registrar must attend to perform and register the marriage.

If it is to be by religious ceremony (other than Church of England or Church of Wales), a registrar must attend to register the marriage or civil partnership and you must arrange for the minister or priest to be present. A clergyman of the Church of England or Church of Wales cannot conduct a Registrar General's Licence marriage; instead you must apply to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a special licence. 

How much does it cost?

The only fees payable in respect of the Registrar General's Licence are £15, plus the cost of any certificates issued (currently £4 each). 

What to do now

If you need to discuss the possibility of a Registrar General's Licence ceremony, please contact us to be put through to a superintendent registrar.  If you are calling out of normal office hours, there is a pushbutton system on this number to an emergency line which is accessed regularly when the offices are closed.

  • Updated: 01 Nov 2016
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