In Scotland and most other countries there are legally 41 words that need to be said in every wedding ceremony: __________ and __________, if I could you both to stand before me.
___________, do you take ______________ to be your lawful wedded wife.
___________ says I DO
___________, do you take ______________ to be your lawful wedded husband.
___________ says I DO
After these words you can make personal vows or a declaration of love to your partner that you have prepared beforehand or religious vows.
There are only three ways that you can be legally married in Scotland: by a Registrar, a designated member of a faith organisation, or an accredited Humanist Celebrant. There are some Independent Celebrants that are tied to an Independent Faith Body who can perform ceremonies. Other Independent Celebrants require you to first be legally married by a Registrar and then you can have your bespoke ceremony. See my previous blog article for an example.
Everyone getting married needs to complete a Marriage Notice – Scotland M10 Form (Section 3(1) of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977). Whilst you think of your wedding as a romantic act it is still a legal contract that has all sorts of implications with regard to family law, property, inheritance tax, a spouse cannot be compelled by a criminal court to disclose private communications with their spouse, no inheritance tax is payable on an estate inherited by a surviving spouse, etc.
You will need make an appointment with the Registrar who will check The M10 form along with relevant documentation – birth certificate, adoption certificate, evidence of residence, etc. You will pay a fee of £70.00 at the time of writing. This appointment needs to be with the Registrar in the district you are getting married no more than three months prior to the wedding and no less than 29 days before the date of the wedding. I always advise couples to do this as soon as the three month window is open and if you do not have all the documentation to nevertheless get the process started. You can always return with missing documentation. Your celebrant should help you complete section F, which is about your celebrant’s designation to conduct your legal wedding ceremony. Part of my service to couples is to assist them with the whole form.
You will return to the Registrar’s office the week before your wedding to collect The Marriage schedule and hand it to the Celebrant conducting your ceremony. This is the document that will be signed by yourselves, two witnesses, and the Celebrant at your marriage ceremony. Without it there can be no legal wedding. This document must be returned by someone designated by you to the Registrar on the next working day after your ceremony.
© Chris Vermeulen
In my last two blogs I pointed out that Independent Celebrants in the United Kingdom are not able to conduct legal weddings. In England and Wales only Religious Celebrants and Registrars can legally solemnise a marriage and in Scotland Humanists Celebrants can also do so. Personally I see no reason why a trained Independent Celebrant who is part of a body that monitors standards and provides ongoing professional development should not be allowed to solemnise legal weddings. This is the situation in Australia (https://www.ag.gov.au/FamiliesAndMarriage/Marriage/Pages/Becomingamarriagecelebrant.aspx). I see no reason why the Scottish Independent Celebrants Association (SICA) or the English equivalent the Association of Independent Celebrants (AOIC) cannot oversee this task.
The main reason someone would choose an Independent Celebrant is a “choice” not have to subscribe to a belief system – religious or humanist – and for their wedding ceremony to be designed around their value system and story.
I came across an article by Louise Ridley in the inews that illustrates the current and unsatisfactory position. The article was in entitled “I got married twice in one week – but I shouldn’t have had to”.
She writes “I wasn’t that bothered about the first time I got married. It was in a room in a council building, with my now husband George and our parents. We didn’t know who would conduct the marriage, or what vows we’d say, and in a brief ceremony, we became husband and wife. It was nice, but for me it was bureaucratic, not emotional.” This was the legal wedding.
She goes onto write, “The second time we got married – a few days later – was very different. In front of 160 friends and family, we said vows we had written and watched as the guests laughed and got tearful over an address from Zena, a humanist celebrant who had got to know us over six months.” Louise wedding was in England where humanists or independent celebrants cannot legally solemnise a wedding.
She had to book a service room at the Registrars, which added to the cost and she goes onto say that it was “inconvenient, and frankly a little weird.” All Louise and her partner wanted was a ceremony that was meaningful and true to their beliefs and this extra step was just a formality that they had to go through.
Louise finishes her article like this “This weekend, my husband and I will celebrate our second wedding anniversary – and regardless of when we were legally married, we know which day we’ll be marking.”
You can read the full article https://inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/humanist-wedding-ceremonies-legal-recognition/. If there is enough interest I will start a petition to lobby Members of Parliament and Members of the Scottish Parliament.
© Chris Vermeulen
Advantages of a Celebrant for your Wedding Ceremony in Scotland
The main reason for using the services of a Celebrant to conduct your wedding ceremony is CHOICE. Celebrants are not tied to any belief system – religious or humanist – and they are not tied to the strict ceremony regulations that apply to state registrars. With a Celebrant you can have the ceremony you desire in the venue of your choice and the ceremony will be totally geared to your philosophy and beliefs. After all it’s your wedding and the ceremony is a very important part of your wedding day.
With a Celebrant you can now make both the ceremony and the reception as individual as you please. You may be happy to have a traditional a religious ceremony with traditional vows and the order of the ceremony dictated by someone else with restrictions on readings, music, vows and sometimes even photographs. A civil or humanist ceremony is the opposite as you won’t be allowed to include any content that’s related to religion, such as hymns (even as quotes), Bible references, or even songs that indirectly refer to religion. A good wedding Celebrant is working for you and will follow your guidance.
Wedding Celebrants are not that well known in the UK, but they have been around for about 50 years. In England, Scotland and Wales you must be legally married first at the registry office and then you are free to work with your celebrant to design the wedding ceremony of your dreams.
A Wedding Celebrant gives you flexibility. You will be able to have your wedding in the venue of your choice as well outdoors. It’s entirely up to you how the whole occasion reflects your personal beliefs and lifestyle. You will choose your own vows, readings, poems, music, retuals, decor and anything else you fancy, without restriction.
When you are standing in front of all your guests, the person welcoming them and officiating your ceremony is one of the most significant people at your wedding. You will have had several meetings, emails, phone conversations, planning and drafting and redrafting your wedding ceremony. This person is the one asking you to commit your lives together and the person you have appointed. This will not be the case with religious, humanist, or registrar weddings who all are bound by the strictures of their organisation.
With a good Celebrant you can have your wedding themed. You and your partner might share a common hobby that you would want incorporated into your service. You may decide on a more formal occasion and would like the ceremony to follow a certain traditional structure, or you are a couple that find yourselves never on time, and need a Celebrant who is relaxed and doesn’t mind the start time being a little flexible.
You can choose, speak to and meet many wedding Celebrants before deciding on the right one for you. You can find someone who suits your style, someone you really connect with and trust to have the responsibility on the special day.
© Chris Vermeulen
Falling in love, getting engaged, and planning your marriage to the person of your dreams is meant to be romantic and a celebration of love. However there is a less romantic side to getting married as it is the legal union of two people, who are joined together after they have obtained a marriage license from the state registrar. The law of the land defines the rights and responsibilities of your marriage relationship, which you and your partner may modify by creating a premarital (or prenuptial) agreement.
Every country has a legal process that must be followed to the letter of the law in order to be legally married. For example in France and Germany all couples have to be legally married in the town hall before they can have a member of clergy, humanist, or celebrant conduct their wedding ceremony. In Scotland all couples must obtain and complete the “Marriage Notice Application Form M10” from the registrar in the district in which the marriage is to take place.
If they are to be married by a religious or humanist officiant they need to collect the marriage schedule that will be signed by the couple, two witnesses and the officiant during the wedding service and then lodged at the registrars on the next working day. Alternatively the couple can to book the service room and have a secular wedding ceremony conducted by the registrar. By definition religious celebrants have to follow the rules of their religious institutions when conducting a wedding. Likewise humanist celebrants have to adhere the humanist society’s rules and philosophy. Registrars have rules and guidelines set by the state and there is very little wriggle room.
However there is a way to separate the legal requirements and still have the ceremony of your dreams. That is to follow the process outlined above regarding the “Marriage Notice Application Form M10” and once the registrar has checked the paperwork and is satisfied you can return to the registrar office in your casual clothes with two witness for a short five to ten minute ceremony – which I believe is unnecessary - and sign the paperwork. In Scotland the registrars insist on this, but this is not the case in every country.
You are now free to work with your chosen celebrant to design the wedding ceremony of your dreams. Your wedding ceremony is truly the most important part of the wedding day and using a Wedding Celebrant allows you all the flexibility you’d wish for. You will be able to have your wedding ceremony however you choose and it’ll be entirely up to you how the whole occasion flows and reflects your personal beliefs and lifestyle. You will choose your own vows, readings, poems, music, venue, decor and anything else you fancy, without restriction. All other forms of wedding ceremonies have to follow certain rules and formula.
When I conduct such weddings we sign a specially printed commemorative marriage certificate during the wedding ceremony at your venue. I also give couples a professionally printed booklet containing their bespoke ceremony which they will be able to keep as a memento or record of their big day.
© Chris Vermeulen