Civil marriage and partnership venue licence
The Marriage Act 1994 (referred to as the Act throughout this page) amends the Marriage Act 1949 to allow for an approval to be issued by the Council for civil marriages to be solemnised in buildings approved for the purpose. The Marriages (Approved Premises) Regulations 1995 have been revoked and replaced with the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005 which have come into force as a result of The Civil Partnership Act 2004 and Section 46A of the Marriage Act 1994.
The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005| enable premises approved by local authorities, such as hotels and stately homes, to be used for the solemnisation of civil marriages and the formation of civil partnerships.
Who can apply for an approval?
Either, the proprietors or trustees of a suitable building may make an application.
Which buildings can be approved?
- Any permanent building which provides an appropriate and dignified setting for the serious legal contract of marriage or civil partnership may be approved. The building must comply with Health and Safety Regulations and Fire Regulations and must not be used at present or have been used in the recent past for any form of religious worship.
- The applicant should consult with the Council's Chief Planning Officer as to whether planning consent is required and attach evidence that it is content that the premises may be used for civil ceremonies for marriage and civil partnership proceedings.
Conditions which determine suitability
Having regard to their primary use, situation, construction and state of repair, the premises must, in the opinion of the Council, be a seemly and dignified venue for the solemnization of marriages and formation of civil partnerships.
The term 'premises' is defined in Regulation 2(1) as a permanently immovable structure comprising at least one room or any boat or other vessel, which is permanently moored. Any premises outside this definition, such as the open air, a tent, marquee or any other temporary structure and most forms of transport, would not be eligible for approval. In addition, there are requirements in Schedule 1 that must be met before an approval can be granted.
- The premises must be regularly available to the public for use for the solemnization of marriages or the registration (formation) of civil partnerships.
- The premises must have the benefit of such fire precautions as may reasonably be required by the Council, having consulted with the fire authority, and such other reasonable provision for the health and safety of persons employed in or visiting the premises as the Authority considers appropriate.
- The premises must not be:
- Religious premises as defined by section 6(2) of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 - premises which are used solely or mainly for religious purposes, or have been so used and have not subsequently been used solely or mainly for other purposes.
- A Register Office, but this paragraph does not apply to premises in which a Register Office is situated provided that the room which is subject to approval is not the same room as the room which is the Register Office.
- The room or rooms in which the proceedings (marriage or civil partnership) will be held if approval is granted must be identifiable by description as a distinct part of the premises.
- The building must have the benefit of a planning permission or other requirements set by the Council, which would not prohibit the use of the building for the conduct of civil marriages or civil partnership proceedings.
- The safety of Register Office staff and their legal documents will be a primary consideration as to the suitability of a building.
- Public access to any proceedings in approved premises must be permitted without charge. The premises may be used for both the solemnisation of marriages and registration of civil partnerships but must be regularly available to the public for use for one or the other. The holder of an approval may decide that the premises are only available for marriages or civil partnerships and not for both. If a person is aggrieved by approved premises not being available for both, he or she, will be advised that this cannot be enforced under marriage and civil partnership legislation. The authority has no powers to intervene and it is a matter that the person will have to pursue with the holder of the approval.
- An interview room must also be available for the confidential interviewing of persons taking part in any proceedings at the premises.
- The location of the room/s to be used for either a civil marriage ceremony or a civil partnership formation must be easily approached from the main entrance.
- There is no limit to the number of room(s) which can be approved for marriages/civil partnership proceedings. However, marriages or civil partnership proceedings can only take place in a room(s) which have been approved by the Council.
In considering the suitability of premises as a venue the Council will have regard to the following Guidance from the Registrar General:
- The laws relating to 'approved premises' are intended to allow proceedings to take place regularly in hotels, stately homes, civic halls and similar premises without compromising the fundamental principles of English law and Parliament's intention to maintain the solemnity of the occasion.
- The secular nature of a civil marriage ceremony or civil partnership formation 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 in 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. However, premises in which a religious group meets occasionally may be suitable if the primary use of the premises is secular.
- Marriages on approved premises may be followed by a celebration, commemoration or blessing of the couple's choice, providing that it is not a religious marriage ceremony and is separate from the civil ceremony. However, if a religious blessing were to regularly follow the service being offered on the premises, there may well be a religious connection which would breach the requirements and lead to the Council having to consider revoking the approval.
- The Council will also have regard to:-
- disabled access;
- toilet facilities;
- maximum occupancy of the marriage room;
- the adequacy of car parking facilities.
Conditions to be attached to grants of approval
The following conditions will be attached to the Approval by the Council to any premises.
- The Holder of the Approval must ensure that there is at all times an individual with responsibility for ensuring compliance with these conditions ("the responsible person") and that the responsible person's occupation, seniority, position of responsibility in relation to the premises, or other factors (his "qualification"), indicate that he is in a position to ensure compliance with these conditions.
- The responsible person or, in his absence, an appropriately qualified deputy appointed by him, shall be available on the premises for a minimum of one hour prior to and throughout each of the proceedings.
- The Holder must notify the Council -
- of his name and address immediately upon him becoming the Holder of an Approval under Regulation 7 (2); and
- of the name, address and qualification of the responsible person immediately upon the appointment of a new responsible person
- The Holder must also notify the Authority immediately of any change to any of the following:-
- the layout of the premises, as shown in the plan submitted with the approved application, or in the use of the premises;
- the name or full postal address of the approved premises;
- the description of the room or rooms in which marriages are to be solemnized;
- the name or address of the Holder of the Approval, and
- the name, address or qualification of the responsible person.
- The approved premises must be available at all reasonable times for inspection by the Authority.
- A suitable notice stating that the premises have been approved for the proceedings and identifying and giving directions to the room in which the proceedings are to take place must be displayed at each public entrance to the premises for one hour prior to and throughout the proceedings.
- No food or drink may be sold or consumed in the room in which the proceedings take place for one hour prior to or during those proceedings.
- All proceedings must take place in a room which was identified as one to be used for that purpose on the plan submitted with the approved application.
- The room in which the proceedings take place must be separate from any other activity on the premises at the time of the proceedings.
- The arrangements for and content of each marriage ceremony must meet with the prior approval of the Superintendent Registrar of the district in which the approved premises are situated.
Any proceedings conducted on approved premises shall not be religious in nature.
In particular, the proceedings shall not
- include any extracts from an authorised religious marriage service or from sacred texts;
- be led by a minister or religion or other religious leader;
- involve a religious ritual or series of rituals;
- include hymns or other religious chants; or
- include any form of worship.
But the proceedings may include readings, songs, or music that contain an incidental reference to a god or deity in an essentially non-religious context.
For this purpose any material used by way of introduction to, in any interval between parts of, or by way of conclusion to the proceedings shall be treated as forming part of the proceedings.
- Public access to any proceedings in approved premises must be permitted without charge.
- Any reference to the approval of premises on any sign or notice, or on any stationery or publication, or within any advertisement may state that the premises have been approved by the Authority as a venue for marriage in pursuance of Section 26(1) (bb) of the 1949 Act and the formation of civil partnerships under section 6(3A0(a) of the 2004 Act but shall not state or imply any recommendation of the premises or its facilities by the Authority, the Registrar General or any of the officers or employees of either of them.
- If a change of name to the approved premises occurs after the issue of the certificate for marriage or the civil partnership document before the proceedings, the former name of the approved premises as recorded in the certificate for marriage or the civil partnership document shall remain valid for its duration for the purpose of the proceedings.
Approval holder's responsibilities
The following requirements form part of the conditions attaching to any approval of premises issued by the Council.
The Approval Holder must:-
- Appoint a responsible person who will be known as the Marriage/Civil Partnership Representative for the purpose of arranging marriages/civil partnership proceedings. A number of deputies may also be appointed if these are felt necessary. The Approval Holder may act as the Marriage/Civil Partnership Representative if he/she wishes.
- Ensure that the Council's Licensing Office holds a complete record of the names, addresses and daytime telephone numbers of the Marriage/Civil Partnership Representative and his/her deputies.
- Ensure that the Marriage/Civil Partnership Representative is aware of his/her responsibilities of co-ordinating marriages/civil partnership proceedings in the approved building.
- Ensure that the Marriage/Civil Partnership Representative or one of his/her deputies is in attendance at every marriage/civil partnership proceeding in the building.
- Ensure that the Approval issued by the Council, the Registrar General's Notices and the address and telephone number of the Register Office are prominently displayed in the room(s) which are used for proceedings.
- Ensure that members of the public have free access to the building and the room(s) used for proceedings.
- Ensure that signs directing guests and members of the public to the room(s) are clearly displayed on days when proceedings are taking place.
- Ensure that arrangements are made to separate the room(s) used for the proceedings from any other event or activity taking place in the building.
- Ensure that nothing of a frivolous nature is permitted before or during a proceeding, which detracts from the dignity of the marriage ceremony/civil partnership proceedings.
- Ensure that a religious marriage ceremony or a religious blessing does not take place at the same celebration once the civil ceremony is completed.
- Ensure that food and drink is not available for consumption in the room used for the proceedings for one hour before, or during the proceedings.
- Ensure that smoking is not permitted in the room(s) for one hour before, or during the proceedings.
- Ensure compliance with any limitations imposed by Health and Safety Regulations and Fire Regulations in respect of the number of guests allowed into the room(s).
- Ensure that the room(s) is suitably furnished with a table and chairs as required by the Register Office staff.
- Ensure that the room(s) is/are adequately lit. Additional lighting must be provided for the Register Office staff should it be necessary for completing the Registers.
- Ensure that the Council is informed of any change to the room, change of use of the building, change of ownership of the building or change of the Marriage/Civil Partnership Representative.
- The particulars of any application for an approval will be published on the Council's website.
- The authority will also make the application and the plan accompanying it available to members of the public for inspection at all reasonable hours during the working day until such time as the application has been finally determined or withdrawn.
- The notice on the Council's website will:
- Identify the premises and the applicant;
- Indicate the address at which the application and the plan accompanying it may be inspected;
- State that any person may give notice in writing of an objection to the grant of the approval, with reasons for the objection, within 21 days from the date on which the notice is published on the Council's website; and
- Notify the public of their right to object to the granting of an Approval.
- State the address of the offices of the authority to which notice of objection should be given.
- The applicant will be notified of any objections and the reasons given.
- Any objections will be fully considered before a decision on the granting of any Approval is made.
Register of approved premises
- A register of Approved Buildings, within the Calderdale Registration District, will be held at the Council's Licensing Unit, Westgate House, Westgate Street, Halifax, HX1 1PS
- The Register will be available for public inspection, Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 5.00pm
- The Register will contain:
- Name and full address of the approved premises;
- Description of the room or rooms in which the proceedings are to take place;
- Name and address of the Approval Holder.
- Date Approval issued.
- Date Approval expires.
- Date by which application for renewal of Approval must be received.
- If the Approval is revoked, the date on which the revocation takes effect.
- The name, address and qualification of the responsible person.
- The Registrar General, the Superintendent Registrar, the Civil Partnership Registrars and persons authorised under section 8(6) of the 2004 Act for the area in which the premises are situated, will be notified immediately after making an entry or amendment of the details on the register.
- Where an application is refused the applicant will be notified and the reasons for the refusal.
- An applicant may seek a review by the Council of its decision to refuse to grant an approval, to attach local conditions, to refuse to renew an Approval or to revoke an Approval.
- The Council may charge an additional fee for a review of its decision to refuse to grant an Approval, to attach local conditions or to refuse to renew an Approval.
- A direction by the Registrar General to revoke an Approval is not subject to review by the Council.
Revoking an approval
An Approval can, or may, be revoked if:
- There is failure to comply with the necessary instructions and conditions required in the acquiring of an Approval.
- The use of the building has changed.
- The building is considered no longer suitable.
Notifying of revocation
- Where it is the intention of the Council to revoke an Approval, notice will be served on the Approval Holder in writing specifying the grounds for the revocation.
- The Council will take into account any representations made by, or on behalf of the Approval Holder.
- If any representations are not accepted by the Council further notice in writing will be served on the Approval Holder, stating the date the Approval will be revoked.
- The Council must revoke an Approval if directed to do so by the Registrar General.