Ok, so there are three main options when you’re considering getting legally “married”. A Religious Ceremony, a Civil Ceremony or a Civil Partnership. But what’s the difference?!
You can have a religious wedding in any registered religious building. An authorised person must be present and register the marriage. Same-sex couples can have a religious ceremony, assuming the religious building is registered for same-sex ceremonies.
At the time of writing this, there were 251 places of worship registered for same-sex marriage, which I’ll be honest is more than I was expecting. However, there are 22,556 places of worship registered for opposite-sex marriages – which is quite a sad statistic for religion – but let’s not get into that.
You can have a civil ceremony in a register office or any venue approved by the local council. A civil ceremony cannot include anything religious. There are approximately 8250 venues licenced for civil ceremonies, available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
After a civil ceremony you will be legally “married” in the traditional sense.
A civil partnership is slightly different, although it has many of the same benefits (tax, pensions & inheritance) as being married, in the traditional sense. But there are a few difference, which I’ll do my best to outline below…
If you opt for a civil partnership…
You can form a civil partnership in any venue that has been approved by the local council or any religious building that agrees to host civil partnerships. Any venue that’s approved for civil ceremonies is automatically approved for civil partnerships.
For legal purposes, you won’t be “married” you’ll be in a “civil partnership”. No specific words are required to be said to form a civil partnership, all that’s required is signing a document. Therefore, no ceremony is required either, but you can still choose to have one. If you’re forming your partnership in a religious building then you can have a religious ceremony, as long as the actual formation remains secular.
Civil partnership certificates list both parents for each of the couples and are recorded in an electronic register. Whereas for a marriage it’s just the father’s name and they’re recorded in a hard copy register.
Hopefully, you won’t ever need to know any of this, but… You can’t annul a civil partnership if your partner has an STD that they could have told you about, but you can a marriage. For mixed-sex couples, non-consummation of a marriage can be used as a reason for annulment, but not for a civil partnership. Also, adultery cannot be used as a reason for the dissolution of a civil partnership whereas it can for marriage.