This week I thought I’d talk about how we made it legal.
We were originally going to have the legal bit during the week so we could focus entirely on the part that was important to us. We didn’t find the legal bit particularly enthralling to think about because we had both wanted to get married outdoors, and in the UK you can’t get a legally recognised outdoor wedding without a licensed officiant, and they can only perform on-location weddings at licensed venues that have a wedding license. That means there’s very few outdoor locations, and they’re all “licensed venues,” so you can’t do it on the beach or in the woods wherever else you feel like it. We looked into this, and found there was only one place in York licensed for outdoor weddings, and the cost was exorbitant, certainly far greater than our £500 total wedding budget, so we decided it would be easier to have the bog standard cheapest wedding ceremony and make it personal later.
Since we were both teachers when we were planning it, and there wasn’t a holiday any time near our chosen celebration date (21st June), we had to have it on a weekend. Since we were doing that (you have to pay registry offices more to get married at the weekend, presumably to make up for the fact that you’re not losing a day’s pay like you would on a weekday, assuming you work Monday to Friday), we decided we might as well just have the whole damn thing on the same day.
We originally booked an appointment to look around our local Register Office and decided that we felt it was a bit expensive and lacking in the wow factor. The leaking ceiling and water damage didn’t help their case. Since we were free to use any Register Office in the UK, we decided to look elsewhere in Yorkshire, and viewed Harrogate Register Office. We thought it was a more beautiful building, it could hold more people, and the grounds and interior were elegant and Georgian. Additionally, it had on-street parking as well as a car park. For £200 less than our local office. So we were sold. We paid our £180 and made a date.
Before we were able to get married, we both had to attend an interview at our local register office. They weren’t particularly generous to us, presumably because we weren’t using their facilities (the Harrogate date was booked at this point), and we were both interviewed separately and asked the full set of “is this a sham marriage for immigration purposes” questions. Despite the fact that all of our parents were born in the UK, and we are both British Citizens. Other people who DID use the local office to get married in the same year as us did not have to go through this to the same degree.
We managed to get through mostly unscathed, although they get REALLY annoyed if you don’t know each other’s parents’ dates of birth or whether the other person has ever been known by any other names (because that comes up so many times during the dating process). Since my future husband had never met my mother, there was no way he was going to know what her date of birth was. The woman conducting the interview got very caught up on this and even spent half an hour phoning Harrogate register office and redialing and redialing (they must have been busy) to check whether they would accept our wedding if my future husband didn’t know my mother’s date of birth.
Eventually she decided there was nothing she could stop us marrying over, and we were allowed to have our wedding. It did seem very silly to ask the person you’re marrying about all this stuff, and I think they could improve it by asking me about me and him about him, THEN quizzing us about each other. That would have made a lot more sense. But that wasn’t how they did it. Logic tells me this stuff is all things they should be able to ask if they suspect something is wrong with your proposed wedding, but that it got taken too far on this occasion.
I would say this is the opposite of a deterrent to sham weddings, because they’re more likely to learn all this stuff about each other to get through the interview. If you’re getting a registrar to do your marriage, learn all the details about each other first.
After this, we got a big booklet through the post which looked like an exam paper. It had loads of questions and dotted lines and delete as applicables. Most of the wording was optional and it was supposed to be “personalised” so for example you could choose four different Hallmark declarations to state when giving the rings. We hated all of it it was far too saccharine and Eastenders for our tastes, so we crossed out everything that was optional and pared it down to the simplest way of saying “you two are getting married. Do you want to get married? M’kay you’re married now. Swap some rings and kiss.”
With our wedding coming AFTER the legalisation of gay marriage, but the brochures being obviously out of date, I also took the liberty of changing the legal and non-optional preamble that said “marriage is between one man and one woman” to “marriage is between two people of any gender” Now the regsitrar didn’t read the “of any gender” bit, but she was happy to say “marriage is between two people” instead of one man and one woman, and that was enough of a result for me.
We also had to choose some music for the ceremony. We chose “Science Fiction Double Feature” (from Rocky Horror) for walking down the aisle, “Bat Out of Hell” (by Meatloaf) for leaving, “Poison” (by Alice Cooper) for signing the register and I’m sure I got them to play “Bohemian Rhapshody” (by Queen) as well but I can’t remember what aspect of the ceremony that was for, and we didn’t get to keep our exam booklet so I don’t have the list. Then we burned them all onto one CD in the correct order to send back with our booklet so that it was foolproof, but we didn’t need to worry, the Harrogate Register Office team were INCREDIBLY competent and helpful individuals. In this booklet, we also needed to state the names of the two witnesses who would counter sign the register.