Valentine’s Week: Gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse…

13 February 2020

Ducks are a traditional wedding gift in Korea, but before you make that big proposal this Valentine’s Day, it is important that you give some thought to getting your own ducks in a row.

We take a look at what you should be thinking about now if you plan to propose this weekend and then later in advance of the wedding.

The perfect ring

Whilst the wearing of an engagement ring has become customary, it was Pope Innocent III in the early 13th Century who declared that a couple engaged to be married should wear a ring to signify their commitment to each other during the period between proposal and the marriage contract.

In many cases, either the engagement ring is chosen without any involvement from the other or it may be chosen together following the proposal. It is, however, not uncommon for a family heirloom to be used as an engagement ring and protection should be afforded to it so that it remains in the family in the unhappy event of a breakup. In this case, the giver of the ring should make it specifically clear to the recipient that the ring is to be returned if the engagement were broken; without such specific reservation engagement rings are treated as gifts.

Preparations for the wedding

So once you have received a resounding yes to your proposal, you can move on to making those all-important wedding preparations.

Some of the more interesting wedding traditions found around the world include, for example, the slaughtering a chicken in Inner Mongolia or even having to marry a banana tree in India. You will certainly not find these traditions on the statute book in England and Wales, but you will have to properly prepare so that you are ready for the big day:

  • Giving Notice – Gone are the days when you could just elope to Gretna Green to marry. In England & Wales, you and your partner must give 28 days’ notice to your local Register Office before getting married. Many couples nowadays tend to live together before getting married and they will usually give notice at the same Register Office, otherwise notice will have to be given in each respective partner’s local district. You then have 12 months from the date of giving notice to get married.
  • What documents do I need to bring when I give notice? – Ensure that you both have all of your papers in order. You will have to prove that you have lived in the area for at least the last 7 days. If you have been previously married, you will have to bring either the Decree Absolute (or the Final Order in the case of a dissolved Civil Partnership) or your former partner’s death certificate. At the appointment, it is usual to confirm your partner’s personal details – make sure you know them! You do not want the Superintendent Registrar to refuse granting you a marriage licence on the basis that it looks like a ‘sham’ marriage.
  • Where can I get married? – Marriages and Civil Partnerships can only take place at certain venues, which could be a Register Office, a church of the Church of England, a synagogue, or a premises approved by the Local Authority. Whilst the Church of England reported in 2019 that there has been a decline in church attendance, the desire to have that ‘traditional’ church ceremony remains high with 35,000 marriages taking place there in 2018. Do bear in mind that if you are a same-sex couple, there are some venues that do not permit same-sex marriage.
  • What about Civil Partnerships? – The idea of getting married may deter some who do want to make that legal commitment to each other, but at the same time do not want the religious connotations associated with marriage. The 2nd of December 2019 marked the first day when opposite-sex couples could register their intent to form a Civil Partnership (it was previously the reserve of same-sex couples). If you do decide to form a Civil Partnership, however, be under no illusion that the financial claims on the breakdown of a Civil Partnership may just be the same as if you had been married.
  • International couples – In today’s globalised world it is certainly not uncommon for couples from different countries to marry. At present, British citizens, EEA or Swiss nationals, individuals with permanent resident or indefinite leave to remain do not need a visa to marry in the UK. This is more than likely to change following the end of the Brexit transition period this year. It is currently not possible for non-EEA visitors to the UK to enter into a marriage or Civil Partnership without obtaining a suitable visa from the UK Home Office. For example, a fiancé visa or ‘proposed Civil Partnership’ visa allows a British or settled person in the UK to bring their non-EEA partner to join them in the UK with the intention of getting married or entering into a Civil Partnership within 6 months of being granted the visa. The non-EEA partner is not permitted to work on this visa. Alternatively, individuals can apply for a marriage visitor visa, but only if it is the intention to come to the UK on a temporary basis to marry and then return to their country of residence. Be aware that if you or your partner is from outside the EU, EEA or from Switzerland, notice to marry has to be given at a Designated Register Office and there may be a wait of up to 70 days before being permitted to marry or form a Civil Partnership.

The reality is that wedding arrangements do not necessarily go all to plan, no matter how much preparation you do, but if you can dot as many I’s and cross as many T’s as possible by following the above tips, then any wedding issues will be like water off a duck’s back (hopefully!).

Teresa Cullen Author
Teresa Cullen
Partner
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Ronnie Mortimer Author
Ronnie Mortimer
Associate
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Hannah Weller Author
Hannah Weller
Paralegal
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