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Friday, May 14, 2021

Do you need witnesses to get married?

Do you need witnesses to get married?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle said in their interview with Oprah this week that they had a small private ceremony three days before their huge Windsor wedding in May 2018.

The couple said it was just them and the Archbishop of Canterbury, indicating there weren’t any witnesses present.

While this gave them a chance to privately say what they wanted to each other, it could not be a legal marriage with just three people there.

To make it legally binding, the two people getting married, the person carrying out the ceremony and at least two witnesses must all be present.

For your own big day, even if you want an intimate ceremony with just you and your partner, you need to be aware of the rules around who needs to be there.

Harry and Meghan on their wedding day on May 19, 2018


Who can be a witness at a wedding?


You don’t have to know the people who are witnesses at your wedding. Some couples choose to elope and ask strangers in the street to play the role.

The only requirements are that the person:

*  Can speak English and understands the ceremony

*  Has the mental capacity to understand what is taking place

While there is no law around the age of the witnesses, most places ask that they are over 18 but may accept someone younger. They must understand the meaning of marriage so a young child is unlikely to be allowed.

Registry staff cannot act as witnesses and you must provide them yourself.

Is a wedding ceremony legally binding without witnesses?


Quite simply, no. The law in the UK requires two people who are not those getting married or those carrying out the ceremony to be there.

In the same way some couples choose to have a small legally binding ceremony, followed by a huge wedding with a blessing, you could do it in reverse.

If you want a private ceremony for just you and your partner, you could have a small intimate blessing and make the big ceremony the legally binding part, which seems to be what Meghan and Harry suggested.

What will a witness need to do at the wedding?


Witnesses will need to be present for the ceremony and then sign the marriage register after the couple.

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