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Marriage and civil partnerships

On 22 February the Prime Minister announced his plans for emerging from the current lockdown and presented a roadmap with a step-by-step plan to ease restrictions in England. The plans apply to all areas of England from the dates specified, but are subject to the four tests outlined in the roadmap being met at each step. 

Current national restrictions remain in place and there are no changes for marriages and civil partnerships in England prior to 29 March. The changes planned are:

  • Step 1 (2nd stage): From 29 March – Legal limit of 6 attendees but no longer limited to ‘exceptional circumstances’
  • Step 2: No earlier than 12 April - Legal limit of 15 attendees
  • Step 3: No earlier than 17 May – Legal limit of 30 attendees
  • Step 4: No earlier than 21 June – No legal limit on attendees (subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme – from April the government will run pilots for events such as large weddings to help determine how measures such as enhanced testing might allow large groups to attend without social distancing.)

National lockdown restrictions mean ceremonies should only take place in exceptional circumstances, eg one of the parties getting married or forming a civil partnership was terminally ill.

Legally, ceremonies/formations can take place (in COVID secure settings) but must be for no more than 6 people. The 6 people does not include anyone working at the ceremony/formation. (Please note that 6 people is only applicable to an external venue. Currently, at the Old Town Hall and Bedford Register Office only the couple and 2 witnesses are able to attend).   

However to help reduce the spread of the virus the Government preference is that they only take place in exceptional circumstances.

There is no definition of what constitutes “exceptional circumstances”. If you believe you may fall into this category please provide details of your individual circumstances by email to

We will review your request with Public Health England using the criteria below:

  1. Impact on / risk to the couple
  2. Risk to the local authority

As COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly and the new variant appears to be more transmissible, we encourage parties to delay a ceremony until we have the virus back under control.

National lockdown means everyone should be staying at home as much as possible and avoiding all unnecessary contact with those outside our household.

Examples of possible exceptions include grave circumstances whereby a ceremony could not reasonably be delayed, such as for people who are seriously ill or dying, or those who are about to undergo surgery from which they might not recover.

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic we have seen a significant increase in the number of deaths which require registration. In order to deal with this increase we have deployed all our available staff to the registration of deaths.

This means that we will be unable to respond to any enquires regarding other registration matters at this time unless it is in connection with an application for Wedding or Civil Partnership Ceremonies which falls within the category of “exceptional circumstances”.  

We have placed all the relevant information on our website which we will keep updated as the situation changes.

Once we resume we will deal with enquiries in strict date order. We would ask that you do not send requests for updates once you have sent your initial enquiry as this will slow the response time.

Please be aware that we have no availability for new ceremony bookings before July 2021.

If you would like to make a new provisional booking for July 2021 onward, please email: with the following information:

  • Both you and your partner’s names and nationalities (what passport do you currently hold)
  • Your contact telephone numbers 
  • Your current addresses
  • Condition (have either of you been through any form of marriage or civil partnership in this or any other country, to each other or to anyone else)
  • If yes to above, how did your marriage/civil partnership end (death/divorce/dissolution?)
  • If divorced, was the divorce in this country
  • The name of the venue where you wish to marry/civil partnership
  • The preferred date and time for your ceremony if available

We aim for a registrar to contact you within 5 working days, in strict date order of enquiries being received to take your booking. 

Please be aware that payment for the ceremony is required in full at the time of booking, by credit or debit card only.

Please check our website for further information regarding venues and fees: Births, Deaths, Marriages and Civil Partnerships

When the national lockdown has ended, please be aware that whilst restrictions imposed due to Covid-19 are in force, the risk assessment for ceremonies or formation at the Old Town Hall agreed with Public Health, determines that the maximum capacity for safe management of attendees is 6; this number comprising 2 Registration Officer, the couple being married/civil partnership and 2 legal witnesses only.

Bedford Register Office ceremonies are held on selected Wednesdays or Mondays only, subject to availability and are for the couple being married/civil partnership and 2 witnesses only.

Restrictions regarding any ceremony or formation at an approved venue or religious building are also required.

When marriages or formations are permitted again, please be aware that whilst restrictions imposed due to Covid-19 are in force, we are adhering to Government guidance for all ceremonies we attend, which advises the ceremony should take the shortest time reasonably possible to complete the requirements for a ceremony to be legally binding. You can read further on GOV.UK Coronavirus FAQs what you can and can't do.  

Please be understanding that requests for updates delay our response and should be avoided. 

The Registration Service has produced a handy guide to your ceremony in the Borough of Bedford.

Choose a venue

You must know where you wish to be married/civil partnership before you can book a ceremony with the Registration Service.

Book a Registrar

To book a Registrar to attend your chosen venue and officiate at your ceremony you must contact the Superintendent Registrar for the district where the ceremony is to take place.

Bedford Borough Council's Civil Registration Service will accept bookings up to, but no more than, two years in advance. For example, for a ceremony to be held on Saturday 24 July 2021 the earliest you can call to book your Registrar is Wednesday 24 July 2019.

Email us at

Civil Registration Service
Bedford Borough Council
Old Town Hall
St Paul's Square
MK40 1SJ

How much will it cost?

Give notice

Once you have booked your ceremony with both the venue and the Registrars for the district where the ceremony is to take place you will need to complete the legal preliminaries of giving “Notice of Marriage/Civil Partnership”. If both of you are a British or EEA national your “Notices” must be given at the register office for the district where you each live. “Notice of Marriage/Civil Partnership” must be given in person, by appointment only.

If you have chosen your venue, but have not yet set a date for your ceremony, “Notice of Marriage/Civil Partnership” may be given, provided that the ceremony will take place within 1 calendar year of “Notice” being given. The date and time for the ceremony may be booked later, but will be subject to availability.

If one or both of you does not hold a British or EEA passport you will both need to give your Notice of Marriage or civil partnership at a Designated Register Office. Bedford is not a Designated Register Office.

Ceremony pack 

A Civil Ceremony is, by law, non-religious therefore no religious content whatsoever is permitted.

After you have given notice the registrar will send you a ceremony pack containing important information, our “Terms and Conditions” and a guide on photography.

For couples wishing to marry or form a civil partnership it will also contain a checklist. A civil partnership may be formed without any form of ceremony, however a checklist will be provided should a ceremony be required. A marriage ceremony requires the repeating after the Superintendent Registrar of legal declaratory and contracting vows, options of which are contained in the ceremony pack.

The pack will also provide options for personalising your ceremony with music, readings and additional, personal vows and/or ring words, which you must complete and return to the Registrar. All additional content to your ceremony must be checked and approved by the Registrar at least 1 month before the date of your ceremony.

An appointment may be booked, for a fee, to discuss your ceremony requirements. 

Getting married abroad

It is your responsibility to check that you have met all of the legal requirements to be married or form a civil partnership abroad. We recommend that you make enquiries with the Embassy or Consulate of the country in which you wish to be married or form a civil partnership in the first instance. They should be able to advise you of the conditions you will need to meet.

Find out more GOV.UK's getting married abroad

In some circumstances a document will be required however this is sometimes obtainable from a solicitor. If you have been advised to obtain a document from the registrars you will need to make an appointment to give “Notice” with a Registrar. 

If you have been advised that an “Apostille” will also be required, for further advice please visit GOV.UK's getting your document legalised.

Marriage/Civil partnership certificates

We are currently unable to process any certificate applications. 

Please order any certificates required with the General Register Office here.     

Further information