Marriage Venue Licensing

A recent report by a shows that the average cost of a wedding in the UK in 2018 was a staggering £30,355! So anything you can do to help couples reduce that cost will be a great marketing ploy for your pub.

One way you can enhance your offering to potential wedding parties, and make yourself stand out from other venues, is by applying for approval as an approved marriage premises.

The Marriages (Approved Premises) Regulations 1995 allow civil marriages to take place regularly in hotels, stately homes, civic halls and similar premises and makes Local Authorities the licensing body. As civil marriages have to take place in “readily identifiable premises” a pub, can in certain circumstances, be just such a venue (but not in a marquee in your beer garden).

In considering premises for approval, the Local Authority look at their primary use, situation, construction and state of repair, and it must “be a seemly and dignified venue for the solemnization of marriages”.

The premises must have fire precautions in place approved by local Fire Authority and “such other reasonable provision for the health and safety of persons employed in or visiting the premises” as you council considers appropriate. Your pub will probably meet these criteria as it will have these things in place with regard to your Premises Licence under the 2003 Licensing Act.

The room(s) in which ceremonies of marriage take place must be a distinct part of the building and be separate from any other activity on the premises at the time of the ceremony. So you wouldn’t be able to hold a wedding in the bar or restaurant for instance, so you will need something like a function room. In addition you will need to have a separate private room for pre-marriage questioning by the Registrar.

You will have to operate an “open doors” policy, which, means that the public must have unrestricted access to witness the marriage and make objections prior to or during the ceremony.

The primary use of a building would also render it unsuitable for marriages if that use could demean marriage or bring it into disrepute, so a vertical drinking establishment or nightclub may not be deemed suitable.

The secular nature of civil marriage precludes the use of any building with a recent or continuing “religious connection”, so if your pub is in a converted church with stained glass windows etc then you won’t be able to get a venue licence. I know of many beautiful pub/church conversions, but they will lose out on this opportunity. A note on religion here, is that if you allow “blessings” or other religious ceremonies to take place after civil marriages on a regular basis the Local Authority may revoke their approval.

The Application Process

When you apply for marriage venue approval you will have to pay a non-returnable fee for the application, which, has to be submitted with the application and other documents be required by the Council.

The application must be made by the proprietor (you) or when made on behalf of a limited company, there should be a separate statement of the names and addresses of all the directors. This process is probably something you will need to do with the help of your solicitor.

You will need to send the following things to your local council:

  • A completed application form
  • Three copies of the plan of the premises clearly identifying the room(s) in which marriages will be solemnized if approval is granted. You will have to indicate on the plans the room to be used by the Registrar for pre-marriage questioning.
  • The appropriate fee.

After receiving the application, the Local Authority will make the application and plan available to members of the public for inspection until the application has been finally determined or withdrawn, just the way they do with all licensing applications.

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