Bride and groom who eloped to the lake district

Eloping in the UK: The Legalities

As we have said before, elopements are crazily romantic and gorgeous, but they do come with realities that you need to think about and plan accordingly. This blog is aimed to help you navigate the legalities of how to legally elope in the UK. Whether you are planning an adventure elopement in the scenic landscapes of the UK or a simple ceremony, elopements are often much simpler and less expensive compared to the average UK wedding, which typically costs around £20,000. A dream elopement can be the perfect, romantic experience, making your special day a dream come true.

Some aspects of this will change depending on whether you’re getting married and having your intimate wedding in Scotland or Northern Ireland. So, check out the laws carefully for your country of choice.

Some things can get complicated like if you do not live in England or Wales, but you wish to marry here, check out for more help and if you want to get married in Cumbria or the Lake District (who wouldn’t? it is stunning elopement destination!) then check out for places to elope.

Photo from Catherine & Rory’s 3805 Mile Elopement on Hadrians Wall

Legally Elope in England and Wales?

You can elope in a religious or civil wedding ceremony, or opt for an elopement ceremony, which is a private and intimate wedding often involving a limited number of friends and family members as witnesses. For a religious ceremony, you must contact the religious celebrant, IE, the vicar, to see what is required at that particular parish.

In the Church of England, the equivalent of giving notice for a church elopement is having the ‘banns of marriage’ read on three Sundays at any point during the three months before the marriage.

For a civil wedding ceremony, you need to contact the local authority for the area you want to elope to.

Unlike Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can only have your ceremony in licensed venues.

For a civil ceremony elopement in England or Wales, you will need the following:

  • To be 18 or older. It is no longer the case that if you are under 18, you will need permission from your parents or guardians. In England and Wales, you need to be 18 or older.
  • Not already married or in a civil partnership.
  • Not to be closely related.
  • Finally, to be a British citizen, you must have indefinite leave to remain or have a valid permit/ Visa to marry if you’re a foreign national.

Elopeing in Scotland?

There are three different types of marriage ceremonies available in Scotland:

  • Civil ceremonies – Can take place in a registration office or anywhere agreed with the registrar, but not on religious premises.
  • Religious or belief ceremony (Such as Humanist) – Can take place anywhere by someone with legal rights.
  • Elopement ceremonies – Intimate, secret, and romantic weddings focused solely on the couple, which can be completely private or include a small number of family members and friends, with the flexibility to design the day according to personal preferences.

Hiring an elopement photographer is essential to capture the intimate and special moments of your elopement day.

You should arrange for two people, aged 16 or over, to act as witnesses.

You can get married in Scotland if:

  • You are aged 16 or over.
  • In an opposite-sex or same-sex relationship.
  • Not currently married or in a civil partnership.
  • Not closely related
  • Capable of understanding the definition of marriage and of consenting to marriage.

Elopeing In Northern Ireland?

In Northern Ireland, couples have the option of either a religious or civil ceremony, similar to Scotland. Both types of marriage follow the same initial arrangements.

  • Civil ceremonies are conducted by a registrar or deputy registrar in the district of your choice.
  • Religious/belief ceremonies can be performed by ministers, priests, pastors, or registered officiants authorized by the Registrar General. These ceremonies can take place anywhere, like in Scotland.

Elopements offer more flexibility compared to the structured nature of a traditional wedding, which often involves adhering to conventional norms and expectations.

You’ll need two witnesses aged 16 or over for your marriage.

To marry in Northern Ireland, you must meet these criteria:

  • Both parties must be at least 16 years old on the wedding day. If under 18, permission from a parent, guardian, or court order is required.
  • There should be no close blood relation between the couple.
  • Both must be single or not in a civil partnership, with any prior marriages or civil partnerships legally dissolved.

For those aged 16 to 18, marriages in Northern Ireland won’t be legally recognized in the Republic of Ireland, where the minimum marriage age is 18.

Couples from England and Wales aged 16 to 18 with a home address there cannot submit a marriage notice in Northern Ireland. The legal marriage age in England and Wales is 18, and allowing a child under 18 from England and Wales to marry in Northern Ireland is an offense.

Non-religious elopements officiated by a humanist celebrant are legally binding only in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In England and Wales, you’ll still need to marry at a registry office, which can be done before or after the wedding and usually takes under ten minutes.

Giving Legal Notice for Elopement Weddings in the UK:

Sadly a spur-of-the-moment urge to run away to get married in the UK isn’t entirely as accurate as we would like. Paperwork and legal celebrants who will legally marry you need to plan not only the schedule to make your elopement wedding but also they need to sort out all the legal paperwork that goes with it. If you plan to elope in the UK, understanding the legal requirements is crucial.

Bride and groom with umbrellas on a Lake District Elopement in Cumbria in the rain by Joshua Wyborn

Photo from Rhi & Jack’s Lake District Elopement

In the UK you must ‘give notice’ to marry at your local registry office at least 29 days before you wish to have your wedding ceremony. Once you have given your notice to get married, you must have your elopement within 12 months. As I say, in theory, you can get married in 30 days from giving your notice, which is a perfect whirlwind of time to plan your adventure of an elopement should you wish to do so, so quickly.

To give notice, you’ll typically need to:

  • Pay a fee, usually £35 per person
  • Make an appointment at a local register office (and have lived in that registration district for the past seven days)
  • Have the details of the final venue of your ceremony
  • Bring a valid passport, UK birth certificate or national identity card from the EU, EEA or Switzerland.
  • Provide proof of your address and of any name changes
  • If you’ve been married or in a civil partnership before, bring your decree absolute or former partner’s death certificate.

This slightly changes in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland so please do look up how to give notice in the selected country. You can give notice outside the UK to marry in the UK if the country is part of the British Subjects Facilities Act (find a full list of countries here) and your partner is a UK citizen.

Want to get married abroad?

Mountains and traditional buildings seen from the edge of a yacht sailing on lake garda in italy by Joshua Wyborn

Photo from Daniel & Carolanne's Destination Wedding at Malcesine Castle wedding on Lake Garda Italy

An elopement wedding abroad will be subject to the laws of that country. Check out this web page to find out precisely what documents you’ll need, any legal and residency requirements, and if the marriage will be permitted under UK law.

Be aware that certain countries, like Mexico, and some US states even require blood tests.

Couple Elope in Lake District wedding ceremony at the Cragwood Country House Hotel

Photo from Sarah & David’s Just Us Wedding At The Cragwood Country House Hotel

Fancy taking me with you?

I love Elopements, whether it is in the romantic Lake District, Scotland or anywhere in the world! If you like my photography and would like me to document your elopement and create some stunning portraits of your adventure. Then I would love for you to contact me!

It’s always worth a lookout at various venues as some will have elopement wedding packages specifically made for your elopement or winter elopement packages.

Some places to elope in the Lake District:

Cote How | Lake Side Hotel | Cragwood Country House Hotel | Merewood Country House Hotel | Briery wood Country House Hotel | Lindeth-howe | Hidden River Cabins | Glenridding House | Storrs Hall | Broadoaks | Armathwaite Hall

This blog post was put together with the help of the following celebrants!


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