Book your ceremony at Sandwell Register Office
Marriage and Civil Partnership Ceremony Guidance
The following guidance is issued to provide you with an understanding of how updated Government guidelines will affect your ceremony. Whilst not an exhaustive list, the information given has been sourced from Gov.uk and from supplementary guidance produced for Local Authorities by the General Register Office.
We understand that this guidance may change the plans that you have put in place for your day. However, please be assured that we will work with you to make sure your day is both safe and special.
Following the Government’s announcement that marriage and formation of civil partnerships can go ahead in England from 4 July 2020 Sandwell Register Office at Highfields House is open for ceremonies.
We have put in place measures to ensure that your ceremony can be conducted safely whilst adhering to social distancing regulations.
Current Government regulations specify that a maximum of 30 people can attend your ceremony. This includes the registrars, yourselves and your witnesses. If you have an official photographer, then they also need to be included.
Our revised occupancy applying social distancing measures will be:
The Highfields Room – 4 People (This will be the couple plus 2 witnesses)
The Sandwell Register Office Room - 4 People (This will be the couple plus 2 witnesses)
The Sandwell Suite – 30 People (This will include the couple, 2 witnesses and the photographer if you have one and four Registration staff)
All guests attending a ceremony will be classed as one person including children.
Changes to ceremonies
Government guidance advises that the ceremonies and services should be concluded in the shortest reasonable time and be limited, as far as reasonably possible, to the parts of the marriage or civil partnership that are required to be legally binding under the law of England and Wales.
To ensure that your family and friends, along with registrars attending your ceremony, are kept as safe as possible we need to introduce some changes to the format of the ceremonies we conduct;
Regrettably, this will mean that we may have to curtail some aspects of your ceremony;
- Readings will currently not be permitted to ensure that we meet the guidelines set by Government in terms of concluding the ceremony in the shortest reasonable time.
- Witnesses will need to be toward the front of the room in order that they can clearly follow proceedings
- If you have chosen to exchange rings they should be handled by as few people as possible. All parties are advised to thoroughly wash or sanitise their hands before handling the rings. This may be before the ceremony. To maintain social distancing during the ceremony it is recommended that the rings are placed on the ceremony table prior to the ceremony starting
- Photographers will not be permitted to move about the room whilst the ceremony is underway. You are welcome to take as many photographs as you like in our gardens. In the Sandwell Suite we have allocated a seat at the front of the room for the photographer to be seated during the ceremony so that photographs can be taken from a good position. Your photographer may wish to speak with the registrar prior to the ceremony starting.
- Guests will not be able to move around the room for taking photographs to ensure that social distancing is maintained.
- All seating is arranged to incorporate social distancing and we would ask that guests do not move the chairs to protect everyone
The ceremony - pre-ceremony interview
We will ask the couple to arrive 15 minutes in advance of the ceremony time and will take you into the ceremony room to complete the pre-ceremony interview. Once this is completed we will bring all guests into the room and once seated will start your ceremony.
The registrars will have discussed the ceremony format with you prior to the date of the ceremony. They will therefore wait in the ceremony room for your arrival and that of your guests.
We will ask your guests to wait outside and have marked out social distance markings. Before guests are invited into the building we have some simple screening questions that we will ask all guests to confirm if they have any symptoms of the Coronavirus.
To reduce the risk of spreading infection, cheering and/or shouting are to be discouraged. We therefore suggest that guests are be invited to mark the union of the couple by clapping which can be led by the registrar.
We have webcasting facilities in our Sandwell Suite and can arrange for your ceremony to be shared with family and friends who are not able to attend in person. We are pleased to offer this with our compliments whilst numbers attending ceremonies are restricted due to Government guidance on social distancing. If you wish to have a copy of the webcast this can be provided and will cost £39.00
We can show visual tributes of the couple and family on our screen, this will appear as a slide show during the service or can be one photograph which will remain static on the screen. The cost for a single photograph is £20 and for up to 50 photographs will cost £75
Signing the register
The register must be signed as part of the completion of the ceremony. To minimise the risk of infection, we will provide an ink pen for the couple and witnesses and wipes to be used between each signature.
To ensure our registrars maintain social distancing, arrows in the register will indicate where you need to sign
Your witnesses will be asked in turn to sign the register whilst maintaining social distancing
After the couple have signed the register a picture may be taken on our second desk whilst the witnesses are signing the register.
One certificate will be issued on the day of your ceremony. If you require additional certificates, please let us know and we will post your certificate(s) to your nominated address during the following few days.
After the ceremony
You are very welcome to take photographs in our gardens following all ceremonies.
If you have any questions about ceremonies, please do not hesitate to get in touch and we will be happy to provide further information on what we can offer and discuss your requirements.
Frequently asked questions
Q1: From what date can marriages be solemnized, and civil partnerships formed?
A: In England this can take place from 4 July.
Q2: Where a person is shielding, can a marriage be solemnized, or a civil partnership formation take place remotely by video conferencing technology?
A: No, there is no provision within current legislation for a virtual marriage or civil partnership to take place, however the venue may be able to broadcast the event so that guests may join virtually.
Q3: Should PPE be worn by all parties at all times? How can you tell if it’s the same person who gave Notice if they have a mask on?
A: Wearing PPE is optional for all in attendance. If an individual chooses to wear a face-covering we will not ask for it to be removed during the ceremony. Identity can still be checked before the ceremony (if required) by the wearer briefly removing it whilst complying with social distancing guidelines.
Q4: What if someone with Covid-19 symptoms attends the Register Office/Approved Venue? Can we ask them to leave?
A: Yes. Guidance regarding public health and social distancing should always be followed. Anyone who has covid-19 symptoms should be self-isolating at home along with others in their household. If it is one of the parties to the marriage or civil partnership a new date can be rearranged over the phone. If it is one, or both, of the witnesses the couple will be required to provide new witnesses. It is acceptable for a member staff to volunteer to be witnesses in this circumstance.
Q5: Can enhancements to the solemnization or a marriage or formation of a civil partnership be offered?
A: The government guidance advises that the ceremonies and services should be concluded in the shortest reasonable time and limited as far as reasonably possible to the parts of the marriage or civil partnership that are required in order to be legally binding under the law of England and Wales. Please see above.
Q6: The grounds of the Register Office/Approved Venues are lovely – as there is less risk outside can the ceremony take place there instead?
A: No. A marriage or civil partnership must take place within the venue as detailed on the Notice and Authority, and as specified in the approval of the premises. The outside space is not included as part of the venue.
Q7: Why can’t witnesses use video technology to witness the ceremony?
A: There is still a requirement within the legislation for 2 witnesses to attend to witness a marriage or civil partnership and then sign the register.
However, video technology could be used for other guests where this is available.
Q8: Does the marriage register still need to be signed with registration ink? This would mean that everyone would use the same pen.
A: Although it is preferable for registration ink to be used at all times, it is considered to be safer for the use of your own pen (either black or blue/black), which should be permanent ink where possible.
Q9: Am I able to have live music?
A: The guidance mentions that any live music which incorporates wind instruments cannot be part of the ceremony. It is strongly suggested that recorded music is used instead.
Q10: Are babies included in the numbers? Are babies allowed to attend?
A: Yes, babies are included in the overall numbers and a parent/guardian or member of the household must hold the infant.
Costs for ceremony rooms
The Highfields Room:
- Monday to Thursday - £124
- Friday and Saturday morning - £169
The Register Office Room:
- Monday to Thursday - £57
The Sandwell Suite:
- Monday to Thursday - £335
- Fridays and Saturdays - £463
- Sundays and Bank Holidays - £537
You can also get married at other venues in Sandwell, including hotels and West Bromwich Albion Football Club.
Our photographers are on hand to capture your special moments at our Register Office in West Bromwich.
All couples getting married at the Register Office, and at all venues other than a Church of England church, must give Notice of Marriage.
Booking your ceremony
If you have a date in mind for holding your wedding or civil partnership, you can book with us up to two years in advance.
A provisional booking fee of £61 is payable to save the date when you book your ceremony. This is a separate fee and does not form part of a deposit, please note it is non-refundable.
How to pay
For the Register Office ceremony room or for The Highfields Room, the hire fee is payable either at your notice appointment (if given at Sandwell Register Office) or the day after you give notice (if given at any other Register Office).
For the Sandwell Suite, the room hire fee must be paid at three months before your ceremony.
Payments can be made by card (in person or over the phone) cash or cheque.
Please note, once fees have been paid in full, if you wish to cancel your ceremony without re-booking we will only refund 50% of the room hire cost.
If you cancel within three weeks of the ceremony date then no refund will be payable.
If you need to change the date of your wedding once it is booked, there will be a £40 charge.
Call us on 0121 368 1188
Sandwell Register Office
- Monday to Wednesday 9am - 4.30pm
- Thursday 10am - 4.30pm
- Friday 9am - 4pm
- Saturday - 9am-1pm
- Sunday - By appointment