Couples could face criminal charges and £1,000 fines within days of their wedding if they fail to register the marriage in time.
The warning comes after reports on a new system for marriage registration which could be in force by the end of the year.
Eilidh Rose, a Solicitor in the Family team at Thursfields’ Birmingham office, explained that couples will no longer sign a register and certificate during their ceremony and receive their marriage certificate at the end of the service.
Instead, they will sign a marriage document and it will then be their responsibility to take this to their local register office for their marriage to be recorded in an electronic register.
Eilidh said: “Crucially, newlyweds who fail to do this within a set time will be legally compelled to attend personally, and those who fail to do so could be guilty of a criminal offence and face a fine of £1,000.
The government’s General Register Office is yet to confirm the timescale but, according to reports, a Church of England body has said it understands couples will have only seven days.”
The changes are being brought in by the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Act which came into force on 26 May 2019, with all changes supposed to be in place by the end of this year.
Eilidh said: “The Family Court, and courts generally, are moving towards electronic applications and filing of documents to reduce paper waste and improve efficiency.
However, marriage certificates have been in place in England and Wales since 1837, and couples getting married who are not issued with a marriage certificate at the end of their service may feel an important part of the tradition is missing.”
Other changes in the legislation mean that mothers can be named on the new marriage documents rather than just fathers, although it is yet to be seen whether the ages and marital status of newlyweds will still be included.
Eilidh added: “Perhaps the most significant change being brought in by the Act is that both same-sex and opposite-sex couples will be able to enter into Civil Partnerships.”