Wedding fee warning – for richer for poorer

Couples who have delayed their wedding because of the coronavirus pandemic may have to pay for a new notice of marriage.

The notices last for 12 months but if they expire without a ceremony taking place, the bride and groom have to start the process again, as a Brighton couple found.

Natalie MacGarvie, 42, had planned to marry her fiancé Ben Mottram, 43, last June at Wickwoods, Albourne, about six miles north of Brighton and Hove.

But the couple were forced to postpone their wedding, because covid-19 restrictions meant that family and friends would be unable to attend.

They rescheduled to September this year – the next available date offered by the venue.

Miss MacGarvie, a British sign language interpreter, said that it was “harsh” of Brighton and Hove City Council to charge couples who could not reschedule their wedding plans within the year.

She said: “When I initially called Brighton council ceremonies team, I told them that my venue, Wickwoods, and the West Sussex ceremonies team were unable to offer a date last year.

“I accepted a date that was offered to me that they could both do.

“Brighton ceremonies’ only involvement was to issue the notice of marriage because that is mine and my fiancé’s home town … You have to have the notice of marriage issued from where you live.

“They knew my individual circumstances and I was in contact with them several times.

“This situation has become more of a case of making enough fuss and escalating to a senior registrar so that finally someone with insight and clout can make the right decision.”

After they took up the issue with the senior registrar, the council agreed to waive the fee – but this is not a blanket policy.

The council said: “We sympathise with everyone who has been forced to or chosen to delay weddings and civil ceremonies because of covid-19.

“Where a ceremony was prevented by lockdown or venue closure, we have rescheduled free of charge and refunded ceremony fees fully without penalty.

Ben Mottram and Natalie MacGarvie

“We have also been helping local hospitality venues by extending their licences to host ceremonies by an additional 12 months.

“The marriage notice fee of £35 per person is a statutory fee for a legal process, set by the government.

“This notice lasts for 12 months and requires a 45-minute in-person appointment with council staff.

“There has been no change in legislation to allow the validity of the notice period to be extended.

“Like many other councils, we decided not to waive the fee in instances where the notice had expired due to customer choice rather than as a direct result of lockdown.

“As the restrictions have now eased, we’re delighted that ceremonies are able to go ahead.

“We do appreciate that couples face hard decisions when restrictions may impact on their day. But we are not able to offer a fee waiver where ceremonies are postponed out of choice.

“We have always tried to take individual circumstances into account when making such decisions.”

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