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Marriage and Cohabitation

There are a number of options for couples who wish to spend their lives together. Which one you choose will affect your legal status.

Firstly, there is marriage (also known as matrimony and wedlock), an institution that dates back centuries which has recently been opened up to same-sex couples.

Alternatively, they can enter into a civil partnership, which, until the introduction of same-sex marriage, provided gay couples with the chance of entering into a union which conferred the same rights as marriage.

Additionally, some couples may choose to simply live together without forming one of these bonds, by demonstrating their commitment to each other in a different way. This section includes information on all three of these options.

Our section on getting married explains marriage laws and the process which must be followed in order to register a marriage in England and Wales, as well as the rules for eligibility and the different types of wedding ceremony available. If you are planning to get married, this section will tell you how much notice you will need to give at the register office, and how much it will cost.

Our section on registering a civil partnership  similarly sets out the law for civil partnerships, which are largely the same as those for marriage. There are significant differences, however, which our guidance will explain further.

For those who choose to live together without forming a marriage or civil partnership there is no such formal process to go through, but cohabiting couples can still enjoy certain rights and often sign what it is known as a cohabitation agreement in order to solidify their relationship. Our living together section deals with cohabitation law, which governs this scenario. We also cover prenuptial agreements.

If you are looking for information on how to end a marriage or civil partnership, please see our relationship problems section.