England & Wales Communities and society

You can’t spell love without local government


Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

This weekend the wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle takes place in Windsor.  LGiU wishes the couple every happiness in their new life together.

But what makes a successful royal wedding? Months of planning, love – I’m sure – and, a little bit of local government magic. While the focus this weekend will rightly be on the newlyweds, we thought it would be nice to shine a light on how local authorities are involved in weddings royal and not-so-royal.

Choosing your venue

Harry and Meghan will be getting married at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle which has hosted a number of royal weddings since the 19th century. While the happy couple might have opted for a lovely wedding at a registry office where many councils provide attractive venues, they also had a range of other options to choose from in Windsor even if they weren’t seeking a religious venue. You can’t just get hitched anywhere though, local authorities are responsible for making sure that civil weddings are held at ‘seemly and dignified’ locations.

Update: Since April 2022 it has become much easier to become approved and properly outdoor weddings are now on the cards, if you fancy your chances with the English weather.

Registering your intent to marry

On approaching the big day, Harry and Meghan will have needed to register their intent to marry. Church wedding or no, the council has to get involved. As Ms Markle is not a UK or EEA citizen, she’ll have needed to get down to the registrar a little quicker than many couples. While couples with ordinary residence in the UK, need to give 29 days notice certain foreign nationals need to give 70 days notice in order to allow time for a Home Office referral. Councils now have a responsibility to spot any potential immigration violations or fraudulent marriages. Not that this applies here.

Planning the big day

Every bride and groom know there are a million little details to sort out and the council is there for the happy couple every step of the way. While certainly the Church of England has an order of ceremony and plenty of advice for other elements of the service, if you’re not getting married in church, councils can even provide advice, such as Reading Council has done with its list of suggested readings.

From the wedding cake to the sit-down dinner, or as is rumoured a stand-up dinner served in bowls so the guests can mingle, and late night catering trucks for those that party on, the council will have registered these food providers. Larger companies will also be subject to food safety inspections carried out by council Environmental Health services. While many couples choose to provide wedding favours, no one wants to send their guests away with a dose of salmonella.

We understand that there is to be a private reception afterwards for friends and families. Councils also play a role in licensing venues that play music or serve alcohol. Although this isn’t required for private residences. Of course, if the royal wedding revellers carry on just a little too loudly, council noise enforcement may be called.

The processional and recessional:

RBWM offers advice for those wishing to visit Windsor on the big day

While most couples don’t require road closures on their happy day, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead will be having to take extra measures in terms of roads, traffic management and crowd control. They have been doing a stellar job keeping the public informed (more detail on their plans here) as Windsor is expecting an influx of around 100,000 people on the day and are closing the roads to ensure pedestrian safety. Of course, parking will be tricky at best, and the council is providing special parking advice for the royal wedding, but most councils provide parking advice and, of course, enforcement as well. The Royal Borough have even developed a handy little way to remember some top tips for making the most of the day using P.R.I.N.C.E. guidance:

  • Parking – book it in advance.
  • Road Closures – plan ahead.
  • In Windsor – be prepared.
  • Navigate to your preferred viewing spot.
  • Commuting? Check out your route.
  • Enjoy it!

For many roads, councils are responsible for road maintenance, the pavements and street furniture and street lights all. All of these will be on display in millions of homes around the world as the newly wedded couple have a carriage processional through the streets of Windsor.  And, of course, councils often oversee the planting of public spaces – everyone likes a blossom or two at a wedding!

Councils across the country will be issuing permits for road closures as people come together in their own neighbourhoods to celebrate the wedding with street parties.

Registering the marriage

Only registrars and Approved Persons – such as many vicars – can officiate at weddings and enter the record of the marriage into the register. But even church weddings require council notification.  Churches often provide a quarterly returns of weddings to the council and council archivists often keep the actual paperwork safe, even for documentation that goes back centuries to a time before councils did weddings.

The morning after the night before

While we have every confidence that the revellers in Windsor will behave responsibly, with an 100,000 extra people in town there’s bound to be a bit of detritus. Who cleans that up? The council.

The future pitter patter of tiny feet

Should Meghan and Harry be lucky enough to become parents, of course, the council gets involved here, too – with registering the births of any future prince or princess.


Many thanks to LGiU member Merton Council who explained the registration process, including what I’d need to do if I marry again, as like Ms Markle I’d be an American divorcée . However, they were careful to explain they almost certainly won’t be closing any roads for me and my English ‘prince’.