From a legal perspective, entering either a marriage or civil partnership presents no major differences. However, when describing the relationship, there is a distinction: married couples cannot call themselves civil partners, and civil partners cannot call themselves married for legal purposes.
Both marriages and civil ceremonies can be entered into by individuals who are:
- aged 16 or over (with parents’ permission if under 18);
- not already married or in a civil partnership; and
- not closely related.
When looking to form a legal bond, marriages can be conducted through either a civil ceremony or a religious ceremony. The formation of a civil partnership, however, is an entirely civil event. It is possible for civil partners to subsequently add a ceremony (religious or not).
Further differences emerge when couples look to terminate their relationship legally. Marriage is ended by divorce and presently by obtaining a Decree Absolute (soon to be called Final Order). Meanwhile, civil partnerships are ended by a Dissolution Order.