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According to the law of the United Kingdom, a man and a woman may marry if they are both 16 years or over and free to marry, that is, either single, widowed or divorced.

In the United Kingdom people cannot marry if they are:-

* aged 16 or 17 who do not have parental consent – see below

* people of the same sex. However, by the end of 2005, a same-sex couple may be able to register a civil partnership instead. For transsexual people, the relevant gender is the one on their current birth certificate – see below.

Young people

If you are 16 or 17 you cannot marry without parental consent. Each parent with parental responsibility is entitled to give parental consent. In some circumstances, other people may give parental consent. In Northern Ireland a young person under 18 cannot marry without the consent of certain people.

For more information about who can give parental consent, you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Transsexual people

A transsexual person who has been granted a full gender recognition certificate by the Gender Recognition Panel, can get a new birth certificate which reflects their acquired gender. They will then be able to marry someone of the opposite gender. However, if a transsexual person does not have a gender recognition certificate, they are legally considered to be the gender that is on their original birth certificate, and will not be able to marry someone of the opposite sex.

Relatives who may not marry

The following people cannot marry, in any circumstances, because of their blood relationship.

It is not possible to marry your :-







Mother’s sister

Father’s sister

Sister’s daughter

Mother’s brother

Father’s brother

Sister’s son

Mother’s half sister

Mother’s half sister

Brother’s daughter

Mother’s half-brother

Mother’s half-brother

Brother's son

Adoptive mother *


Half-brother’s daughter

Adoptive Father *


Half-brother’s son

Adoptive daughter *


Half-sister’s daughter

Adoptive Son *


Half-sister’s son



Adopted children and their genetic parents and genetic grandparents may not marry. If they do, the marriage will be automatically void  even if they do not know they are related.

Adopted children may not marry their adoptive parents but they are allowed to marry the rest of their adoptive family, including their adoptive brother or sister.

People who are step relations or in-laws may marry only in certain circumstances.