Get married legally abroad.
Get married in a registered venue e.g. mosque, hotel, hall.
Get married in a Registry Office and then have the religious ceremony.
A Muslim marriage is a civil contract, NOT a religious one.
An Imam is not needed and any Muslim can perform the Nikah .
The essential ingredient is that it is a public declaration and both parties consent.
A civil ceremony is acceptable if it is performed before 2 Muslim witnesses; it should then be followed by a religious ceremony to set the Mahr (Islamic financial settlement) and any other agreed contract terms (wife keeping her surname; keeping her own property and income; polygamy not allowed; ‘Tafweed’ - the wife’s right to divorce). Quranic verses are read to bless the marriage.
This marriage provides enforceable financial protection because the husband is solely responsible for supporting the wife and children during the marriage and after his death.
In most Muslim countries, it is against the law to have a religious ceremony but not register it. The penalties are a fine or imprisonment. This is because it is essential to be able to prove you are married. In the UK, only 3 faiths have to register their marriages (Anglicans, Jews, Quakers). Others can volunteer to register but only 10% of Mosques perform legally recognised marriages (less every year).
A Nikah or other religious ceremony is recognised as legal in the UK, as long as it was registered in the country where it took place (you do not register it again in the UK). You need to get a legal divorce in the UK in order to remarry (with some exceptions e.g. the spouse lives abroad).
The same religious ceremony is NOT recognised if it was performed in the UK, but not registered. It has no legal status and you can get married to someone else legally.
The essential ingredient is the registration, not the ceremony.
I have supported this campaign for the past few years and it has made a real difference on the ground. It is led by credible people who are known to the community and I wish it every success.
I am delighted to be supporting ROM because the Catholic church also has to volunteer to register their marriages and we want all faiths to be covered under marriage law equally.