As I mentioned in the previous post, I got back to Nottingham in January 2005, and Mr. and I had decided to start making plans for the wedding. We felt that it was God’s will for us and He was going to make things happen the way we had prayed. We had set the date for 23rd of July so we had only about 6 months to plan everything from start to finish. I had exams in January so I put planning out of my mind for the first two weeks so that I could concentrate. It was after exams that I really started working on my very long wedding to-do list. You would think that since we had God’s 100% backing, that everything would go smoothly right? Wrong! Trust the enemy to put obstacles in your path and doubts in your mind.
Around mid-January, I called my pastor in my home church in London to inform him of our proposed wedding date. I also wanted to know what procedure we would have to take to get married. At the time, Mr. and I didn’t have any friends who had recently got married, so we had to find out most things ourselves. Well the pastor told me that I had to tell him who I wanted to officiate the wedding and where it would take place. Apparently, not every pastor or minister is authorized to officiate a wedding, and not every church building is licensed to hold weddings in the UK. So I told him that I wanted him to officiate and I wanted my base church to be the venue for the church service. Fortunately, he is authorized to carry out weddings and my church is a licensed venue. Second thing he asked me to do was to ring the church secretary to inform her about the date so that she could put it in the church calendar and she will tell me more about the legal requirements and the process of getting married in the UK. No problem so far. I called the church office and spoke to the church secretary. I informed her of the date and she looked it up in the church calendar and said it was available so she wrote it down. Then I asked her what we needed to do. She told me a long list of procedures: we needed to go and give notice of marriage to our local registry office, the registry need at least 14 days notice although the norm for this was 8 weeks, we needed to fill out some forms and pay a fee, the Registrar would then issue us a marriage schedule, we would bring this schedule back to the church, the officiating minister must sign this, before a marriage certificate can be issued etc. Basically it was going to be some looooong process. Now to complicate it further, we were intending to get married in our church in London, but neither of us was based in London during that period. Well I thanked the secretary for the useful information and hung up with a promise to call back as soon as I had sorted everything out. Feeling overwhelmed already, I called Mr. and left a message for him, and then I called the registry office.
The nice lady I was speaking to asked me lots of questions. I gave them all the information that they needed. Everything was going fine until she asked me if Mr and I were British citizens and I said we were not. She asked what status we were in the UK. I told her that we were both Nigerians, I was a student and Mr had a work permit. She said I should hold on for a second. She came back on the line and said that there was one more thing we would need to do. Apparently in 2005, the UK government decided to start clamping down on fake marriages involving immigrants, who get married solely for the purposes of obtaining British citizenship. So as from that time, any non-UK person planning to get married in the UK must obtain permission from the Immigration Department. If everything is fine, the Immigration Department will then issue the intending couple a Certificate of Approval before they can get married. I was thinking, “Oh great. We have another bridge to cross.” I thanked the lady and rang Mr back and left another message on his phone about what the lady at the registry had said. Then I went to research into the new rule on the IND website. I found out that we would have to apply (and pay for the privilege) for the Certificate of Approval separately and it would take up to 13 weeks to process. 13 weeks! Remember our proposed wedding date is in July and we were already approaching February.
That evening Mr and I discussed it and we decided to send the applications right away without further delay, in the hope that we would get the certificate back, and be able to proceed with all the other steps we had to take. So two days later, we filled the forms and everything and sent our application off.
Now, in the meantime we were faced with this conundrum: should we put a hold on the wedding plans until we got the certificate or should we continue planning while we were waiting?
We prayed about it and we decided that we would go ahead with planning. Knowing that we had six months, and time was not exactly on our side, we thought it was better to keep plans going steady. That way we would be on schedule if and when the Certificate arrived. So we continued making our wedding plans.