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  • Writer's pictureYelena McCafferty

Why a Registrar may ask for an interpreter…

Throughout my extensive career spanning more than two decades here in the UK, I have frequently found myself attending register offices. Initially, my role was primarily to assist with birth registrations whereby the registrar had to ensure that non-English speaking applicants understood the process and provided true factual information. The difference between the full and the short birth certificates was also explained: the short version, which contains only the baby’s details, is issued free of charge, while the full version also contains the parents’ details. It’s thought that the need for the short birth certificate arises when you would not want to disclose too many personal details included in the full certificate (parents’ occupations, home address, mother’s maiden name etc).

It should be noted that if you apply for Russian citizenship for your child, and it’s the full certificate that you need to have apostilled and translated as it proves the child’s relationship to a Russian parent. The parent’s name in the birth certificate should match the name in the passport too for this very reason: proof of identity.

More recently, I have attended register offices where the registrar requested an official interpreter for the process of giving notice of marriage and at the marriage ceremony itself. Over time, the procedure of giving notice has become more strict, with future spouses spoken to separately and together. Any certified translations of certificates of dissolution of previous marriages are also verified at this stage.

While remote interpreting was briefly adopted during the pandemic, the practice has now reverted to in-person interpreting.

It's not only registrars for civil wedding ceremonies who do their due diligence. I have interpreted at churches, where vicars thought it essential for both the couples and their guests to understand the vows and the entire service. And of course, there are also interactions between guests and members of the two families later, and I previously assisted a mother of the bridegroom with the translation of her speech for the wedding reception.

It feels really special to be part of someone’s life at such unforgettable milestones. It’s not the type of assignments we do every day, but we are able to hold our client’s hand along the way: from the moment of giving notice, through to the ceremony and then with translating their marriage documents into Russian. From the point of view of Russian authorities, your marriage certificate alone is not sufficient for changing your surname as the UK marriage certificate doesn’t specify the surname you are taking.

If you require advice, for example, on how to go about changing the surname in your Russian passport after marriage, please email us at or call us on 0207 0436940.

Russian interpreter working in Grantham Register Office
Grantham Register Office



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