What is a Civil Partnership?
A civil partnership is a legal marriage between same-sex couples which entitles them to receive similar benefits as that of any married couple. Civil partnerships, as of 2014, are not available to opposite-sex couples in the United Kingdom. Now that Same Sex Marriage is legal in Scotland, those already in civil partnership with one another can marry without first dissolving the mutual civil partnership.
The Civil Partnership Act
On 5th December 2005, The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into effect in the UK, allowing couples of the same sex to have legal recognition of their relationship.
Civil Ceremony Law
The Act states that no form of religious activity can occur during the process of registering the union. A couple should contact their local registration authority to find out whether or not they can have a ceremony. However, during the registration couples can speak vows before signing the registration. The registration must take place in a legally recognised place and couples must have two witnesses to sign the registration documents.
How to register a civil partnership
In order to form a civil partnership you first have to let a registration office know about your intention to register. Notices are publicised for 15 days, then you can register the union.
What is a Civil Partnership Ceremony?
The Ceremony is an added extra to the formal aspects of the Civil Partnership Registration. Unlike the registration signing, the ceremony can be held anywhere, including a home.
Registrars can conduct a ceremony following the official registration procedure, or a celebrant, or even friend, can conduct the ceremony at another time.
Firstly, I am by no means a legal expert. The information above is based on my own study of publicly available information. If anyone spots a mistake, please let me know!