A civil ceremony doesn’t have to be carried out in a dull Register Office anymore. The law changed in 1995 which allows venues other than churches to hold licences for carrying out marriage ceremonies.




There are many reasons why a couple will choose a civil ceremony over a church wedding. They may be divorced or they may not be very religious or have different faiths and would rather focus their day on the celebration and not on the actual act of getting married.

Tips on organizing a civil ceremony

  • To find the latest costs for setting up your marriage please click here.
  • Civil weddings are currently the most popular choice of marriage in the UK. The informality appeals to the modern bride and groom plus it makes things much simpler as the ceremony and reception can be held at the same location so there is less pre-wedding planning.
  • To locate your local Register Office please click here.
  • There are over 3,000 venues to choose from around the country including stately homes, hotels, zoos, football stadiums and even outside under a gazebo in a garden. To locate a venue near you or to purchase a full list of UK venues please click here.
  • Ask the venue organiser how they operate the ceremony as you need to be able to see if it will suit your needs with regards to space and number of guests. Can they organise flowers, catering and entertainment? Will the reception be held in a different area and can you use a marquee outside?
  • A civil ceremony can be much quicker and easier to organise if you have a limited time scale.
  • You may have a strong desire to personlise your big day and a church wedding won’t allow it.
  • If you are having your ceremony in your local Register Office then ask them how long your allocated time slot will be as you don’t want to be rushed. Ask for the last booking on a less popular day if necessary.
  • Legally a civil ceremony cannot have vows, songs, poems or readings that have any religious references, even the word “angel” in some cases, so it is important to discuss things with the Registrar before the wedding.
  • By law, your civil wedding vows must include the words “I, Jane, do take you, John, to be my lawful wedded husband” and vice versa. You can add whatever you like, within reason, but check with your Registrar first.
  • The legal requirement for a civil ceremony is that you need a Marriage Certificate. You can get it from the Superintendant Registrar in the district you live. You must have lived in the district for at least 7 days. Bride and Groom both have to apply in person to their local office. You then wait 15 days for the Certificate to be issued and it is valid for 12 months.
  • Some Register Offices and civil venues have rules against the use of confetti so why not ask your guests to blow bubbles at you instead.
  • If you fancy getting hitched whilst parachuting or bungee jumping then unfortunately this is not possible as the location cannot be temporary but if you can persuade a brave Registrar to perform a blessing then anything is possible.
  • Having some Doves released at the end of your ceremony would be worth considering for that extra special romantic touch.

See also: Our complete guide to wedding favour ideas

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