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What You Need To Know About Arranging A Civil Ceremony

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What You Need To Know About Arranging A Civil Ceremony

Your wedding ceremony is the most important part of your big day. So we wanted to go through everything you need to know about arranging a civil ceremony in the UK. From the legalities to etiquette, decoration and style, we’ve got you covered.

You’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with and now you want to get married. You know you don’t want a religious ceremony, so a civil ceremony is what you’ve decided. What’s great about going down this route is that it’s actually very straightforward to arrange. There are just a few legalities you need to know.

What kind of civil ceremony you want and where you would like it

There are some restrictions as to where you legally can’t get married in the UK. But there are plenty of possibilities for you to have the wedding you want, whether you choose to marry in a registry office or any other venue licensed for civil ceremonies. Wherever you choose to have your ceremony, it’s legally binding.

Legal aspects of arranging a civil ceremony

If you want to book a civil wedding ceremony, you first need to give notice of your intention to marry at your local registry office at least 28 days before the wedding. Your notice will then be displayed publically in the registry office for 28 days. You’ll also need to reside in your registration district for at least 7 days prior to giving notice.

If you are arranging a civil ceremony in a different area, you need to contact the registry office for the area in which the marriage is due to take place.

You’ll have to pay a small fee to register and also provide evidence of your:

  • Name (your birth certificate)
  • Age (the minimum legal age for getting married in England and Wales is 16 but written consent may be required for anyone under the age of 18)
  • Nationality (your passport)
  • Evidence of your address (your driving licence or a bill)
  • Evidence of the ending of any previous marriage or civil partnership

You’ll also need to check whether you are subject to immigration control. This is because you will need to produce evidence to confirm that you satisfy the requirements.

Following this, you will then be able to legally hold your civil ceremony within 12 months. Something else to keep in mind is that you will need a registrar of marriages and a superintendent register to attend your venue on your chosen day so make sure they’re available.

Now, just like with any wedding, the earlier you book, the more likely you are to get the date you want.

Your venue

Before booking a venue, you should consider how many guests you want to invite to:

  • The ceremony
  • The wedding breakfast
  • The reception

This is so you can make sure the venue you choose has enough space.

You might choose to book one venue for your ceremony and another for your reception. But a lot of civil ceremony venues have space for both, which means you can have your whole celebration in one place and even sleep there too. Be sure to consider access for any disabled guests or those with pushchairs or prams. If you’re planning a small wedding, be sure to check out these inspirational ideas.

Licensed venues

There are so many venues to choose from for your civil ceremony. From beautiful stately homes to stylish city venues and unusual places such as football grounds and museums.

There are also some lovely outdoor wedding venues where you can tie the knot surrounded by the beautiful countryside. And if you want a fairytale wedding, a castle would be the perfect option. If you love being at the seaside you could get married on a beach, and for a rustic theme, a barn is for you.

Once you’ve booked your venue, you can start to think about other details for your ceremony, including:

  • Your vows
  • Music
  • Readings

What’s important to remember is that you can include readings, songs or music in your civil ceremony, but nothing religious, so no Bible readings or hymns. You also need two witnesses present as you sign the register.

Decoration and finishing touches

Most wedding venues will have their own wedding planner to help you with your planning and advise you on every aspect of your big day. They will know the best way to decorate the venue, where to add flowers and whether or not there is room for any additional decoration. You may wish your aisle to look really unique or add personal items to other places within your venue to match your theme.

Lighting is also key to creating the perfect mood for your wedding. A romantic castle would be perfect with candlelight, with added lanterns to light the way, and fairy lights can make anywhere look pretty.


Do you need help planning your civil ceremony? Discover how to bring your wedding dreams to life by booking an appointment to discuss your plans with a consultant at The Wedding Gallery today.

By Holly Sutton

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What you need to know about arranging a civil ceremony