Civil ceremony wedding venues are hugely popular throughout the UK. However, what exactly does it mean to be a licensed wedding venue?
If you want a legally-binding wedding ceremony with no religious affiliation, and you’re getting married in England or Wales, then a civil ceremony is the best match for you. You can either get married in a register office, or you can have a civil ceremony at an approved wedding venue. To be an approved civil ceremony venue, wedding venues need to apply for a civil ceremony licence.
There are hundreds of wedding venues with a civil ceremony licence in the UK, but it’s important to check that your dream venue has one if you’re wanting a legally-binding ceremony. The alternative is marrying in a humanist or spiritual ceremony, which will allow you to marry in any venue (or in an unlicensed part of an otherwise licensed venue, such as a garden or private beach), but will need to be followed by a legal civil ceremony in a register office at another date.
Have questions about your civil ceremony wedding venue? Take a look at our FAQ below…
Civil Ceremony Wedding Venues FAQ
Can any wedding venue have a civil ceremony licence?
It’s not just mansion houses or castles that can be approved wedding venues - approved premises can include everything from hotels and restaurants to zoos, aquariums, treehouses and caves! If they’re on our civil ceremony venue list, then you can legally marry there. However, don’t assume that more traditional venues always have a civil ceremony licence. It costs wedding venues money to apply for a license, so some just host humanist or spiritual ceremonies, or simply host wedding receptions rather than ceremonies.
What are the requirements for an approved wedding venue?
The local council determine if wedding venues are suitable for a civil ceremony licence. This includes whether or not they’re in a safe and reasonable state for members of the public, and if they meet fire safety regulations. The venue must also be regularly available to the public for the purpose of conducting marriage ceremonies. This is why private homes can’t be approved for a civil ceremony license. If you’re hoping to marry on private land, in a back garden or a large home that isn’t available to the public, you’ll need to hold your legal ceremony in a register office instead.
Can I have a civil ceremony outside?
If you want to tie the knot in an outdoor wedding ceremony, then your wedding venue will need a separate civil ceremony licence for this. The legal elements of the ceremony must also take place in a fixed and permanent structure, such as a wooden gazebo or pagoda. This means that you can’t legally marry under a floral arch, on an open beach or in woodland, for example. Don’t presume that any permanent fixture in a wedding venue’s garden will be automatically covered by a civil ceremony licence. Venues need to purchase licences for separate structures. If you want to know if you can get married in a garden, search our ‘Outdoor wedding ceremony’ filter or simply enquire with your chosen wedding venue.
Can I have a civil ceremony in a marquee?
The law does not consider marquees to be permanent structures, even ones that are up all year round. As a result, it can be difficult to have a civil ceremony in a marquee. One way to get around this is to have your ceremony over the threshold of a doorway. This way, your guests can be seated in the marquee while you are technically indoors.
What does a civil ceremony involve?
A civil wedding ceremony has certain legal requirements. You must have two witnesses over the age of 18, and you will need to exchange contractual words of marriage. There is a degree of flexibility within these guidelines, and you can include your own promises as part of your wedding ceremony. Your registrar can guide you on what words need to be legally included.
Can I include religious readings or music in my civil ceremony?
By law a civil ceremony cannot include any religious element, including readings or music. You also cannot hold a civil ceremony in a religious building. If you would like to include religion in some way, you can have a religious blessing after your civil ceremony.
How is a civil ceremony different in Scotland?
The above requirements only apply to weddings in England and Wales. In Scotland, humanist ceremonies are legally binding, so brides in Scotland have more flexibility when choosing their wedding venues. Unlike civil ceremonies, humanist weddings do not require specific wording, or for the ceremony to be under a permanent structure. You can also include religious elements in your humanist ceremony. If you’re a bride in Scotland, ask your wedding venue about what kind of ceremony would work best for you.