What does it mean to be a licensed venue for civil ceremonies?
Having a civil ceremony is the perfect option for those of you who want a legal ceremony but without having to get married in a church or with a religious connection, 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 license.
There are hundreds of wedding venues in Greater Manchester with a civil ceremony license, 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.
We're here to answer all of your questions on wedding venues licensed for civil ceremonies below...
Can any wedding venue in Greater Manchester have a civil ceremony license?
There's many different types of venue that can be licensed for civil ceremonies. Anything from castles and hotels to barns and even unique venues such as zoo's! 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 license. Some venues, you can only have a humanist or spiritual ceremony at, or just have your reception there. This is because they haven't paid for a civil ceremony license. We have all of the top venues licensed for civil ceremonies in Greater Manchester. Check them out.
How does a wedding venue get approved for civil ceremonies?
When a venue in Greater Manchester applies for a civil ceremony license it needs to be assessed by the local council. 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. If you're wanting to have your wedding in a private home or in gardens, you will be unable to do this. The venue needs to be open to the public regularly. 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 license for this. Due to the law, if you get married outside it still needs to be under a fixed permanent structure. Don’t presume that any permanent fixture in a wedding venue’s garden will be automatically covered by a civil ceremony license. Venues need to purchase licenses 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 in Greater Manchester.
Can I have a legally-binding civil ceremony in a marquee setting in Greater Manchester?
The law does not consider marquees to be permanent structures, even ones that are up all year round. If you want to hold your wedding in a marquee, it's best to get married in a nearby church or licensed venue indoors before the reception. 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. What you say during your ceremony can be changed to a certain degree. Ask your registrar about what needs to be included and work around that to make your own words and promises.
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 in Greater Manchester. 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. When you've chosen your wedding venue in Scotland, speak to the staff to work out what ceremony will work best for you. You can even include religious readings in your humanist ceremony!