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 ceremony in Surrey that's legally binding without getting married in a church, 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.
If your dream wedding venue isn't licensed for civil ceremonies, there's other options in Surrey. 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...
Frequently Asked Questions - Civil Ceremony Venues
Can any wedding venue in Surrey 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. 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 determines the decision of approving a venue for civil ceremonies?
When a venue in Surrey 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. 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 license for this. You can't legally have a civil ceremony in an open area such as in open woodland or under a flower archway on the beach. It must be a fixed structure like a wooden gazebo that is separately licensed. 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 Surrey.
Can I have a legally-binding civil ceremony in a marquee setting in Surrey?
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.
If I have a civil ceremony wedding, what will happen during the marriage?
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. One advantage of a civil ceremony is there's the option to say what you wish as part of your wedding vows. There are some things that need to be legally stated for it to be legally binding but you can work around this. Find an abundance of venues licensed for civil ceremonies in Surrey on Guides for Brides.
If I want a religious element to my marriage, can I have this during a 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 Surrey. If you would like to include religion in some way, you can have a religious blessing after your civil ceremony.
Does a Scottish civil ceremony differ from others in the UK?
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!