The Ultimate Guide to Wedding Ceremonies
When it comes to tying the knot, there are various ceremonies with different legal statuses. Instead of simply ‘getting married’ in either a church or registry office, there are actually multiple choices to consider. This gives you the opportunity to explore and find something that will perfectly define you and your partner as a couple. Here we look at all sorts of different ceremony options, from civil ceremonies in licensed venues to those celebrating an interfaith relationship using a celebrant.
- What is a Civil Partnership?
- What is a Civil Marriage?
- What is a Civil Ceremony?
- What is a Humanist Ceremony?
- What is an Independent Celebrant Ceremony?
- What can I expect at a Church of England Wedding Ceremony?
- What can I expect at a Catholic Wedding Ceremony?
- What can I expect at a Jewish Wedding Ceremony?
- What can I expect at a Hindu Wedding Ceremony?
- What can I expect at a Muslim Wedding Ceremony?
- What can I expect at a Sikh Wedding Ceremony?
- What is an Interfaith Wedding Ceremony?
What is a Civil Partnership?
A civil partnership is a legally recognised relationship between two people. It offers many of the same benefits as conventional marriage. It was introduced in 2004 under the Civil Partnership Act applying to same-sex couples over the age of 16. However, in May 2019, it was announced that mixed-sex couples are going to be allowed to have civil partnerships in England and Wales. So, civil partnerships are now an option for all!
What Rights Do I Have in a Civil Partnership?
Those in a civil partnership benefit from the same rights as married couples. However, unlike a conventional marriage, there are no religious connotations attached to civil partnerships. So, these are a good desirable option for those who want to legally recognise their relationship without religious influence.
What is the Process for a Civil Partnership?
A civil partnership is an entirely civil event. Civil partners can choose to add a ceremony to follow the formation of their civil partnership. However, this does not form part of the process. It will also take place in front of a registrar as opposed to a recognised religious leader. The ceremony must take place in a licensed venue in England and Wales.
The civil partnership ceremony itself does not necessarily involve an exchanging of vows as a conventional wedding might. Instead, the union is simply valid after both parties sign the civil partnership document. A civil partnership process is fairly short, usually between 20-25 minutes. But, couples can incorporate words, poems and music into the service, providing there is no religious connotation.
What is Civil Marriage?
A civil marriage is a marriage performed, recorded and recognised by a government official. Marriage has always been available for heterosexual couples. In 2014, legislation allowing same-sex marriage came into force in the UK. So, marriage is open to everyone in the UK. In Northern Ireland, it was only in February 2020 that the first same-sex civil marriages were allowed to take place.
What is the Process for a Civil Marriage?
Couples can give formal notice of their intention to marry at their local register office. Same-sex couples are free to get married in civil ceremonies. However, they can only get married in religious ceremonies if their religious organisation has agreed to marry same-sex couples.
So, legally, everyone aged 16 or over, not already married or in a civil partnership and not closely related to their partner, can get married. The ceremony itself will need to be held in a civil ceremony licensed venue if you are marrying in England or Wales.
What is a Civil Ceremony?
A civil ceremony is simply a non-religious, legal marriage. It is presided over by a legal official instead of a religious one. The civil ceremony is the most popular form of marriage in England and Wales, making up 60% of all marriages.
How Do I Arrange a Civil Ceremony?
The first step is to visit the Registrar’s Office in the district you live in. There, you will be advised on the procedures involved. Most marriages or civil partnerships require at least 28 days’ notice of marriage.
What Happens at a Civil Ceremony?
A civil ceremony is fairly short, usually between 20-25 minutes. Couples are encouraged to incorporate words, poems and music into the service. The ceremony must take place in a licensed venue in England and Wales. Just like a civil partnership, there is no religious connotation. You must exchange vows in order to be legally married. Having been declared married, the couple then signs the register, along with two witnesses and the Registrar.
Humanist weddings and celebrant-led ceremonies have risen in popularity hugely in the UK. Over 1,000 occur in England and Wales each year. Lots of couples are now considering these non-religious wedding ceremonies as an alternative to a civil ceremony. Unlike in Scotland and Northern Ireland, humanist weddings are not yet recognised in law in England and Wales. So, couples often go to the registry office to be legally wed before or after their humanist wedding.
A humanist wedding ceremony gives you the opportunity to marry where, when, and how you want. Each ceremony is written specifically for the couple; there is no set format. As a guide, a typical wedding might include readings, poems or music as well as personal anecdotes about the couple. The couple will make vows or commitments to each other and often exchange rings.
Whilst Humanist ceremonies are always non-religious and are based on an atheist belief system, an Independent Celebrant has the flexibility to include religious and/or spiritual elements IF the couple wish to have them. Indeed many couples choose an Independent Celebrant because they have faith but are not a part of any organised religion, they may have faith but are divorced or same sex couples whom the church have actually turned away for their wedding, they may be of mixed faiths and therefore want a ceremony which includes an element of more than one religious which a celebrant can include.
You do not have to be a regular churchgoer to get married in the Church of England. The Church means you can make your solemn promises to each other, not just in front of your family and friends, but also in the sight of God. You have to go through certain rites, such as the reading of the banns, meetings with your minister, and often a rehearsal, before your ceremony.
You can personalise your ceremony with readings, hymns and prayers but most follow a traditional structure. A Church of England wedding ceremony must take place in a church with a minister officiating. The minister is licensed to make the marriage legal in the UK.
Considered one of the seven sacraments, the Catholic wedding ceremony is full of deep spirituality and rich symbolism. Rituals and readings may vary depending on your church and on whether both the bride and groom are Catholic.
Before you have your ceremony, you have pre-wedding traditions, such as an interview with your priest, and religious requirements such as taking a marriage preparation course. You will also need to take your wedding date, venue and dress code into account. Traditionally, a Catholic wedding ceremony includes a full Mass and communion, which means a full Catholic wedding can last about an hour. Other rituals include blessings, readings and prayer in a certain structure.
A traditional Jewish wedding ceremony is full of meaningful rituals, symbolising the beauty of the relationship of husband and wife, as well as their obligations to each other and to the Jewish people. These include pre-wedding decisions, such as choosing a date around religious holidays.
During the ceremony, traditional elements include signing the ketubah, badeken, the chuppah, kiddushin and breaking the glass. Jewish weddings are performed by a Rabbi, who are licensed to make the marriage legally binding. While they are traditionally conducted in a synagogue, Jewish weddings can take place anywhere.
A Hindu wedding ceremony is a religious ceremony and one of the most important of the sixteen Hindu sanskars or sacraments. The bride is known as the Dulhan, the groom as the Dulha. While the ceremony lasts about one‐and‐a‐half‐hours, the preparations and celebrations begin weeks before and continue afterwards.
These rituals can include Mehndi, Haldi, Shilarohan, Laaja Homa and many more. The Hindu service is performed by a male Brahmin priest. The ceremony venue is normally a town hall or a hotel and is then followed by blessings in the temple. The Hindu wedding ceremony is not recognised by British law. So, you need to marry in a civil register office before the Hindu ceremony.
The only requirement for a Muslim wedding ceremony is the signing of a marriage contract. Arab Muslim weddings are lavish celebrations steeped in history and tradition. While the specific customs vary across countries, culture and Islamic sect, there are certain cultural and religious rituals that remain the same. These can include the Toble, Katb Al-kitaab, Meher, Nikah and Savaqah.
Most marriages are not held in mosques while traditionally men and women remain separate during the ceremony and reception. Since Islam sanctions no official clergy, any Muslim who understands Islamic tradition can officiate a wedding. Muslim wedding ceremonies are short and sweet, usually lasting no longer than twenty minutes. However, Muslim wedding celebrations can go all night long!
A Sikh wedding ceremony often takes place in a temple, such as a Gurudwara. The marriage hall is called the pandal; it is where family and friends gather to watch the bride and groom officially join together as a married couple. Sikhism does not permit for priests. Rather, a custodian of the Guru Granth Sahib will read the relevant passages of the book and marry the couple.
Sikh wedding celebrations last several days and are community-wide events. The Anand Karaj, a legally recognized Sikh marriage ceremony, is the Ceremony of Bliss and joins the newlyweds together. These celebrations include other rituals and traditions such as Kurmai, the Mehndi and Chooda Ceremony, Baraat, Anand Sahib and many more!
There’s no requirement that two people who fall in love with one another have to share the same religious beliefs. In fact, an interfaith wedding ceremony is actually quite common now. It is possible to have a mixture of religious traditions at the same wedding ceremony and reception, without having to label the wedding any specific faith. However, planning an interfaith ceremony can be tricky. You’ll likely face three major challenges: finding an officiant; combining two sets of traditions without upsetting your families; and creating a ceremony that reflects your commitment and your common values.
Some interfaith couples choose to follow tradition closely, while others stray from convention. Your officiant can help you design a ceremony that works for you. Work together to select readings and rituals that are significant to both of you. Many couples create a wedding program that includes explanations and transliterations of specific religious customs, so family and friends can understand and participate in unfamiliar traditions. The religious and legal recognition of your marriage depends on your religion and your wedding ceremony.
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