Civil Wedding Ceremonies
A civil ceremony is a non-religious legal marriage ceremony performed by a government official or functionary. In the UK, this person is normally called a registrar. A civil ceremony cannot include hymns, religious readings or prayers, and the marriage must take place at a registered or licensed venue to be legally valid. Many private premises are licensed to hold civil ceremonies. As well as each party to the marriage signing the register, signatures of two witnesses are also required.
To make sure everything goes ahead on time and without any hitches, you and your wedding guests should arrive at the civil ceremony at least 15 minutes before the time of your civil ceremony. Registrars are very busy and will normally be attending several weddings in one day, particularly at busy times. Remember to allow for traffic delays, parking and any pre-wedding photographs. Your civil ceremony may not be able to proceed if there are any delays.
Before the civil ceremony, the Registrar who will be registering the marriage will see both partners privately to check that the details to be entered into the marriage register are correct. You can be seen either individually or together, whichever you prefer. This is also an opportunity for you to ask any last minute questions. After the final checks have taken place, the civil wedding ceremony can proceed.
Saying ‘I Do’ in front of your family and friends can be a nerve-racking event, but the Registrars will be on hand to help you every step of the way. They will guide you through everything you need to do or say, so there is no need to worry about forgetting your lines or doing things in the wrong order during the civil ceremony.
Once the bride and groom and the witnesses are seated, the civil ceremony will begin with a welcome by the Registrar. The bride and groom will be asked in turn, to repeat a number of solemn declarations. There will include the choices you have made for your legal declarations and vows and your promises.
After you have made your marriage contract, you and your witnesses will sign the marriage register. Once this has been done, the Registrars will sign the register and will present you with your marriage certificate. Additional copies of your certificate can be provided but may have to be posted out, depending on how many you may require.
After the bride and groom have been presented with their marriage certificate, there will be an opportunity for photographs to be taken. If you would like photographs to be taken during the Civil Ceremony, this needs to be discussed with the Registrar first.
Wedding video recordings are allowed, but please let the Registrar know this before the Civil Ceremony.
Some wedding venues have restrictions on confetti, so please discuss this with the Registrar who will be conducting your Civil Ceremony and the staff at your venue.
Here is a typical format of a Civil Ceremony:
- Pre-arrival Music
- Entrance Music
- Welcome – presentation of the Bride
- Introduction – reading option
- Legal Statements
- Legal Declarations
- Rings, Promises and Contracting words
- Reading Option
- The signing of the Register (signing music)
- Presentation of the marriage certificate and conclusion
- Exit Music
Our thanks go to the Oxfordshire Registrars for providing this information.
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