A guide to a civil wedding ceremony

by | 8 March

Merriscourt Barns


Civil wedding ceremonies are the most common wedding ceremony now in the UK and can be conducted at either a register office or approved venue which holds a civil ceremony licence.  If you want to have a low key civil ceremony then a register office otherwise known as a registry office is just right.  Some couples like to have a no fuss legal ceremony and then follow it up with a blessing in church or celebrant led ceremony and reception to follow.

The first step is to contact the register office in the district where you wish to get married.  You will be required to give notice to the register office, which is a formal declaration of your intention to marry, checking that a date and registrar have been booked before you do this.  If you are holding your civil ceremony at a licensed venue then you must ensure that there is a registrar available to conduct the service.  It is also helpful to organise a meeting with the registrar closer to the date to go through the ceremony details.


The Temple Island, Ardington House


The ceremony

The ceremony can be as short as fifteen minutes long, but often couples holding a civil ceremony at an approved venue will opt for a longer, more personalised ceremony.  The ceremony can have readings and music but no religious content is permitted.  The registrar must approve any poems or readings in advance.  The legal part of the ceremony is mandatory and uses legally binding language.  Couples can add to the ceremony by writing their own personalised vows, again which need to be approved by the registrar conducting the ceremony in advance.  If you wish to write your own vows, but are not sure how to start or are finding it difficult to express yourself, then it is well worth seeking the help of a professional wedding vow writer.  They will also be able to help you with what is permitted to be used in a ceremony and will often compose bespoke poetry for you.


Ceremony music

Couples will often book a string quartet or cellist to play during the ceremony.  The musicians will start playing as guests arrive and take their seats, at the arrival of the bride, at intervals during the ceremony and often move on to play during the drinks reception.  These groups have an enormous repertoire so cater for all genres of music.


Convocation House, Bodleian Library Weddings


The ceremony itself

Guests will be required to be seated at least fifteen minutes before the ceremony begins.  They will sit in rows facing the registrar’s table.  The groom will have a short interview with the registrar about twenty to thirty minutes before the ceremony and will then go and take his place and wait for his bride.  The bride on arrival will have a short interview with the Registrar about fifteen minutes before.  The musicians will be playing whilst guests are waiting.  At the right signal they will play the entrance of the bride.  A small table is placed at the top of the aisle for the registrar to sit and then two chairs are placed the other side of the table for the bride and groom.  Once the ceremony has finished the couples process down the aisle.