What Type of Wedding Ceremony is Right for you?

Hello Beautiful one,

I’ve been contacted by a few people, who are a little confused about western wedding ceremonies.

Contrary to popular belief, having a church ceremony is not a pre-requisite to getting married in the UK. You can have a beautiful and meaningful wedding whether you chose to get marred in a religious setting or not. Neither has more value or more worth. It is entirely down to what feels right for the two of you.

So I thought I would take the opportunity to iron out a few of the “I do” creases and break down the gorgeous wedding ceremony options we have available in the UK.

Church | Place of Worship

The most traditional setting for a religious and spiritual wedding focused on God and love, in your chose place of worship; e.g: Church, Synagogue, Mosque or equivalent.

Aba-Joe-Wedding195Cecelina Photography: Aba and Joe

At a Church of England wedding,  you do not need to be religious in order to get married in a church, but you will need to make commitments to your chosen church; such as marriage classes (to prepare you for married life), giving notice of your intent to marry (banns) and you may also be expected to attend regular service in the run up to your wedding. Further details about a Church of England wedding here.

Catholic weddings, slightly different and more restricted to CoE weddings, as a general rule thumb, if you are not a baptised or a practicing Catholic, at least one of you will have to be, in order to be considered for marriage in a Catholic Church. It is as ever, down to the individual pastor how flexible they choose to be with agreeing to marry you or not. Further details on planning your catholic wedding ceremony 

♥ Little love notes 

  • Yes it is possible to marry in a church that is outside of your hometown
  • All church services have a rehearsal for the bride and groom and key members of the wedding party before the wedding day, so everyone knows what they should be doing and where to stand and get a dummy run to practice reciting vows.
  • Song choices and readings: must have religious content in them.
  • Worth noting that whilst it is legal for same-sex couples to get married, it is not legally possible for same-sex couples to get married in a church in the UK

Civil Ceremonies

Civil Ceremonies are a legally binding non-religious ceremony for all those who want to tie the knot without making any references to god or religion.

JK Photography

JK Photography | The hubs and I

A civil ceremony follows a traditional format that you would expect to see in a church, without any spiritual or religious content whatsoever. Not even in your chosen songs.

Civil ceremonies are generally shorter in duration than church services.

They follow a standard format which is delivered by a registrar. There is room to add a small amount of personalisation to a civil ceremony. For example; if you wish, you can write your own wedding vows. There are also 3 options of content that will be delivered by the registrar, that you can choose from in advance.

D&C EMAIL-16Gusde Photography Claudine and Dave

There are some truly beautiful wedding venues across the UK that are registered to hold civil wedding ceremonies. For example if you always wanted to get married in a castle, then with a civil ceremony you can absolutely do that if the venue has a licence.

HighCliffe CastleHighCliffe Castle Photography: In The Frame

♥ Little love notes

  • It’s worth noting that there are legal restrictions to where you can have your wedding ceremony. Only venues registered to have civil ceremonies are allowed. You cannot have a civil ceremony outside unless your venue is licensed and under an immovable garden structure with a roof.
  • There is no pre-wedding rehearsal that you would expect with a church ceremony. So if you want to practice who stands where, entrances and exits and musical cues, you will need to practice this yourself with your wedding party. But don’t worry too much, you will be met (individually) by the registrar about 15 minutes before your ceremony to go through any last minute logistics!

Henry & Shaz 33 JK Photography

  • Song choices and readings must not have any religious connotation to them whatsoever. Any. Not even pop songs with the word hallelujah in it! ( I know!)
  • The extensive meeting you have with your registrar at your registry office, to have your pre-marriage interview (to check you are who you say you are and that your wedding is legit and not a visa scam!), may not be the same registrar that actually marries you. So be prepared you are likely to have a stranger marrying you on your wedding day.

For further information on civil ceremonies, visit your local councils website.

Bespoke Wedding Ceremonies

For those that may prefer a completely personal wedding ceremony, that isn’t a carbon copy of someone else’s. A bespoke wedding ceremony written for you and only you in a location of your choice

BobLaura28Cotton Candy Weddings | Gorgeous Laura of Festival Brides and hubby Bob 

Normally conducted by an independent wedding celebrant or wedding conductor. This differs to a civil ceremony in many ways because the content that is delivered is completely bespoke and written for the couple getting married. Whilst they may follow a similar structure, no two weddings are the same. Couples also meet with the celebrant so they can get to know each other and gather information to start shaping your ceremony and begin creating your wedding ceremony content.

The formal religious address is replaced by a story about the two of you and your love for each other.

♥ Little Love notes:

  • You can have religious content in readings or songs if you choose to.
  • No legal restrictions on where you choose to get married. No restrictions on time, whether the venue is inside or outside. On a beach, in a forest on a boat. You choose.
  • Bespoke wedding ceremonies are not currently recognised by UK marriage law which means you’ll have to do the legal bits with your registrar (read below to find out more).

To find out more about bespoke ceremonies visit One Life Ceremonies

Humanist Wedding Ceremonies

Humanist wedding ceremony is a non-religious wedding ceremony that celebrates the couple and is inclusive for all.

Amadu & India (594)JK photography

Humanist ceremonies can be as unique and informal or as traditional and formal as you wish. The type of humanist ceremony, are largely dictated by the couples beliefs and values.  Similar to a bespoke ceremony, humanist ceremonies are written just for you, featuring a reflection of what love and marriage means to you both.

You get to know your humanist celebrant in advance of your wedding day, so someone who is familiar and who you are both comfortable with is marrying you.

♥ Little love notes

  • Humanist ceremonies are not irreligious, you can also have religious content within a humanist ceremony if you want to.
  • Humanist ceremonies are recognised by marriage law in Scotland. We haven’t quite made it to England and Wales yet, (but watch this space wheels are churning!) Also recognised by marriage law in the US and Australia.
  • Much like bespoke ceremonies, for those of you who are UK bound and fancy a humanist ceremony – for your marriage to be recognised by law, you must sign the necessary legal paperwork and declarations with your local registrar. This can be done at a licensed venue or registry office on the day of, or on a day of your choice before or after your humanist ceremony.

Further information on humanist ceremonies can be found here and here and here

So what if you’re a bit of an in-betweener like me? What if you like certain aspects of a civil ceremony, but not the inflexibility of the structure? Love the freedom of a humanist ceremony, but want your marriage to be recognised by law at the time of your ceremony. What if you like some aspects of a church service, but want a little more freedom on non-religious content? What if you want a completely personalised ceremony that a Church can’t give you, but you want an element of religion that a civil ceremony won’t allow?

D&C EMAIL-19Photography Gusde Photography 

There are many ways you can have the ceremony you want. It’s your wedding, if something feels forced or not right for the two of you, ask if there can be any flexibility on delivery of content. Can you merge aspects of to ceremonies together is some way?

It’s perfectly acceptable to have a civil ceremony and incorporate a religious blessing seamlessly afterwards (we did this) and it was the perfect combination for us. A ceremony (which I massacred, wrote and added bits to it – as much as our registrar allowed- think we were very lucky!) followed by a religious blessing delivered by our chosen vicar, all under one roof in the venue of our dreams. The only stipulation  was that the registrars needed to be absent during the religious blessing. Simple.

Don’t be afraid to ask what is and isn’t possible to help you make your decision about what ceremony  is right for you. It’s so important that you enjoy that part of your wedding day, it’s so very sacred. It’s so sad to hear some couples wished that part of their wedding away because they felt uncomfortable, found church services ‘boring’ or ‘didn’t like church or singing!’ If you don’t like church, don’t get married in a church. If you don’t like singing, don’t sing and hire professional singers instead. Find a ceremony and style that suits your beliefs, your values and ultimately your personalities.


Phew! Make a bit more sense? Gravitating more towards one that the other?


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2 Responses to “What Type of Wedding Ceremony is Right for you?”

  1. Katie Deverell
    May 1, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

    Great article to get people thinking and demonstrate all the different choices. I agree it is so important to think about what’s right for you and create a ceremony to suit. I have done so many different kinds of ceremony because every relationship is special and unique!

    • Nu Bride
      May 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

      I love that you’ve been able to take part in so many different types of wedding ceremonies. I think educating couples about the choice available in creating a ceremony that suits them is so important. Thanks for sharing Katie! X

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