• The Wedding Help

Wedding Ceremonies; Explained.

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Not too long along ago, when it came to choosing your wedding ceremony it was either church or registry office and that was kind of your lot! Not a lot of freedom to choose, it was either one or the other. Thankfully, we’ve moved on from that and become more flexible in lots of different ways. Allowing couples to express themselves through their wedding ceremonies and choose what they would actually like. With this though, can come a bit more confusion so I thought it would be handy to know more.

Church Ceremonies

Beautiful buildings, located in every corner of the earth celebrating a particular religion or belief. All operating slightly differently, depending on the type of church they are.

Length of ceremony; Depending on the exact ceremony type you choose these tend to last for 40 minutes plus.

Upsides; They usually are architecturally beautiful, there’s usually a glimmer of stained glass in there somewhere and you cant beat that! Very traditional affairs which are really romantic, usually following a structure and tale for your marriage vows. They tend to allow you a fair amount of time to utilise the church too for photo opportunities both pre and post ceremony.

Downsides; Again, depending on parish rules, they can be a little tricky about who can marry there. If your living outside of their parish currently or aren’t attending they might be a bit harder to marry there. Some priests can also be a bit funny about how close your photographer can get too, so its always worth trying to tackle this one fairly early on – depending on how important that element is to you.

Civil Ceremonies

These are legally binding ceremonies which are conducted by registrars who are authorised by the local councils. These can be conducted in a real variety of locations which have been pre-approved and licensed by local councils. When you choose a venue and opt for a civil ceremony, it’s important to remember that although you need to notify (which is also called giving notice, which must be done 28 days prior to your day and goes on public display) your local council (the one where you are living). Then, the civil ceremony is booked through the registrars which fall under the council of the venue’s location. For example, if you live in Sheffield but your venue is Derbyshire you would give notice to Sheffield but book the Derbyshire registrars for your ceremony. Civil ceremonies can also be conducted in registry offices which are usually located in town halls of councils. These too can be gorgeous buildings and have space for all of your guests.

Length; Usually between 20-30 minutes depending on inclusions (eg. readings, vows, song choices)

Upsides; If your not a churchy kind of person, this is a great option. They still include romantic notions but they mustn’t include anything religious. For example, certain song choices are not allowed so always best to check before. They are structured and can be as simple as you would like, but still include the lovely touches such as readings and vows. Civil ceremonies are also great if you would like to stay at one location for your wedding day as most venues will have some sort of option for your ceremony.

Downsides; They don’t offer an awful lot of wiggle room for including anything really personal or imaginative. Aside from the romantic aspect, they are a legal declaration. You also need to be pretty sharp on your timings with a civil ceremony as the registrars can be dashing from a couple of venues on your day.

Celebrant Led Ceremonies

Celebrants are becoming increasing popular, largely because of their flexible nature. A celebrant is an independent person who spends time, before your day getting to know the two of you as a couple and writing your love story in the form of your wedding ceremony. These are often used when performing an outdoor wedding for example. Outdoor space cannot be legalised for marriages currently, because there is nothing to bind the certificate too. If there is a permanent fixture however, such as a bandstand or summerhouse venues are able to legalise these for civil ceremonies as long as the ceremony is performed within this which is how some venues are able to offer legalised outdoor weddings.

Length; How long is a piece of string? There is no answer to this, as there isn’t a set structure as such as they can be completely flexible. A good amount of time in my experience is around the 20-40 minute mark for both yours and your guests comfort.

Upsides; Anytime, anywhere. As long as its physically possible a celebrant can probably conduct your ceremony there. Woodlands, canal boats, on the beach – it’s all possible. Because the ceremonies are written with you in mind, they can be ultra personal incorporating where you met, what you enjoy doing together and how you interact. Most celebrants also only take on one ceremony per day so are really relaxed with their ceremonies and timings from the off.

Downsides; Currently, a celebrant led ceremony isn’t legally binding so this would need to be organised before the wedding (usually). Most of your guests wouldn’t know that it wasn’t legally binding unless you told them and the ceremonies don’t feel like anything is missing because of this aspect. A lot of couples will pop to the local registry office during the week of their wedding and sign their formalities meaning they may technically be married before their wedding day.

So, what does this mean for you? Options, lots of options depending on both your personal preferences and logistical plans. The great thing is, that there is usually a way to execute your visions if planned for accordingly. It's always worth prioritising your ceremony and thinking into this, prior to confirming a venue to ensure the two aspects match up.

If you'd like to talk more about this or would like some help with your plans, do get in touch - i'd love to hear from you! Jess X

Image Credits: Martyn Hand Photography, 2 Point 8 Studios & Joanne Jacobs Photography