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C is for Civil Ceremony by Carly
There are many different decisions to make when planning a wedding and you busy brides-to-be know this and your head is probably spinning with decisions about the pretty – roses or peonies? Lace or tulle? To seat cover or not seat cover? These details are important and individual to everyone and I am currently thinking them over myself but the decision that has taken us the most time and we mulled over for months and months was trying to decide whether to get married in a civil venue or a church. Let me start at the beginning:
Our two families could not be more different. The fiancé’s parents are very much ‘do what you like, we’ll support you – whatever.’ My family (or should I say my Mum) are just a teeny bit more involved. My wedding day appears to be my Mum’s second wedding day and to say that she is a little over excited would be like saying Antarctica is a little bit chilly. She wanted her daughter to get married in a church, when asked why she said she likes the bells. I kid you not. This argument sort of rumbled on in the background until it came to actually booking the wedding. It came to a head when we were at a wedding fayre and we had found a hotel that we loved and wanted to get married there and my Mum, in her usual subtle way, said that our wedding would be more special in a church. As you can imagine this went down like a lead balloon and led to a rather heated discussion inside a photo booth!
The hotel we had seen is a beautiful old coaching inn. There are enough bedrooms for people to stay both nights if they want to and the fiancé and I loved the idea of some of the guest being together in one place the night before the wedding and having a relaxed morning in the hotel before preparing for the wedding. I also like the simplicity of a civil ceremony and the many chances that we will be given to personalise the service specifically to us. Our minds were made up and we were ready to book the venue.
Image by Lucy Stendall Photography
However, after one argument too many we agreed to go and meet the vicar of the church in the village where I went to Primary school and, actually, I am so glad that we went as the decision was made for us. We are getting married on Maundy Thursday and we were told that the only time we could get married was 11am as all the clergy from the area meet at Southwell Minster for a huge service in the afternoon. This was nigh on impossible as we have so many guests travelling from all over the country that we simply could not expect them to be in Nottinghamshire for this time.
I have to admit it was with a little smile on my face that I left the vicarage that evening as I was off the hook. In our heart of hearts we had never really wanted a church wedding but we had given in to the pressure from family members and this had led us to question our own decision. I have been a lot stronger around all decisions since this as I am learning to trust my own gut and not be forced into buying things or making decisions that don’t sit right with me or what my fiancé and I want for our wedding.
I would like to add that I am not taking anything away from those people that have made the decision to get married in a church. I think one thing we all agree on at AOW is that choice is paramount and whatever decision you make, for whatever reason is absolutely your prerogative. This is just my story and I wanted to offer a little bit of context as to how we made our decision.
So, that was my little piece of drama regarding Civil Ceremonies. Was/is anyone else in a similar position with trying to make their minds up over a church or non-religious ceremony?
The stuff you need to know:
First check that the venue you want to book/have booked is licensed to perform civil ceremonies. In England you must get married under a permanent structure, so your guests can sit outside but you and your hubby to be must be under something that has been built when you make your vows and are pronounced husband and wife. Many hotels now cater for this and have built lovely structures such as pagodas in their gardens to accommodate this.
Once you have decided on a civil ceremony you need to contact your local registry office to register your intent to marry. This has to be your local council registry office, even if you are getting married outside of the county. This can be done anytime from 365 days before your wedding. You both must give notice in person – no one else can do it on your behalf
You can book your registrar without registering your intent to marry, which is what we did as we had more than 365 days until our wedding but we wanted to make sure that there would be someone there to marry us! The current cost for a registrar to perform the marriage ceremony (in Nottinghamshire) is £365 but this price increases by 5-10% year on year. We had to pay a deposit of £150 to secure the date and time.
Most local authorities operate fixed times in which they will marry you. Nottinghamshire has slots at 12, 1:30, 3 and 4:30 so check this prior to booking your venue etc as this could influence the amount of time that you need to hire the venue for.
Registrars will work with the couple beforehand to arrange any poems or readings or personalisation of the vows. As civil ceremonies are non religious any readings or songs played must not contain any religious references.
For some reasons most hotels will give you the room for free if just for a reception but you have to pay the room hire if you’re wedding ceremony will take place in the hotel and the room hire is often very expensive! I quibbled over this with the hotel as I told them that if we got married at the venue then this would mean more people staying over the night before etc. so I did manage to get a small reduction on the fee. There are lots of places you can have a civil ceremony now, it doesn’t have to be at the hotel you are having your reception in, so get researching!