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Your wedding ceremony is an integral part of your day and it will definitely set the tone for your celebration but what do you need to think about when you’re planning your wedding ceremony?

Do you want a religious Wedding Ceremony?

The very first question you need to be asking yourselves is, “Do we want a religious ceremony or not?” If you aren’t religious then this is likely to be a fairly straightforward answer, and equally if your faith is important to you then it’s another easy answer. The difficulty, in my experience, is where family members feel your ceremony should be in a religious establishment, or where there are mixed faiths. I am not going to discuss all the permutations here, we would be here all day but getting clear on this element before you plan anything else with your ceremony is really important!

Church wedding ceremony
Image courtesy of Andy Davison Photography

Do you want a legal Wedding ceremony?

The next question you need to ask yourselves, which may sound a bit crazy, but bear with me, is “Do we want a legal ceremony or not?” A wedding does not have to be legal if you so choose. For most people one important aspect of being married is that they are then legally acknowledged as a legal partnership in the eyes of the law. So, let’s firstly assume you do want to plan a legal ceremony as part of your wedding day celebrations. If you are not having a religious wedding ceremony, then you will need to use a Registrar for your service. There are a couple of options for the location:

  1. A local registry office
  2. A licensed venue
  3. A Duo ceremony.

For all of the above options you are in the hands of your registrar’s office so you will be communicating directly with them to make time and date arrangements and details on the ceremony itself, as it is the registrar’s who will be conducting the ceremony to make it legal.

A quick run down of what these different ceremonies are:

  1. A local registry office would be where you go to register deaths and births and in most cases you would have the choice of one of their official rooms at the local offices to where you are on the electoral roll.
  1. A licensed venue, is a venue such as a hotel, which is approved by the registrars to hold ceremonies at. A licensed venue has to abide by certain protocol in order to be granted its wedding license and you will find a whole list of them on your local council’s website.
  1. A Duo ceremony is where you have a little more flexibility, for example you say your vows somewhere meaningful to you both, then you sign the official register in a licensed location. Sometimes this can be all on the same site, for example having an outside ceremony at a wedding venue then you have to sign the register in a bricks and mortar location, perhaps a room inside the main building. Or, it could be that you have one half of your Duo ceremony at the registrar’s office, the legal part (perhaps even on a separate day), then you have the more personal part of the service with all your guests at your chosen venue which wouldn’t need to be licensed.

do you want A non-legal wedding ceremony?

There may be several reasons why this is an option for you. For example if you have had to have your legal, registry office ceremony ahead of time, you may still wish to have some form of ceremony with all your guests present. This could be because of availability with the registrars, your venue’s licenses, guests not being able to attend your legal ceremony or you needed to have your legal ceremony ahead of time.

For most couples it’s really important that they have their friends and family around them when they do get married which is why a non-legal option on the exact wedding date and at the exact time they wish may be a preferred option. In this instance there are several ways to conduct the ceremony. You could have a friend or family member lead the wedding ceremony, you could do it yourselves or, recruit a professional to do it for you. These professionals are called Celebrants.

A celebrant led wedding ceremony gives you so much more flexibility to create a wedding ceremony which is completely bespoke to you, rather than having a registrar formatted ceremony. For example, celebrants can offer hand fasting ceremonies (see image below), sand ceremonies, singing, complete flexibility on the timing of your ceremony and the readings you wish to have. The key here is to finding a celebrant you click with, who will discuss your options and understand your wedding ceremony ideas. Here are a couple of useful sites to help you:

The Celebrant Directory

The Humanist Ceremonies

Hand fasting wedding ceremony
Image courtesy of Megan Duffield Photography

If you have already had your legal wedding ceremony but you are holding your celebration at a later date but you still want to have a religious ceremony then you can look at having a wedding blessing. These can be conducted by your faith leader at your place of worship where they bless you marriage inferno of your guests but it has not a legal ceremony.

The finer details of your wedding ceremony

After all those big decisions are made you will need to consider some of the finer points of your ceremony such as:

  • The readings you will have
  • Who will do your readings
  • What music you will have
  • Will you need to decide on set seating
  • Is there any production needed, such as PA systems, lighting, sound?
  • How will you enter your ceremony?
  • How will you leave your ceremony?
  • What decorations you may need for your ceremony.
  • Will you have an Order of service, or do you need any signage?
  • Write your vows

Some of the logistical things you will need to work out will be:

  • Timings – guest arrivals, photographer arrival, wedding party arrival times
  • Transport between your ceremony location and your reception venue
  • How will you orchestrate your confetti shot (if you are having it after your ceremony)
  • Parking for your guests

TOP TIP: If you are having a legal ceremony with a registrar they will need to interview you separately just before the wedding ceremony to confirm your personal details so make sure you allow 10-15 mins for this and you have a suitable, private location for this interview at your venue.

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If you need more tips and help then head over to purchase one of our Wedding Blueprint Planners.