The Ceremony

Choosing your gown and picking your bridesmaids is exciting, but don’t forget the reason you’re tying the knot is to spend your future with the love of your life, and the celebration of this needs some thought.

The ceremony, when you exchange your vows, is the most important part of your wedding day as this is when you officially, legally become Mr and Mrs. The first thing you need to decide, as early as possible, is what sort of ceremony you want as this will also dictate the rest of your wedding day style.

You need to sit down together and discuss the various options available to you, as you might be surprised to learn that there are lots of different types of ceremonies, including religious weddings, civil services and now civil partnerships too. Some couples even plan a civil ceremony with a separate religious blessing after.

Church ceremonies

If you want a traditional church ceremony it’s perfectly possible, but there are a few things to bear in mind. You don’t have to regularly attend church, or have been baptized, to get married in the Church of England. It currently offers all British citizens the right to get married in the parish church of the town or village where they are resident or in the church where either of the couple are on the church's electoral roll (this isn’t the same as the local register of electors). Couples can also get married in a church to which they have a strong family connection, either now or in the past, such as in the parish where they grew up.

If you do want to be married in a church, the first thing to do is arrange to see the minister of the chapel in which you wish to marry. If they agree to your marriage, they’ll arrange to read your banns (the public announcement by the minister, during a normal church service, that two people wish to marry) and arrange all the other preliminaries to the marriage, such as the paperwork.

It’s usual to meet the minister several times, so that they’re certain you understand the full implications of the commitment you’re about to make. For example, they may want to talk through the vows – you can’t write your own vows for a religious ceremony – including the meaning behind them and whether the bride wants ‘obey’ kept in the service (this can now be taken out or changed to ‘cherish’ if you wish).

Civil ceremonies

A civil wedding ceremony is basically a legally approved marriage ceremony that contains no religious aspects. It’s conducted by a superintendent registrar or deputy and can take place in a register office or a licensed venue after 8am and before 6pm, such as a country mansion, hotel or castle.

The registrar has to receive an ‘authority’ for your marriage to be able to proceed, which can only be obtained by giving a notice of marriage, which you must do at your local register office (or offices if you live in different areas) at least 15 days before the wedding.

You’ll need to bring at least two other people to the ceremony to witness the marriage and sign the marriage register.

Photography by Binky Nixon,


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