Ask Jenny – Ceremony Troubles.

Hi RMW amazing-ness,

I’m still pretty new to all this wedding blog glory, and am loving trawling your gorgeous polka dot pages. However, before I can get excited about our day, I’m having troubles with a big part of our day, and wonder if I might be able to ask advice from you uber-experts and your lovely readers.

See, the thing is, and maybe I’ve been totally naive about this, but I’m really surprised by how little freedom we seem to have with what we can do for our ceremony! For us, it feels like this is the most important part of the day, and what we see as a way of defining our commitment and future together, but yet there seem to be so many restrictions.

We don’t want to do a church service, but would quite like to involve a religious reading in the service a) because we’ve found one we like and b) to nourish those guests for whom religion is important. We’d also love to involve a humanist celebrant, and keep the service light and full of love. But low and behold, I’ve found that you can’t have anything religious in a civil ceremony. This includes humanist stuff, even though in England you can’t have a fully humanist service.

I’m at such a loss of how to create a service that is meaningful to us?! We’ve considered just ‘getting the legal bit’ done the day before, it feels a bit like too much hassle the day before W day (not to mention an extra cost). Has anyone else had this problem and found a way round it?

I know we can do a seperate bit after the registrar’s gone, but we don’t really want an hour-long service, especially as some of our guests may have to stand.

Help, please!!!

Lulu x

Hello Lulu,

Welcome to Rock My Wedding!

I totally understand your woes regarding the ceremony. I wanted to include humanist, civil and a little spiritual in my wedding but the option to do all three just wasn’t possible. Which sucks.

This is where we settled on the church ceremony. The church was not where I had always planned to get married, a small part of me feels a little hypocritical still even now for having a religious ceremony, however we had a fantastic Reverend who supported the fact we were rather new to the church and were more spiritual in the sense of believing something is out there… we just aren’t entirely convinced that something takes the form of a man who looks like Jesus. We had one short reading from the bible, but the other two readings were totally unrelated to religion! Having a civil ceremony at our reception venue was an option of course, but I won’t lie to you, architectually speaking our little church was beautiful. I wanted to be married there, and have everyone I loved there, and some of my favourite wedding images are of inside the church. So we had to make a compromise over freedom of ceremony options, and make the best of it. And it was beautiful, I don’t regret a thing.

Sadly the law is, if you have a civil ceremony then it’s all very legal and there can be no religious or spiritual references. I like your idea of doing the legal bit before your actual wedding day, so your actual big day is full of all the ideas, and readings, and music that you long to have. Most couples who have a Humanist Wedding are required to have a civil marriage certificate before hand. I don’t think there is any way round that as a humanist service isn’t legal. Have you spoken to a Humanist Celebrant to ask their advice? Find one here. Civil ceremonies are strict in that they don’t allow any religious references, but you have the freedom to use any readings and music you so wish. And compared to a Church ceremony a civil service is relatively short, so you could continue after the legal bit is done, and include the religious reading you really want to have, and really make it your own. You could have the readings included in your speeches even? At least this way your guests will be seated, and fed, and watered, if having them standing for too long is a cause for concern for you.

How about our dear readers, are any of you facing challenges regarding freedom of ceremony? And how are you dealing with it? If you’ve any advice for Lulu please drop a comment below!

Good luck with your decision, no matter what you decide it will be the best day of our life, trust me.


Jenny x


Author: Jenny

50 thoughts on “Ask Jenny – Ceremony Troubles.

  1. We had same dilemma, in the end are going for an interfaith ceremony with a great minister who is incorporating everything we want. This means we can also have the ceremony where we want (in a field), and even our dog can be involved!
    It is a pain having to do legal bit before, but check out options for that, I discovered we could have done it cheaper by getting married in superintendents office with just 2 witnesses, but we’d already paid deposit by then. Also check diff areas as it the office was cheaper by our venue than at home!
    Have a fab day whatever you decide x

  2. We had (and wanted) a civil ceremony but we managed to make it very very personal to us. We obviously didn’t include religious readings but we did lots of things which were us, which surprised and delighted our guests and which made it memorable.

  3. We decided to get ‘legally’ married at the registry office a few days before our actual wedding, with just our close family present. We’re not in any way treating this as our wedding – we’re looking at it as a legal formality.

    On the day of the wedding we’re having a humanist style ceremony that we’ve re-written ourselves and that a friend will conduct for us, luckily our friend has experience of alternative wedding ceremonies but people like One Life do a fabulous job of putting together ceremonies that reflect you as a couple.

    Doing it this way means no restrictions. As an acknowledgement of the legal vows we’re taking on the Monday before, we will be repeating them on the day of the wedding but everything else that makes up the ‘real’ wedding will be unique to us.

  4. We had a humanist ceremony and you do have the option of including religious parts if you want to. The humanist cermemony can be entirely how you want it to be as you can write it and totally dictate the tone. We got married in a garden in the cotswolds. It wasnt legal, but like lots of people have said you can do the legal bit before or after the actual ceremony……or do what we did and go to Vegas as part of your honeymoon and get Elvis to marry you!

  5. It is quite frustrating, we’re taking a similar approach to Shirley – civil ceremony with some real personal touches. The issue I face is that Lee’s mum is very religious (she’s a Deacon at her church) and I would love to be able to do something that acknowledges her faith.

    We’re currently trying to figure something out, whether that’s a separate reading after the ceremony (if we do that then I’d want it to include both Mums), or she’s asked if we want to go along to her church and have a blessing after we’re back from honeymoon.

    That does sound very nice, but we would both feel a little hypocritical – especially as the first thing I said was “ooh I could buy another pretty dress!” God was displeased.

    Lulu – I’d maybe suggest just defining whats most important to you both and seeing how that can be accomodated. My mate’s had a church wedding and came down the aisle to Joey Ramone… so there are some groovy vicars out there!! xx

  6. This has been an issue for quite a lot of my friends, many of whom are Jewish and wanted a Jewish element to the day but either couldn’t, or didn’t want, a Jewish wedding ceremony.
    The issue about the civil ceremony having no religious content doesn’t stop you having it, just not when the registrar is in the room. So what most of my friends have done is have the civil ceremony, the registrar and her staff leave, and then they have had a blessing, or a reading or whatever it is that has religious content. There’s no need for you to do the legal bit one day, and then have the religious bit another day/separately. Most registrars are perfectly happy with this.
    Of course this depends on your venue allowing a civil ceremony to take place! Otherwise sadly (well, not sadly because its ace) you’d have to come to Scotland and have a Humanist ceremony!

  7. charlotte@rockmywedding – Cannot recommend it enough!! It was just brilliant and so much fun! Defo get Mr O’Shea to take you there and renew your vows x

  8. Hi,

    We are also having the legal ceremony in the week before (and thank you for this timely reminder that I need to arrange that!) I think that we would have happily had the civil ceremony at our venue, except for the fact of the registrars ‘call out’ fee, which round our way will be about £450 on a Saturday next year. If we go for the us + witnesses it will be under £100, but families have been a little put out that they might miss what the see as the real wedding (even though in our view it is literally just paperwork) so we will probably be looking at the ceremony room so that we can have a few guests, which will cost a little more…

    It might seem like a little thing, and quite a small amount of money to gripe about when we are all ready paying so much for the venue, the dress, etc… but it’s these smaller amounts that are more likely to take us over budget…

    Anyway, we are very pleased with our decision because it’s given us all kinds of freedom. We are going completely celebrant free, on the day, and our vows and how we symbolise our future together are now completely up to us. There are one or two problems we will need to get our head round, not least of which that whenever I try to sit down and write the ceremony it all comes out as the biggest pile of cheesy wotsits, but I’m really hoping that it will all be good on the day.

  9. We had the exact same dilemma, which was really stressful at the time but we quickly settled on having a humanist ceremony on the day, with the legal part at lunchtime the day before.

    Our humanist ceremony will still incorporate the traditional elements present in most wedding ceremonies – be they church or civil, but the extra freedom we get with readings, the choice of celebrant and the words used, mean it’s exactly what we want and I’m so pleased we went for this option.

    The legal part will be in a beautiful room in the Oxford Registry Office, witnessed only by our immediate families and it wasn’t even very expensive (£110) as it’s going to be on a Friday. We’re then taking our families out to lunch to thank them for their support. We’re not exchanging rings and are sticking only to the legal vows as we don’t want to feel like this is our wedding ceremony. But it’s still an important part of the wedding as a whole, and it’ll be a nice lead in to the main events on the Saturday. Also, it’s an excuse for another dress, albeit one that is far cheaper and much more causal!

  10. We were all set to have the ‘church’ wedding, and if im completely honest i could still go ahead and happliy get married in one, Mr J however, just does not believe and would feel hypocritical getting married in a church. We had big discussions over why i felt getting married in a church was ‘proper’ etc. and it had nothing to do with feeling that God had to oversee us and give us his blessing (we’ve lived together for 6yrs so that chances of his blessing are pretty slim!!) Plu sthe fact when we went to see the vicar, he wasn’t very nice, quite negeative infact so we made the decision to cancel the church.

    I’ve love a Humanist ceremony, we had a humanist ceremony for my grandads funeral as he didnt want anything religious and it was just beautiful. My mum and dad also went to a friend daughters wedding andthey had been and done the legal bit the day before with just their parents and then had the ‘wedding’ the next day – what day do you celebrate your anniversary on?

    I think we will just end up making the civil ceremoney as personal as possble, we’re aloud 3 readings so that should suffice!

    I like the idea of having some sort of religious reading, but Ive thought about saying ‘Grace’ before we eat to just bring that slight element in, just as a thank you for everything that we have, and as we will be married by that point I thought that would also be quite relevant ;o)

  11. @ Ruby, how does ‘completely celebrant free’ work? Will you be leading the ‘ceremony’ yourselves?

    For us, the ceremony issues are not so much about the content, but more the location. A church wedding is not an option for us (both being staunch atheists, and it doesn’t appeal anyway) and in our locale, all the venues licensed for civil ceremonies are dull or stuffy or boring or ugly or all of the above.

    I’m also keen to have the entire day on one site, so we’re going to have the ceremony on the farm where we’re hiring a field and a barn.

    I’m looking into getting the barn licensed for civil ceremonies, but thats more for a bit of a long term project in addition to our own needs. If this doesn’t come to fruition, then we’ll go down the route of Laura and KT and have a quick civil service in the superintendent’s office with 2 witnesses – ideally people who won’t be at the wedding. We’ll then have a celebrant-led full-on ceremony on the farm, that we will have the freedom to design ourselves.

    I’m keen to do it all on the same day. Nuts, I know, but then it will all feel more real to me. We’re keeping these plans pretty quiet as I want all of our friends and family to feel that the celebrant-led service IS the wedding, which to us, it will be. We’ll also include very traditional elements into the ceremony, and keep close to familiar, traditional vows and structure to further enforce the integrity of it. But at the same time, we can also have loads of personal touches – perfect!

    @Ruby £450 for the registrar’s call-out?! Sheesh, I hadn’t thought it could be that much. If we DO get the barn licensed, that’s £1500, so £450 on top is pushing it into the realms of silly money…..

  12. In five weeks’ time, we will be doing the same as @Laura Babb Photo. We’re doing the registry office bit on the Wednesday with close family and then having a completely personalised ceremony on the Saturday led by a good friend. It’s mainly Humanist, but has a few elements of other religious ceremonies that we read about and wanted to incorporate into our ceremony. Excited :o)

  13. I was struggling with similar options, although as we live in Scotland Humanist ceremonies are also an option, but I think you can also not have religious material in them. The best option we have found so far is the Unitarian Churches, which mirrored what my fiance and I believe (that there is something more than us but we aren’t sure what!). In Scotland they will come to our venue but I’m not sure what the deal is legally in England, might be worth checking out though. Hope that helps xox

  14. Hi everyone!

    Lulu, have you and your h2b tried sitting down and writing a good ol’ fashioned pro’s and con’s list? Perhaps you’d be surprised with the outcome? Just think what you want, just the two of you, and you’re families will just go with it because they’re happy for you! 🙂

    We’ll be tying the knot at a church in 2 years time (I know, 2 years and we’ve booked it already! eek!- But more to do with the fact that the reception venue we really wanted is very popular)

    Now, some of you may call me a hypocrite, don’t worry if you feel that way, I kind of understand it. We’re getting married in a church, but none of us could be classed as completely religious, to be frank I did go through a rather ‘aethist’ phase in my youth….however our church isn’t any ol’ church you see….to me, our church means a lot more than that…. You could call my family an unlucky one, we’ve had our fair share of tragedies if I’m being quite honest, and what that church holds in my heart is a link to those who are no longer with us (Its my Mum’s side of the family’s church…everyone’s been baptised, married…burried there). Not to get married in that church would be a really odd thing for me, and I’m not sure if I’d like it.

    Anyways…what I’m trying to get at is, do what you ‘feel inside’ that feels right.


  15. Wow, thanks so much for all these comments so far, really useful to know that others have had similar thoughts.

    I love the idea of doing the legal bit on honeymoon, but also understand the view that the older generation might see the paperwork as an important part.
    ALso love the idea of a friend leading ceremony…this is fab folks, Thank you so much already for your massive help!

  16. Hi Lulu – you sound exactly like me! I was personally uncomfortable with a religious ceremony as its really important to me that I mean every word I say, but I don’t mind a religious reading (especially as my partner’s parents are keen on that). But on the flip side I feel that civil ceremonies can often be a touch too impersonal and legalistic for my tastes.

    My partner and I ummed and ahhed about it for ages. In the end we went for a humanist celebrant who sat down with us for hours over tea and hobnobs to get to know us and between the 3 of us we wrote the ceremony (if you go on the humanist website there’s a little booklet you can buy for a fiver that has some examples of potential wording if you need a little help).

    And as for the legal bit? We eloped to New York! It was a fun little adventure and I liked that it was something the two of us could share as a private thing – we pulled a random off the street to be our witness. There’s actually a month or so between the legal and humanist ceremonies which I know sounds a little odd, but its worked for us fine – we’ll still consider the day we say our handwritten vows in front of our friends and family (with all the bells and whistles of a traditional wedding day like the dress and the bridesmaids and the flowers) as our “wedding day”. Its a very personal thing though at the end of the day and I think you have to go with what you feel most comfortable with.

  17. When we had our first meeting with the Canon who is marrying us he told us that the marriage ceremony is ours, and ours alone. Whilst people have views on what we should do, what WE do is all that matters. It was like a huge weight had been lifted. The more I get in to this wedding malarky the more I see that you need not do things to make people happy, you being happy will do that!

  18. So, I wanted to share some extra words of warning if you’re going down the civil ceremony route (which we did, and it was lovely in the end. Of which more later).

    We got married in Somerset and had the registrar come to our venue (which was £375, plus the fee for the bans which is abut £75 – ouch). A month or so before the wedding we sat down with all the material they’d sent us to work out the ceremony order and look into adding in some words to make it more personal.

    I was shocked to realise that the only bits that you say in a civil ceremony, unless you completely change it, amount to 3 sentences. These are not sentences anyone wrote with love or poetry in mind and if you rocked up, making the mistake that your ceremony would be something similar to a church wedding you would be very disappointed. So PLEASE make sure you look into this and add vows etc to the ceremony.

    But worse…

    There is no “I do”!!!! (or I will etc). Now maybe this is only a Somerset thing and other registry offices have made a bit more effort, but I was so upset. Saying “I do” had been floating around my imagination since we got engaged. It felt like the pinnacle moment. And it’s just not there.

    After a bit of a crying fit from me, my far more sensible now-husband (I married him for a reason) pointed out that maybe we could write it in. Hurrah, the registrar agreed.

    In the end I loved our ceremony. We wrote a short verse for the Registrar to say to each of us and us to response “I do”. We wrote our own vows and also ring vows. We added wording into the bit about the symbolism of my dad “giving me away” (which he loved) and had readings (non-religious but meaningful) from both of our mums. It wasn’t religious and in an ideal world we would have had a religious element to it, but we really wanted to keep the whole thing in the same venue, and we got married outside which was amazing. I think you can make the ceremony as personal and meaningful as you like, and as long as you avoid the exact words of religious vows you can have something pretty close. And then maybe a blessing before sitting down to eat which is an obvious time for a prayer anyway?

    Sorry, a bit longer than I anticipated!

  19. Controversial comment : I’ve been to two weddings and witnessed a renewal of vows because the legal bit had been done else where and from a guest point of view there is something missing as you’re not actually watching the moment these people said their vows or exchanged the rings. It doesn’t quite feel as magical.
    But in another breath …..
    Your day your way right?
    Luckily we’re off to scotland, we’re having a religious ceremony and we can chose to have it where ever we wish inside/outside or in a church. We’ve still to decide!

  20. My partner & I went down the route of legal bit first before a wedding ceremony which we have written ourselves and an amazing friend will lead (in just three weeks now!)

    For the legal bit we decided to keep it to just us and two close friends as witnesses. I had doubts a few days before as I worried we might both miss having our families there as we’re very close, but on the day it worked out perfectly. We got to have a fun, private little extra celebration (much like a rehearsal) followed by champagne on the beach & dinner in our favourite local. Most importantly our wonderful friends & family have saved up all that excitement and pride for the real thing, when we will say what is in our hearts in our own words in front of everyone we love.

    I reckon it’s a way to marry the love of your life twice. Just think Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton – without the divorce!

  21. @Kim – thank you so much for your post, ive been worrying about the ‘I do’ aswell. My other concern is that it is all very ‘legal’ and clinical, the fact that we also cant even speak to the regsitrars or contact them properly until much nearer the day is very dis-concerting!

  22. @One jolly girl “you’re not actually watching the moment these people said their vows or exchanged the rings. It doesn’t quite feel as magical.” I think that depends on the ceremony created.

    At our celebrant-led service, there will be the real vows and exchange of rings. We’ll have already said the “3 sentences” mentioned by @Kim and signed the legal document a few hours earlier in front of a coupe of neighbours wearing our jeans at County Hall.

    Our celebrant-led service will be much more akin to a familiar marriage ceremony than what has taken place that morning. No one will know any different, and neither should that matter. It’s not a subterfuge, just an extension of the marriage process in the same way that adding additional elements to a religious or standard civil ceremony are. This is why it’s important for me that it all takes place on the same day.

    Our friends got married in New Your in Central park as they wanted an outdoor wedding. But similarly, their marriage wasn’t completely legal and official until they went down to City Hall the following day to sign the register. I don’t see it as any different really.

    The sooner Humanist weddings are legalised across the entire UK the better!! It will be good for the industry as a whole.

  23. @Helen. I didn’t find it legal and clinical to be honest. There are bits they have to say about where their authority comes from etc but that’s right at the start and doesn’t last long (I didn’t even really hear it, I was too busy metaphorically pinching myself that I was getting married).

    After that it’s totally up to you what gets said and done – we even wrote the wording for the registrars to move between readings, music etc – so you’re in control. I’m surprised you can’t speak to them, as soon as we’d booked they sent out all the info and were available on email and phone – in the end I asked to speak to the head registrar about the I do thing and she was great. If you’re worried I imagine you’ll find someone to help.

    I didn’t really like the idea of doing the legal bit separately but it’s completely a personal thing. To me that felt like the bit where we would walk away actually married would be completely legal and impersonal, which I was worried we would regret.

    Lots of people remarked that our ceremony was lovely and “very us” so I think it’s definitely possible to get the legal bit in but have a nice ceremony.

    Also, you don’t guarentee no disasters in a religious ceremony. I went to a wedding once where the vicar did a 30 minute sermon on the 3 billy goats gruff, along with projector screen pictures. The bride and groom had no idea it was going to happen and it felt like something from Sunday School.. and really inappropriate for a wedding!

  24. A church wedding just wasn’t right for us even though we are at church services a lot because of Jon being in the RAF, neither of us are believers. So our option is civil. But I really love the humanist services and have recently been to a humanist funeral which was really beautiful and summed up what we believe in. But to have a registrar come and marry us and then have a humanist service its pushing upwards of £1000 🙁 so it’s just not possible. So we are going to get friends to write their own readings and have lots of music to make what could be a very stark ceremony more personal to us…I’m sure when we are there on the day with friends and family it will be special and memorable x

  25. Morning ladies.. We struggled with this as I am athiest and my husband is catholic and we really wanted to find a way of representing the beliefs of us both and our families… He had never been to a non-catholic wedding and I had never imagined getting married in a church.

    SO…. we ended up having a humanist ceremony (and a church blessing a few days later for only immediate family) and found this was the best fit for us both. It’s legal in Scotland and although we weren’t able to incorporate any prayers or religious blessings we included candle lighting like you would get in a catholic wedding.

    Our celebrant included a statement about welcoming everyone, whatever their beliefs and the things that we have in common being more important than that which divides us. I think you can find ways to make all your guests feel comfortable as well as represent how you feel yourselves. I wouldn’t expect to go to a wedding and have the bride and groom cater for my beliefs specifically, it is about the couple involved at the end of the day.

  26. @Kim – that’s really helpful. I’m going to give notice next month so I’ll check the whole ‘what actually happens’ bit then and start thinking about what we want to say. I literally have no idea what i’m doing so thankfully the lovely woman at the Registry Office has been great so far – i’m glad to have read what you have to say first!

    I hear you too about religious disasters… not so fun but at my Grandma’s funeral the priest went banging on about football for AGES! Despite being Scouse, none of my family (especially my Grandma!) have much interest in footy at all!! It was cringe xx

  27. @Phillipa We haven’t quite worked out all of the details yet: as I said, whenever I put pen to paper it all comes out wrong! What we envision, though, is that one of our close friends/ family (possibly the best-man, though I’m not 100% convinced on that) will give a little welcome and introduction, and there will be readings from other friends, but the actual vows portion of the wedding will be something like a conversation between ourselves, our own words, with no one leading it. I have no idea if it will work, but I am hoping it will!

    @OneJollyGirl We are saving the exchange of rings for our personal ceremony, as this doesn’t need to be part of the civil ceremony at all. I have to admit that the notion of ‘something missing’ from what we want to think of as our real wedding is something that scares me, particularly after my sister’s comments about how it might feel like a school play (thanks, really), but I have been to other weddings where the legal bit having already been done has definitely not been an issue, as the emotions were very real, and the ceremony well planned.

    We also have a notion that, as there will be no signing of the register, we still sign something. We like the idea of the fingerprint tree guest books, which we would start off by signing during the ceremony, and invite everyone to sign during the reception, making it symbolic of their support for us as a couple, as well as our commitment to each other.

  28. We really didn’t want to get married in church and the civil ceremony wasn’t very appealling either so this took us ages to work out. We are having a non-legal ceremony with a Celebrant at 12pm so that we can have the exact ceremony that we want (outside, even if it rains!). The registrar is coming after lunch at 3:30pm when we will sign the register inside and say thenecessary legal lines with no other ceremonial aspects. Originally we were going to do that the day before as our venue wasn’t licensed when we booked it.

    By doing this we are effectively paying twice so it wasn’t the cheapest option but it does mean that we get emotionally married and legally married on the same day (the former is the important one to us). As we are having a whole weekend celebration with everyone travelling for several hours to get there this does make our travelling down day a lot easier with not having to stop off at a register office on the way.

    We hate the fact that the laws in this country are so restrictive in regards to how you can get married. Ideally we would have gone to Scotland where things are more flexible but that was a bit far for the Grandparents to travel.

  29. PS (I never seem to make all my points in one post…) went to a church wedding in ireland where the vicar talked about a couple who he had married a few years before who had come to him for counselling and were actually getting a divorce now, and then went on to say that that was probably for the best!!!! erm…. is it not REALLY bad form to say divorce in a wedding ceremony!?

    The bride and groom knew the vicar though and found it funny and quite typical of him so they were chuckling along with the congregation!

  30. We had a Humanist wedding in Scotland three weeks ago, and for us, the ceremony was perfect, as my husband and I are not religious we did not include any religious references, but we did have a minutes pause which we said can be used for prayers, blessings if people wanted.
    We really loved the freedom the Humanist wedding gave us and it gave everyone the opportunity for a little Scottish holiday (this worked out well for us as we only wanted a small wedding, but I could see that it might not be possible for a large wedding)
    We had our ceremony on a hill over looking the sea with a little log cabin for the party after – it was great!!

  31. @Ruby we plan to sign something in our celebrant-led ceremony too, just to keep with the traditional structure. I think this will be a special hard copy of our vows.

  32. We’re having a church ceremony as both felt it was what we wanted and we both attend Dave’s family church on a ‘sort-of’ regular basis
    My only worry is whether we can change the music for entrance & exit to thosr less popular and more personal to us. Dave’s mum is the lay preacher there (& is paying for the church ceremony) so I don’t want to offend her or make her think we are not respecting the church ceremony – I just don’t really want to walk in to the wedding march, no offence to those who are, it’s just not very me!
    Anyhoo fingers crossed her & the vicar are ok with our plans……

    Sorry Lulu, this doesn’t really help with your conundrum, but thought it would be good to mention as it shows that regardless of type of ceremony nearly everybody at some point goes through worries about this – to be fair for a lot of us this is the most important part of the day and we just want it to be perfect and show perfectly our love to our h2b’s!

    I hope you manage to work out a happy medium where you can get the ceremony you want without too much compromise

  33. We are so lucky in Scotland to have more freedom, a humanist celebrant will marry you anywhere. It’s true there can be no religious element. We aren’t religious but our parents are. @Carol, our humanist has recommended we do the same and allow time for contemplation/prayers for those who wish, and I think our mum’s in particular will really appreciate that. x

  34. We are both atheist, and so anything religious was never considered for our ceremony. We actually felt it would be offensive and hypocritical to say things we absolutely don’t mean, in a church, in front of friends and family who are religious. So we went with a civil ceremony, it was lovely and in a castle, everyone commented how it was very intimate and emotional, and we liked that it was about us, rather than organised around religion. About 2 days before the wedding, my parents asked me if we would agree to having someone say grace before the meal; I said no, strongly, but wasn’t backed up fully by my husband-to-be (we were both exhausted by decision-making and having to fight for what we wanted), and his parents also supported it and made it seem like the grace wouldn’t be overtly religious and stressed how it would help to mark the start of the meal. So we gave in reluctantly as they all seemed to want it and it wouldn’t stick out as religious. However, the person who said the grace, an elderly relative who is also very religious, made a speech which was extremely evangelical and mentioned ‘god’ and ‘jesus’ repeatedly and loudly- which would be fine except we explictly didn’t want that, she knew we were atheist and wanted something low-key and brief.We therefore felt extremely uncomfortable and is one of our only regrets from our wedding day. We shouldn’t have let it happen. What I’m trying to say is, don’t do something that other people want you to do, unless it is something you really want and make sure it’ll make you both happy, and comfortable, on the day and afterwards with your own conscience. It seems like you want a humanist ceremony and since you can include anything you like, that seems like the best way forwards. And a religious blessing/grace before the meal might be nice for you if you have any relatives of friends who could do that for you and would like to contribute, just make sure to tell them EXACTLY what you want them to do for you- you could even write it for them. x

  35. Sadly the rules are very strict, but I can offer up one tit bit that might help. My bridesmaid had a beautiful humanist ceremony that was truly personal to them, with the “legal bit” civil ceremony directly before it. She didn’t want the ceremony to be too long either, but (after much research and frustration) managed to get the registrar to cut down the civil part to the bare minimum of what is required to be legally married. There is a surprising amount of stuff that you can delete from a standard civil ceremony for it to still be valid legally, and it meant that we all remembered the humanist part as the real wedding.

    The one thing she tried and failed to do was to integrate the legal and humanist parts – sadly you can’t do that , the registrar legally has to say “and now that’s the legal bit over with”. She was worried that might make the overall ceremony feel disjointed, but it didn’t at all as the first bit was so short we were all waiting in anticipation for the humanist to start. It was perfect for them

  36. I’ve been to quite a few civil and church ceremonies over the past few years; some have been incredibly impersonal and others I’ve roared all the way through because they’re so emotional – it hasn’t mattered that its in a church or a town hall.
    Mr C and I did the legal bit on the same day two hours before our very personal affirmation ceremony led by my sister (and even featured on these fabulous polka dot pages). We chose to just have witnesses for the legal bit and then the rest of our guests arrived for a later ceremony. It’s great to see that others are embracing this too and saying exactly the words that they want to. No doubt you will come up with a million and one scenarios of how to include the ceremony you want ( I know we did) but you will get there in the end and it will be incredible!!! xxx

  37. I second what Ashleigh said – I think the Unitarian Church could be just what you are looking for! I believe you can have an Unitarian ceremony in any location that’s licensed for weddings, and they are very flexible!

  38. This was a big issue for us, but in the end we found a solution we’re very pleased with. We actually did the legal bit yesterday, and our actual wedding is a week from today. On the wedding day my brother will lead a ceremony we have written ourselves, whichis very personal to us. We will even be having a sing-along of Elvis’ “Can’t help falling in love with you” in place of a hymn!

    The legal ceremony we had yesterday was really just about the paperwork for us. It literally took five minutes and we only had two witnesses present. However, we have noticed that some of the older family members feel that the ceremony on the day is not a real ceremony. We have chosen to ignore them, and do our own thing. Your day your way, right? 😉

  39. Wow – thanks everyone for all your comments. It’s been so interesting, as well as massively reassuring, to hear all the different variations!

    We definitely feel reinvigorated with this part of the day, and are looking forward to what solution we may find!

    amazing – thank you thank you thank you 🙂

  40. Hi ladies,

    We got married just under three weeks ago.We had thought of a humanist wedding but it concerned us re:the legaility in the UK.
    We spent ages looking for venues.. we couldn’t find what we wanted so created our own! We had a humanist ceremony in teepees in Keswick in the Lake District.
    Rebekka-We had cant help falling in love with you too. We also had lots of comments from relatives including my Mum about it being not the real thing!
    But on the day everyone loved it and were all bowled over by how personal the ceremony was. Our celebrant spent a day with us finding out ‘our story’ and it was so personal. I worried about people saying things like it not being our real day.. but I did not think that once on the day.
    We did our ‘legal bit’ in the registry office the Monday before the wedding.

    Lots of luck and if you need any more info please get in touch xxx

  41. Hi everyone! It’s so interesting reading all your comments on this subject, as what we do at One Life Weddings is write unique and personal ceremonies that reflect you as a couple and the words you want to say to each other.

    The company was started as a result of this lack of choice for the individual, of course no two relationships are the same so why use a set script that doesn’t reflect who you are and what your marriage means to you. We can also conduct the ceremony in any location, outdoor weddings being one of our most popular requests, and we can include religion or traditions from around the world.

    Every script is bespoke and what many of our couples like is the fact they meet with us months and sometimes a year before and build a relationship with us. They say it feels very special to share such an intimate moment with someone they have established a rapport with, almost like a friend conducting the ceremony. To be legally married in England and Wales you do not need to exchange vows or rings or be pronounced husband and wife, all of this can be done for the first time at your very personal One Life ceremony.

    Whichever way you choose to celebrate your marriage as long as it’s the right way for you, that’s all that really matters.

  42. Hi

    I’m from Scotland so I know things are a bit different up here. But we are having an Inter-faith minister do our ceremony. It means that we can have whatever we want in our ceremony. I’m not religious but my h2b family are and so it allows us to make them feel comfortable without having to have readings from the bible or overly religious theme. Because we are in Scotland the legal part is included and so we don’t have to do anything separately. You could elope 😉

  43. Hi,

    We’ve had the opposite problem planning our civil partnership. We’re both active Christians but at the moment you can only have a civil ceremony. What we’ve gone for is having the legal bit the day before at the registry office (if you can avoid it don’t get married at Birmingham registry office, we have a choice of 3 readings and 4 pieces of music to walk into, three of which my girlfriend refused point blank to use). I think the whole thing will be a bit like a conveyor belt, or as our minister said, as much emotion as signing a mortgage agreement.

    The following day we’re having our ‘wedding’ on a campsite, in the woods. We’ve got a minister who will do a blessing and we can essentially have all the bits of a ‘normal’ church wedding. Hymns, prayers, rings and vows. I’m really excited about this bit and having all our friends and family there with us. Just hoping it doesn’t rain or it will be a long day in the giant marquee!


  44. Bit perplexed by Kim’s post. We’re getting married in Somerset and it totally includes “I do” (or “I will” if you prefer).

  45. @Gabrielle – I know this thread has been inactive for a little while – but just on the off chance – We’re getting married in Oxford in July this year and would love a humanist celebration (will also be doing the legal bit in the registry office). Wondering how you found your celebrant and whether you would recommend them? Thanks in advance!

  46. I know this is an old thread, but if anyone in England is looking for a humanist wedding, a church wedding for couples from different faith traditions (including atheist/agnostic) or a church wedding for same-sex couples, try your local Unitarian chapel. Every chapel is independent, so not all may be prepared to offer all or any of the above, but Unitarians have no fixed creed, so you don’t have to sign up to any set of beliefs, including belief in God. Most chapels are registered for marriage, some are also registered for same-sex marriages, and have their own registrars, so don’t have to follow the no religious content aspect of civil ceremonies. We married in a Unitarian chapel in 2013 and wrote our own pagan/Catholic ceremony which everyone who attended found very personal and very moving. The minister was very helpful and the building was historic and very beautiful.

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