Post # 1
just started wedding planning for next year and having all sorts of worries about the ceremony. We’ve always said that we would have a civil ceremony as neither of us are religious (though my family very much are), and it would feel wrong for us to start our married lives saying things we didn’t 100% believe in. Now that I’ve started looking into things properly though, the civil ceremony just doesn’t inspire me. It just doesn’t seem to have the weight of tradition behind it in the same way (and I love traditions!) and the ones I’ve been to just haven’t seemed as meaningful.
One of the big things for me is that you’re not allowed to have any religious content at all during the service – I’m very musical and can’t imagine getting married without a good old sing song with everyone, but all the traditional wedding songs that I love are hymns so are not allowed (and I honestly can’t think of any alternatives that most people would know to be able to join in with). I also wanted there to be a ‘moment of reflection’ during the service for people to pray for us if they wished, as I know this would be important to my family, but again this probably wouldn’t be allowed.
The ceremony is the most important thing to me, it’s what the day’s all about, but I must admit that the aesthetics don’t sit right with me either. I guess I’d always pictured myself walking up the aisle of a church to get married, and having a cute little stone church with a spire in the background of my wedding shots. My Fi has his heart set on us getting married at a beautiful house in the middle of a zoo, which would be awesome and very us (and would be lovely for all the families we will have coming to be able to take their children to see all the animals), but the room inside the mansion that they use for ceremonies is just a big modern room with magnolia walls etc 🙁
Anyhow, just wanted to see if anyone else had had the same thoughts or dilemmas when first starting out planning, and how things ended up? I’m surprised how stressed I am about things already, naively I thought a year was plenty of time to plan, who knew places got booked up 2 years in advance! I think I’ll be a lot more relaxed once we’ve made a decision on the venue.
Post # 3
I guess I don’t understand what is limiting you from having the song and reflection in your ceremony? If it’s your officiant, perhaps you just need to find a different officiant. My BIL officiated for our wedding (internet ordained) and I wrote the entire ceremony myself, to include whatever the heck we wanted to include.
Post # 4
@missrobots: Thanks, just to clarify I’m a UK bee. I’m not sure exactly how things compare to the US, here we have 2 options, a religious service or a civil service. The civil service legally is not allowed to have any religious references (any religion), including in the wording of any readings or songs. It’s very all or nothing.
Post # 5
If you don’t go to church regularly and don’t consider yourself particularly religious, then a church wedding seems like a poor fit. I would find ways to incorporate some other traditions into my civil ceremony or into my reception rather than trying to force myself into a church, knowing that I don’t fully believe or practice, just to get the pomp and circumstance.
I saw your other post asking for suggestions on sing-along songs that were not religious and meant to comment but couldn’t come up with any good suggestions; but they are most definitely out there. The best I could come up wiht was “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles but I know there’s more. Putting more of a focus on those non-religious things you can do will likely get you the right amount of tradition.
Some other suggestions would be to have someone other than the reader choose the reading. So if your close friend will deliver the reading, have your grandmother choose; this helps involve more people in the ceremony plus reminds me of the tradition of stories being handed down from generation to generation; having a rose ceremony or other special recognition of the mothers; you can also consider a wine box ceremony (basically you and your groom write love letters to one another but seal them before reading, and select a nice bottle of wine, then pack the wine and the letters into a nice box before sealing it at the ceremony, and you’re not to open it for 5 years) and so forth.
I think it’s better to find rituals and even traditions that truly are your own, and “feel” like you, than to take the traditional church wedding when you are not a particularly religious person.
Post # 6
@RainbowHope: Then I would get a religious minister/priest to officiate at the venue of your choice, can you do that? Then you can have what you want. I would talk to him/her when you find one to see what the rules are in the UK!
Post # 7
- Wedding: July 2012 - Baltimore Museum of Industry
Two questions: 1. Can you have a religious ceremony in a secular setting? Our wedding was outdoors, but my minister performed the ceremony, straight from my church’s hymnal.
2. Can you modify the religious ceremony? (google wasn’t much help in answering this question)
Another option: a blessing after the ceremony??
Post # 8
@rebwana: The UK is very strict about separating church and state, so if you are having a civil ceremony, it will in most cases be officiated by a government employee and therefore there can be no trace of religion. Blessings are off-limits too.
Post # 9
- Wedding: July 2012 - Baltimore Museum of Industry
Another question- can you make changes to the civil ceremony, such as writing your own vows? We were at a wedding Friday that had this reading, which was fantastic-
Post # 10
First off, I’m from the US, so I’m afraid I don’t know much about how it’s done in the UK.
However, do you have a Church there called Unitarian Universalists? They are a religious denomination here, and well known for marrying atheists/gays/lesbians, etc. whom otherwise would have to have a civil ceremony. I should say that I’ve never been to one of their services, but from what I’ve heard, they are very open to doing whatever you want to do. It might be a way to have a mostly non-religious service that still has the religious elements you want.
Some more mainstream denominations can be quite flexible as well- DH and I were married by a Baptist minister who wrote our ceremony with us, despite the fact that neither of us were Baptists!
If all else fails, can you sort of wait until the government employee leaves and have a friend or family member do the blessing/reflection/sing song?
Hope this helps!
Post # 11
@NowMarriedNotHarried: Waiting for the government official to leave won’t work in most places in the UK. In the UK, your venue has to be approved by the local council (I think that’s who approves it) or you have to get married in an actual registry office. Your local council is kind of a mini-government. The venue has to apply, be inspected, and be granted a license. Being an approved venue is worth a fortune to a business and they are unlikely to turn a blind eye to everyone “just waiting till the registrar leaves before we start singing church songs” because that license is their bread and butter. They are not going to put it at risk. It’s a bad idea to try and sneak a little god in there.
To give you a frame of reference, the county where my husband’s family lives (Leicestershire) has about 1,100,000 people, and only 85 approved venues. Hence venues in the UK tend to book up 2+ years in advance in some cases!
In the UK you are allowed to write your own vows for a civil ceremony BUT you are also required to recite the legal vows which (last I checked) cannot be changed. The brides at the few UK weddings I’ve been to all said they opted not to add their own vows because they felt their ceremony was getting kind of long. Also you’re not allowed to get married outside (again last time I checked; things may have changed), or under a tent, or on a boat. So I can understand why the OP is missing some of the pageantry of a church wedding; however, I still feel that incorporating tradition either into the ceremony or into the reception would be a better fit than trying to have a church wedding if she’s not particularly religious.
Post # 12
@rebwana: Those were my questions exactly! Good thoughts. 🙂
Post # 13
Thanks all and thanks @fishbone for all that useful information. I’ve just had a long conversation with my parents and got them looking into it with me as well so I don’t feel quite as ‘on my own’ getting myself all in a knot thinking about it (Fi is abroad with work at the moment and the time difference and how busy he is with work means we can only really talk via email, can’t wait till he’s back on Saturday!).
I was thinking along the lines of continuing with the service after the registrar leaves, but if what fishbone says is correct I’ll have to be prepared that this isn’t really a possibility. I really like the other traditional elements that several of you have suggested, that we could incorporate to make the service feel more central to the day. I hadn’t heard of them before joining the bee and they’ll definitely be something I’ll look into!
A lot of the civil ceremonies I’ve been to have been over and done with in 15 mins, which for me personally seemed a bit short. The reception is a lovely opportunity to celebrate with friends and family, but sometimes I feel people put more effort into that than into the ceremony, whereas for me all I truthfully care about is standing up and publically making promises to my Fi that will affect the rest of our lives. It’s the main part of the day that I want to get perfect, so I guess that’s why I was so thrown when I found out all the restrictions I have to work around.
I’m going to visit a possible venue on Sunday, so will ask their advice and also see if I can get some advice off a registrar. Will also be scouring this site for ceremony ideas 🙂 Thanks again.
Post # 14
@RainbowHope: I know this is kind of late, but is there a way to include the things you want BEFORE the ceremony — perhaps at a different location? for instance, can your closest friends, family meet at someone’s house or at a hotel prior to your ceremony for the songs and blessings in preparation for your marriage? a PRE-Ceremony where no one is “officiating” but it does have an order to the service if you’d like?
Post # 15
I have been religious all my life (not devoutly by any means) and so has my family. I have always pictured my wedding in a church up until a wedding was actually in my future. Now every time I picture it, it is an outdoors ceremony (trees, flowers, moutnains, etc). Each of these ceremonies is very possible for me to do, but I am torn. I really think I will regret not having it in a church, and lately I have been seriously looking into churches. I think it depends on you, but personally I would want my wedding to have elements I’ve always imaginedd, and for you that includes music. I also couldnt imagine a wedding without music…how boring would that be!
Post # 16
Hi, realise this is late, but Im in the UK and had the same decision to make as you – although slightly different – Im Christian, my FI is atheist.
You can make civil ceremonies special – there are extra “rituals” you can add – for example each of you giving a rose to each others mothers, there is a candle one, one with sand – some of them sounded quite poetic. You can add readings and songs although as you have said religious ones are off limits even non religious ones which mention “angels” or “God” are off limits too eg Angels by Robbie Williams. Non-religious songs are also not designed for “sing-along”! Its also worth bearing in mind that in many venues – you have to be “interviewed” on the wedding day to check details etc. That might be fine, but at my venue it meant me having to go up the back stairs so the guests (and more importantly my FI) didnt see me. Unless your happy to see each other in which case they will interview you together. You can also have professional singers/string quartets/music playing in the background – all this will lengthen the service!
As for church ceremonies my FI struggled with him being an atheist and the hypocrisy of it – but then we went to a friends church wedding and he remembered he feels relaxed and brings back happy memories in a church. He also wanted to sing the good old fashioned hymns and was shocked when i told him you couldnt do that ina civil ceremony. This was enough for him and the tradition/for me to get married in front of God/the church itself outweighed the option of a civil ceremony so we are now having a church wedding. Church of England are very accomodating providing you arent related or divorced.
You can have both – get legally married in a civil ceremony and then have a blessing – however this is really for those who one of them is a Christian.
For the US posters:- In the UK you cant:-
Get married outside (although this may be changing – you can get married with your guests outside and your under a licensed canopy!)
Have a religious officiant in a civil venue
Have ANYTHING remotely relating to religion in a civil ceremony even down to a word which may be associated with religion. Angel, God, etc