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How to arrange a civil ceremony

A wedding proposal is the starting point of what will be an incredible adventure. The next step is deciding on the type of wedding that will suit you and your fiancé - yes, your fiancé!

Whether you and your partner are planning something intimate or want to pull out all the stops, everything you need to know is right here.

Below you will find all the information you need to plan your civil ceremony. Whether you are looking for an intimate celebration or want to pull out all the stops, everything you need to know is right here.

Why do people have civil weddings

The main reason people opt for a civil ceremony is that they don't have any religious affiliations and don't want these interspersed within their special day. Other reasons are because:

  • They can be cheaper
  • The couple comes from separate religious backgrounds
  • They are planning a wedding abroad that won’t be legally recognised in the UK

Is a civil ceremony the same as a wedding?

A civil ceremony is similar to a wedding in that it legally binds you to a loved one. However, civil partnerships don't tend to have any religious connotations connected with it and don't take place in a religious building.

How do you arrange a civil partnership ceremony?

The good news is that organising a civil ceremony is pretty straightforward, and your wedding venue of choice may be able to help.

Giving notice of your intention to marry

This sounds pretty intense, but it is merely informing your local register office, and the office local to your wedding venue if it is different, that you intend to get married. This must be done a minimum of 28 days before the big day. You must also have lived in the same district covered by the registry office a minimum of seven days before you give notice.

A notice will then be publicly displayed for 28 days.

This part of the process involves a small fee, and you will have to provide the following documents to the superintendent registrar:

  • Your birth certificate (this will prove your name and age
  • Your passport (to verify your nationality)
  • Your driving licence or utility bill (to confirm that you live at your specified address)

If you or your fiancé were previously married, you will also have to evidence that this was legally ended. Additionally, anyone who is subject to immigration control will have to provide additional evidence.

Choosing a wedding location

After the notice period ends, you will have 12 months to get married.

When it comes to civil partnerships, there is so much freedom in choosing where to have your ceremony. From stunning, 17th-century halls, like ours, to getting married at sea, the options are endless. However, there are some places where it is not legal to hold a civil service, such as your parent's garden or a church or religious building.

Wherever you choose to get married, you must ensure that the venue and the person performing the ceremony is licensed. Also, confirm before locking down your venue that the registrar of marriages and superintendent registrar can attend on your chosen day.

Don’t underestimate the importance of finding a venue for your civil ceremony. It is recommended that you book nine months to a year before the big day.

Some venues will be able to put you in touch with wedding caterers, florists, venue dressers, and even entertainment to streamline the process so you can spend more time getting excited about your upcoming nuptials.


However big or small your special day, you will have to choose two witnesses to sign the register for the marriage to be legally binding.

Signing the register

Speaking of the register, this is a document that is signed during the ceremony by:

  • You and your fiancé
  • The registrar
  • Two (or more) witnesses

This is an important document so you and your husband or wife should check that all the information is correct before signing.

Deciding on the finer points

There are additional, more intricate details you will need to decide on in the run-up to your civil ceremony. The good news is that a quality, well-established venue will be able to support you during this process. The finer points include deciding:

  • What music do you want to play throughout the ceremony
  • What flowers you would like and where will they be placed within the room
  • If you want seat coverings with bows, which are quite popular
  • Other decorations such as a backdrop or something to make the isle pop
  • The colour scheme to tie the room together
  • What lighting will provide the best atmosphere for the space, theme and style you would like

How to make your civil ceremony more special

While it is pretty easy to tailor your wedding reception to reflect the personality of you and your fiancé, it can feel more difficult to tailor the actual ceremony. Difficult, perhaps. Impossible, not at all. Here are just a few ideas on how you can personalise your wedding ceremony:

  • Write your own vows in addition to the ones you are legally obliged to make
  • Be involved in the room dressing
  • You can swap out exchanging rings and present your partner with something personal to your love story
  • Ask close friends and family members to share a poem, short story, song lyrics or reading that will resonate with you and your fiancé
  • If the venue allows, invite your beloved pet to the ceremony
  • Choose a specific song, or songs, to be played during the ceremony that sparks a happy memory

And that is how you arrange a civil ceremony. The team at Nailcote Hall have decades of experience helping couples have the best wedding day, and we would love to help make your day special too.

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