At the turn of the 20th Century, civil wedding ceremonies between a man and a woman were virtually unheard of in the UK, and as for a same sex ceremonies, the mere suggestion of one could lead you to being ostracised from your local community!
However civil wedding ceremonieshave witnessed an unprecedented rise in popularity in recent times, largely due to the massive shift in social dynamics. Religion isn't now as popular as it once was, and an increase in divorce rates coupled with a greater freedom of choice are perhaps the most crucial reasons for this surge in the popularity of civil wedding ceremonies. In fact, civil wedding ceremonies now account for around two-thirds of marriages that take place each year in the UK, and with recent relaxations in the laws concerning where civil wedding ceremonies can take place and who (in terms of same sex partnerships) you can be joined in union with via one, we can expect to see their popularity continue to grow.
Since April 1995, couples have no longer been restrained to holding civil wedding ceremonies in Register Offices and there are now thousands of premises licensed to hold them all across the UK. From stylish country houses and castles through to zoo’s and football stadia, there really does seem to be an endless choice.
At present, there are set rules on where civil wedding ceremonies can take place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and licensed premises do not include private homes, marquees and movable structures (boats, trains for example). Civil wedding ceremonies in the open-air are also forbidden, as are those in any building which has a previous or current connection with any form of religion. In Scotland however, the rules are a lot more relaxed, and civil wedding ceremonies by the shore of Loch Ness or on the top of Ben Nevis are even allowed!
With regards who can tie the knot at civil wedding ceremonies, the marriage rules are exactly the same as those for all other wedding ceremonies, except certain religious viewpoints (such as those surrounding the marriage of divorcees) are not a factor – so if you have been married before you will not need to ‘explain yourself’ to a registrar!
Since December 2005, same-sex couples can also ‘tie the knot’ via a civil ceremony, and the rules for homosexual couples looking to enter into a civil partnership are very similar to those for heterosexual couples.
When it comes to the actual service itself, civil wedding ceremonies must strictly be of a non-religious nature and are on the whole much shorter than their religious counterparts - therefore no hymns, or passages from the bible are allowed, but non-religious readings and alternative music can be present. Whilst parish boundaries come into play for church weddings, there are no such restrictions for civil wedding ceremonies and couples are free to hold their ceremony outside the area in which they live.
With regards cost, your Register Office will be able to confirm at point of enquiry and the final total depends upon the venue and date of the ceremony. Regardless of venue, each partner will need to ‘give notice’ and the couple will need to pay for a Marriage/Partnership Certificate on the day - added to this is the cost for the actual civil wedding ceremonies themseles. Couples can expect the grand total to come to anywhere between £100 (for civil wedding ceremonies in the local Register Office on a weekday) up to £500 (for a Bank Holiday Service at an approved venue). Of course, all of these costs exclude the room hire cost which also needs to be factored in.
So, if you aren’t religious, have been married before, are the same sex as your partner, or are just after something a little bit different, then civil wedding ceremonies could be right up your street.
For those of you wanting to find out more, we've a whole host of other wedding ceremony articles on our site packed full of expert information and helpful advice, not to mention our online wedding directory that's filled with loads of civil wedding venues, decorations, florists and more.