All Civil weddings are different. The program of events and wording of the ceremony largely depends on two factors; the requirements and requests of the couple, and the flexibility of the Registrar. Lasting anywhere between ten and thirty minutes, Civil weddings can include readings, musical interludes, vows and more, but must include both ‘Marriage Declarations’ and ‘Contracting Words’ in order for the marriage to be legal.
Whilst Civil weddings will vary from wedding to wedding, this article outlines a sample Order of Service and, whilst only a guide, should give you a good indication as to how your wedding will run.
The first stage in all Civil weddings is the pre-service preparation. Around twenty minutes before the start, the couple and their two witnesses will meet with the Registrar to confirm final arrangements, sign the necessary paperwork and make the final payments. During this time the Ushers will greet guests as they arrive and music may be played to the gathering guests.
Entrance of the Bride
Civil weddings begin in earnest with the entrance of the Bride, alongside her Bridesmaids and the Father of the Bride (or whoever will be 'giving her away'). The Bride's entrance is typically accompanied by music, often played by a harpist, string quartet or other musician, or alternatively played via the venue's speaker system.
Introduction by the Registrar
The purpose of the gathering and of what is about to happen will be explained by the Registrar – they may also take this opportunity to remind guests about rules surrounding photography, videography, confetti etc. The dreaded ‘If any person present knows of any lawful impediment to this marriage they should declare it now’ statement will also be read out aloud to your guests!
For those couples looking to include a reading or piece of music, this point in Civil weddings that provides the first real opportunity to do so. For ideas and advice, check out our Civil wedding readings, wedding music and wedding songs articles.
The Civil Marriage Declarations
The Registrar will ask the Bride and Groom stand and to confirm that they are free to marry using one of the three options that have been agreed prior to the day:
"I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, Maxwell Jacob, may not be joined in matrimony to Jennifer Louise."
"I declare that I know of no legal reason why I, Maxwell Jacob, may not be joined in marriage to Jennifer Louise."
By replying, "I am", to the question: 'Are you Maxwell Jacob free lawfully to marry Jennifer Louise?'
The Contracting Words
After the declarations, somecontracting words will be spoken. Again there are a few choices:
"I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, Maxwell/Jennifer, do take thee Maxwell/Jennifer, to be my lawful wedded husband/wife.”
"I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, Maxwell/Jennifer, take you, Maxwell/Jennifer, to be my wedded husband/wife”.
“I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, Maxwell/Jennifer, take thee, Maxwell/Jennifer, to be my wedded husband/wife”.
Exchange of the Rings and Declaration of Vows
At this point in Civil weddings that the rings are exchanged and the vows are spoken. The Groom goes first, placing the wedding ring on the ring-finger of the Bride’s left-hand and saying aloud his vows – once he has finished speaking, it is the turn of the Bride.
The Registrar will normally offer some vow suggestions although the couple are free to write their own and use them at this point in the service. For help, advice, ideas and suggestions, be sure to check out our civil wedding vows article.
Once the rings have been exchanged and the vows spoken, the Superintendent Registrar will then make a short speech including the phrase ‘husband and wife’ before concluding with the words ‘You may now kiss the Bride’.
The second opportunity to include a reading or piece of music in Civil weddings now arises, though as before, this is entirely optional.
Signing of the Register
As husband and wife, the couple, along with their two chosen witnesses will Sign the Register. At this point in Civil weddings it is customary for some music to be played to entertain the guests as this can take a few minutes.
Exit of the Bride & Groom
The Bride and Groom, as husband and wife, will lead the marriage procession accompanied by music. And that’s it – you’re now officially husband and wife!