It might sound obvious but the ceremony really is what a wedding day is all about. For some the ceremony is a formality, but for others the ceremony detail is hugely important, with lots of time and effort invested. It’s important that you choose the right type and style of wedding ceremony for you. There are so many options, but it’s amazing how many people still believe that you only have the choice of religious or civil, which is a great shame.

I can’t cover every wedding ceremony style here unfortunately. On some training courses we dedicate almost a whole morning to covering the different types of ceremony that wedding planners should know about, but here are some of the most popular:

Religious Wedding Ceremony

Religious Wedding Ceremony in Church

For example, in your local parish church. Your classic wedding ceremony option and the most likely if you are a regular church goer and part of the church community. It’s also an option even if you don’t regularly go to church.

Recently I’ve found churches more willing to be flexible on the choice of readings and include some music which is modern (and not based on hymns). The service does tend to follow a certain traditional format however, and the content is at the discretion of the minister marrying you.

Most churches have an organ, a resident choir and sometimes bell ringers, so these aspects are your church classics! There is nearly always a rehearsal the day before, which is a great chance to put everyone’s mind at rest and inform them of their duties/positions.

Civil Wedding Ceremony

Civil Wedding Ceremony in Islington Town Hall

Conducted by a registrar in either your local registry office or in a licensed venue. There are so many venues licensed now so there’s an amazing choice. Around 65% of marriages are civil at the last count, and it’s not a surprise. It’s very simple, with relatively little paperwork, and a selection of standard vows and declarations offered with personalisation of readings and music (which must be non-religious) possible.

I have worked with lots of wonderful registrars who have a great way of conducting their ceremonies. Do bear in mind that most of them have a large workload so don’t have the chance to really get to know each couple. So, although personalisation is very do-able, there isn’t so much guidance on this aspect as there is with the options mentioned below. Often the couple will not personally meet the registrar conducting the service before the day. There isn’t usually a chance of a rehearsal either, which can lead to more than a few nerves for many a bridal party.

Humanist, Interfaith Blessing, Non-Legal Wedding Ceremony

Humanist Wedding Ceremony in Woodland

These terms can be very confusing, and I’d suggest you look at the links at the bottom of this article to understand more on each of the options, but these are the types of wedding ceremony which allow the greatest opportunity to personalise, and have been some of the most beautiful I’ve helped plan.

From couples with different religious backgrounds who wanted to incorporate both in an intimate garden ceremony, to couples who have married elsewhere and wanted a very bespoke ‘blessing’ ceremony, to those seeking an entirely non-religious yet moving humanist ceremony, the options are limitless. All these ceremonies are non-legal so have to be preceded by a small legal ceremony such as at the register office. However, they offer lots of opportunity for the couple to make it their own.

A typical independent celebrant will meet the couple at least twice, and work with them using their varied experience to design a ceremony which is totally right for them, using, for example, personally written vows, readings, as well as numerous symbolic gestures which can be drawn from many traditions and cultures. There is often a lot of laughter at such ceremonies as the celebrant always gets to know the couple very well and often injects a certain amount of humour, which can be very moving.

I recommend a good look at the following links to give you more information on some of the lesser known wedding ceremony types…

Happy Planning!

Guest post by Kelly Chandler

Images from…

Church Ceremony: Joseph Hall Photography

Civil Ceremony: Claire Basiuk Photography

Humanist Ceremony: D’Arcy Benincosa Photography