What type of wedding ceremony should you have; religious, civil, or celebrant-led?

Celebrant-led wedding, wedding rings on an open book
© Florence Berry Photography

So, you’ve started planning your wedding, but how to do you decide what type of wedding ceremony you want to have? Did you know there are various options for you to choose from? It goes without saying that some people will have an opinion as to what you should do, but there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong' decision; ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, your beliefs and what will suit your general theme for the day.

Black and white image of bride and groom leaving church after wedding ceremony
© Kate Hennessy Photography

Firstly, there is the traditional church option, where you give notice and have your banns read out at three church services in the weeks leading up to your wedding. You will also be expected to attend church services for a certain number of weeks prior to the wedding. The wedding ceremony itself will be conducted by a priest, vicar or minister, depending on the church. Obviously, there are strong religious links to having a church wedding ceremony, and include having Bible readings, hymns and prayers in your ceremony. However, you are able to choose which of these you want, and you can personalise your ceremony further by having other readings and your own entrance and exit music.

Bride and groom having wedding ceremony in registry office
© Nicola Dawson Photography

Secondly, you could have your wedding ceremony in a register office (also known as a registry office). There are seven register offices in Kent, and they are all different in style and size. A wedding ceremony in a register office is conducted by a registrar, and is considered to be a civil ceremony, meaning no religious elements (e.g.: Bible readings or hymns) can be included. You would give notice at the register office and then return there for the ceremony on your chosen date.

Bride and groom in gazebo wedding ceremony at Hayne House with big balloons
© The Life Narrator

Thirdly, you could have a civil ceremony at one of the 200+ licensed wedding venues across the county. Choose from hotels, stately homes and castles, to gardens, barns and even a wildlife park to find the perfect venue for your special day. In this instance, you would give notice at your local register office, listing your chosen venue, where the registrars will attend and perform the ceremony on your chosen day.

Celebrant-led wedding ceremony in the woods
© Ashleigh Joy Photography

Finally, you could choose to have a celebrant-led ceremony at a venue of your choice, including unlicensed venues, such as your garden, woodlands or the beach. Celebrants are either humanist or independent; humanist celebrants generally do not include any religious content in their ceremony, whereas an independent celebrant will include whatever you want. It is important to note that this is not an official or legal ceremony, so if you wanted to make it ‘official' you would need to have a ceremony at a church/register office/licensed venue before or after the celebrant-led ceremony. With this type of ceremony, you have complete control and you can incorporate symbolic rituals such as hand-fastings, candle-lighting or sand unity into it; the celebrant will tailor the wedding ceremony completely to you, so it will be truly personal and unique.

Please note that the options listed above do not take into account other religions or cultures, which each have their own specific options and criteria for a wedding ceremony.

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