Let’s face it, at its bare minimum, a civil wedding ceremony is a dry and insipid official enactment of the legal procedure required to enable a couple to become man and wife. It lacks the traditional human resonances and the feeling of spiritual commitment of its religious counterpart.
It is worth taking the time and trouble to think very carefully about the content of your ceremony in the early planning stages of your wedding. With careful preparation, you can make your ceremony into a very special personalised occasion.
Write your own version of the wedding vows
Providing you obtain the registrar’s permission, you are allowed to adapt the wording of the promises you make during the civil marriage ceremony to fit with your feeling of commitment to each other.
Writing your own wedding vows adds a new depth of meaning to the ceremony. It enables you both to think about the commitment you are making to each other and to voice your true feelings simply in your own words.
Invite close family and friends to give readings at the ceremony
Ask a close relative from each side of the family to contribute readings to the ceremony. Carefully-chosen poems, simple stories – even the lyrics of a favourite love-song – will enhance the meaning of the occasion.
Remember that you must submit the chosen readings to the registrar for approval beforehand to make sure that the content fits within the guidelines of the civil ceremony. The readings chosen must be secular in nature. Expression of religious sentiment of any kind is not allowed in a civil wedding ceremony,
Decorate the room in your wedding theme style
Appraise the ceremony room at your chosen venue. If the provision is merely functional – a table for the registrar and chairs for the guests – you can add to the sense of occasion by decorating the room to fit in with your chosen wedding theme.
Chair covers, with bows in your chosen wedding colour, bring instant festive cheer to the room. A tasteful arrangement of flowers on the ceremony table in matching colours completes the transformation.
Create atmosphere by adding live music to the proceedings
Adding background music to your wedding ceremony will increase the special nature of the occasion. Contemplative music played quietly as your guests assemble sets the scene and soothes nerves, then a rousing fanfare can announce the arrival of the bride. Your musicians can play music of your choice while the register is being signed, and bright, happy music at the end increases the sense of celebration.
Choose the music to suit your theme. For example, light classical music played by a string quartet or a harpist would probably be a good choice for a smart country house wedding, whereas Irish jigs and reels might better suit a more rustic country-themed wedding. Do be aware that you will need to give your registrar a list of the music to be played beforehand. Music of a specifically religious nature is generally forbidden, although some registrars are more flexible so long as the chosen music with its religious lyrical content is played instrumentally and not sung.
The civil wedding ceremony is a blank canvas that you can paint yourselves. If thought through carefully in advance, meaningful vows in your own words can be substituted, and additional readings from friends or family included. If the room is tastefully decorated and appropriate festive music is added, your civil wedding ceremony will become a very special occasion that you and your guests will remember for the rest of your lives.