Considering a Civil Ceremony? What You Need to Know.

Bride and groom exchanging rings during their civil wedding ceremony.
Photography by Whitebox Weddings- see more at

Some folks consider it the “Fast and Easy” option, but the civil ceremony wants you to look past its short skirt and recognize that there is a lot more to it than its tarnished reputation. Couples are choosing to be married in civil, rather than religious, ceremonies for a wide variety of reasons these days. Many come from different cultural and religious backgrounds, and opt to “keep it civil” rather than wade through the host of complications that can occur when planning an interfaith wedding. Some couples don’t subscribe to a particular organized religion, or want to use its template for their wedding ceremony. Still others wish to incorporate many different spiritual, religious or secular details into their ceremony, and a civil ceremony allows them the freedom to be creative. If you’re considering a civil ceremony, for one of the aforementioned reasons or simply because you want to get hitched at City Hall without all the fuss so that you can skip straight to the honeymoon, here are a few tips to help you plan your big day.

Get an Official Officiant
In order to make it legal, you need to check with the marriage license bureau in the state where you are to be married, to see who can legally perform a wedding ceremony. Common officiants include a justice of the peace, judge, magistrate, county or court clerk, mayor, or notary public. However, there are many other options available depending on your location, so do your research. Who knows…maybe your favorite pizza delivery man can pronounce you husband and wife.

Plan Your Ceremony
When planning a civil ceremony, the order and substance of events is up to you. For the most part, people still maintain the traditional structure that includes procession, opening remarks, vows (you may want to write your own, in order to truly reflect what marriage means to you), ring exchange and other unity gestures, pronouncement, smoocheroo, closing remarks, and recession. You should feel free to incorporate as many different readings, musical interludes or other details as you like, or just cut to the chase and head for the bar.

Location, Location, Location
Just because you’re having a civil ceremony doesn’t mean that you have to get married in Vegas, or at City Hall. In fact, you have a lot more freedom here than you do with a religious ceremony, so choose a location that reflects the two of you, and will be a special setting for the occasion.

about the author
Sarah Sarah has been editing the blog at mywedding for four years. She enjoys watching classic movies, spending money on eyeliner that she never wears, and convincing brides to write thank you notes.

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