Q&A: What are the basics of a civil ceremony? - Wedding Ceremonies - Wedding Planning

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Photo Credits:
Ceremony Decor: Laurie Bailey Photography
Budget-friendly Ideas: Lisa Lefkowitz Photography
Programs: Elizabeth Lloyd Photography
Ceremony Songs: Deborah Coleman Photography
Recessional Songs: Lauren Kinsey Photography
Processional Songs: Magnifique Photography
Chairs: Meghan Aileen Photography
Arches: She-N-He Photography
Aisles: KCK Photography

What Are the Basics of a Civil Ceremony?

A

Known as the fastest, easiest way to get married, the beauty of a civil wedding ceremony is its flexibility. The ceremony details will be determined by you, and there's no limit to the customization you bring to the process.

Who Has a Civil Ceremony?
The civil ceremony isn't just for irreligious couples who want to cut to the chase with a quick "I do" in front of a justice of the peace at City Hall. Some couples on a tight budget want a simple, inexpensive solution to the wedding ceremony. Most civil ceremony couples are either not sure of their religious convictions or need a nonreligion option for any number of reasons. Additionally, some couples want to include specific readings, poems, officiants, vows, music, or other details in their ceremony that might go against the rules of certain religions.

Where Can a Civil Ceremony Be Performed?
Though civil ceremonies are most often performed in the offices of an officiant in a City Hall, as their numbers have increased, so have the variations in ceremony location. To make it easier on the guests, some couples choose to designate a special area at their reception site. Your imagination is the only thing limiting your civil ceremony location, but remember to keep your guests in mind. They'll need to have easy access to the site as well as a view from a comfortable place. Some couples have the ceremony in the comfort of their own home, followed by an intimate at-home reception.

Who Can Perform a Civil Ceremony?
The answer depends on the state and country where you plan to get married. You should check with the local marriage license bureau or municipal county clerk's office to determine who's legally recognized to perform a civil ceremony. They'll certainly know the policies and laws you have to keep in mind as you go through the planning process.

In most American states, there are many officiant options. You'd be surprised how many official jobholders are authorized to perform the ceremony. Some couples want a specific, unauthorized individual who's special to them to perform their ceremony. Usually this is possible as long as a licensed local official witnesses the event and fills out the legal documents.

The officiants listed below are commonly authorized to perform civil ceremonies.
• Chaplain
• County clerk
• Judge
• Justice of the peace
• Mayor
• Minister
• Notary public
• Pastor
• Priest
• Rabbi
• Superior court clerk
• Township council member

Remember, it's important to contact your officiant to determine the counseling, fees, paper work, and other logistics that may be required in order for your civil ceremony to be considered a legally binding event.

Design Your Own Civil Ceremony
Civil ceremonies can be as flexible and informal as you desire. Usually the bride will wear a wedding gown and the groom a suit, though some brides prefer more informal attire. Things can get really creative when you have a themed civil ceremony such as Halloween, Hawaiian, Western, Hollywood, etc. And complete freedom of choice carries over into the selection of music.

Most civil ceremony officiants have experience writing the ceremony. But you might want to include your own work or the words of noted authors or poets in your readings, vows, or other symbolic acts. You can certainly involve your family and friends as well.

Usually, the ceremony consists of the following sections, listed in order of occurrence.

• Opening words
• Readings
• Consent
• Vows
• Ring exchange
• Final thoughts or readings
• Closing words

Civil ceremonies usually eliminate other traditional moments such as the processional, the ring bearer, religious readings, and the recessional. But, as with the rest of the ceremony, you should feel free to include any aspect of any traditional ceremony you'd like.

Ceremony Length
There's no set length for a civil wedding ceremony. Quicker is often preferred by your guests, but also remember the special nature of the occasion and be sure to include any important personal touches. Do what feels right and natural for your special day.

See More: Ceremony Ideas , Legal , Planning