What’s a Civil Ceremony?

By Veronica Delgado /London Venue Expert

Fri 3rd Feb 2023 Wedding Venues

What’s a Civil Ceremony?
Photo by Jacob & Pauline, 10-11 Carlton House


Planning your ceremony is exciting! Get your brand-new planner out, and let’s get to work. But before you start focusing on the design details and caterers, you need to decide what type of wedding ceremony suits you as a couple.

In this article, we’re looking at what a civil ceremony entails and where you can host your civil ceremony in the UK. Whether you’re just starting the planning process or helping a loved one decide, here’s all you need to know about civil ceremonies.


What is a civil ceremony?

A civil ceremony is a wedding without any religious aspects. These ceremonies can take place at any council-approved location (e.g. a luxe hotel or a stately home), or they can occur at a register office. Civil ceremonies include readings, vows, or music, but they don’t include any religious readings or blessings.

Here are the key differences between religious and civil ceremonies:

  • Vows must be exchanged during a religious ceremony, but they’re optional for a civil ceremony.
  • Both ceremonies can include music and readings. However, things like Bible or Torah readings would be part of a religious ceremony. Civil partnerships can receive a religious blessing on the marriage after the wedding.
  • Religious ceremonies can take place at registered religious buildings. Civil ceremonies can take place at the register office or local council-approved venues.
  • If you’re forming a civil partnership, you can’t have a religious ceremony. However, both civil and religious ceremonies can form a marriage.

Venues we like to recommend for a civil ceremony that are also gorgeous reception spots

Once your civil ceremony is complete, it’s time to dance the night away with friends and family. You don’t have to pick two different locations for your ceremony and reception, though.

These venues are licensed for wedding ceremonies and receptions, and they’re gorgeous photo spots! Everything you need for your wedding day in one place.

No 10-11 Carlton House

No 10-11 Carlton House is a signature London venue with historical charm and delicate period details. Located in the city centre, guests can enjoy views across St James’s Park and The Mall as they celebrate with you. An intimate pick, this venue is licensed for weddings of up to 125 guests.

The Connaught

The Connaught is a fully-licenced 5-star hotel space in the heart of Mayfair. With an elegant red-brick exterior and a luxurious interior, it’s obvious why this is one of the most sought-after locations in the city.

Queen’s House Greenwich

Celebrate your nuptials in the Queen’s House Greenwich, a royal retreat enjoyed by Queen Anne, James I’s wife. This space boasts award-winning design, historical details, and much more. Couples can choose between The Great Hall, The Orangery, and The South Parlours, as all are licensed for wedding ceremonies.

One Hundred Shoreditch

Prefer sleek and modern spaces? One Hundred Shoreditch should be on your venue list. This is the perfect city wedding location, and guests will love the Palm Springs-inspired rooftop and panoramic views of London. Your civil ceremony here will take place in the fully-licensed One Hundred Room.

Kimpton Fitzroy

Enjoy a 5-star experience as you complete your civil ceremony. The Kimpton Fitzroy boasts a 19th-century facade, a central location, and timeless luxury. The ballroom is fully-licensed for civil ceremonies thanks to the Camden Register Office. Couples must coordinate a date that works for the register, the venue, and their calendar.

Planning your civil ceremony

Planning a civil ceremony UK might seem intimidating, but these are the most important steps to ensuring your day runs smoothly.

Choosing a registrar

A registrar must carry out or be present at all UK civil ceremonies. There are many registrars available, and all have different styles and personalities. Consider researching local registrars online to find the best fit for you.

Alternatively, many couples rely on the venue to book the registrar for them, as wedding venues are well-connected to professional registrars and other wedding vendors.

Writing your own vows

Vows must be exchanged for a marriage but not a civil partnership. However, many couples entering a civil partnership also choose to exchange vows.

Before your civil ceremony, talk with your partner about the wording you want at your ceremony. Usually, your wedding registrar will approve your vows beforehand. Writing your own vows is a popular way to add a personalised touch to the ceremony.

Personalising your ceremony

Personalising your civil ceremony can include adding extra readings, using music in the ceremony, and writing your own vows. Also known as ‘ceremony choices,’ these elements take the standard script and turn it into a meaningful moment.

Ceremony choices can also cover including your pet in the ceremony or deciding how you will exchange your rings. Take time and run through each moment with your partner to create a day that reflects your relationship.


Civil ceremony UK: The takeaway

Civil ceremonies allow you to customise elements of your wedding day, allowing you to create a bespoke event. However, the key difference between civil and religious ceremonies is that couples can’t include any religious readings, music, or mentions during the ceremony.

Ready to start planning your civil ceremony? We’re here to help. With hundreds of venues across the UK, our expert planners are here to take the stress away from wedding planning.



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