I get asked this question a lot. What is a civil ceremony? A civil ceremony is a wedding ceremony that, simply put, contains no religion. It’s a ceremony, at the very least, that fulfills the legal requirement for marriage. But don’t be fooled, a civil ceremony can have all the pomp and circumstance of any religious ceremony!
The civil ceremony is becoming more and more popular. Although by definition the civil ceremony has no religious content, many people include religious aspects. It wasn’t long ago when civil ceremonies were performed by JP’s or judges. If you wanted a religious ceremony, you had to get married by a religious minister, usually of the faith that the couple was. The advent of more independent wedding ministers, or nondenominational wedding ministers, brought along a new definition of the civil ceremony.
Nowadays, civil ceremonies are becoming popular among couples who are of different faiths. Many nondenominational ministers are more than happy to incorporate elements of both religions. Also, people getting married for the second time are big fans of the civil ceremony as it is generally low key. Civil ceremonies are perfect for anyone looking for an intimate and personalized wedding experience.
Planning a civil ceremony is always the fun part. Because you’re not restricted by your ceremony, you can choose whatever elements you want. Do you want a night time wedding illuminated by sparklers? Do you want to include prayers from two or more faiths? You get to decide. As long as your officiant is up for it, the sky is the limit, literally! Look in your local phone book and search around the web to find a wedding officiant that suits your needs. Finding someone may actually be more difficult than planning the ceremony, especially if you have a very unique or adventurous ceremony in mind, such as a skydiving ceremony.
Don’t confuse the civil ceremony for being the only choice if you want a small, intimate ceremony for just the two of you. There are alternatives should the couple choose to have a private ceremony that still incorporates their religious beliefs. Ask your church clergy if they would be willing to do an in-office wedding for a smaller fee than a full wedding at the church. A nondenominational wedding officiant may also be willing to honor your request of a civil ceremony.
Deciding whether or not you want a civil or religious ceremony is an important decision that each couple needs to make. Reception details, color choices and gown styles all make for a beautiful wedding, but your ceremony is the heart of the contract you are making, both legally and spiritually (if you choose to have a religious ceremony). Decide, as a couple, if you would like a religious ceremony and to what degree do you want it to be religious. Talk with prospective officiates about your decision to see if they are willing to perform the type of ceremony you wish. This is such an important aspect of your wedding day, but it should also be a reflection of you, as a couple, as well.