I am not sure many of us think about the practicalities of how we are actually going to get married until we have to. It is, however, an area where some couples can get caught up. Therefore, I thought it was worth doing a brief overview of your wedding ceremony options and how they will impact on your day (most notably on the style of venue and type of ceremony you can have).

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Legally married?

For the purposes of this article I want you to split in your minds the part of getting legally married (the part where you sign the registry and become legally married in the eyes of the law) and the part where you say your vows and make emotional commitments to one another. In some wedding ceremonies people are lucky enough to be able to do both at the same time. However, in others there has to be a split between the legalities and the emotional commitment.  I accept that some of you will not agree with this but bare with me so I can write this article in a cohesive way. 

Speak to family members

For those of you who haven’t thought about whether this matters to you before, you need to. It is going to impact on the venues that you can choose and the style of ceremony that you can plan. I also thoroughly recommend that you discuss it with your family as this is one of those decisions that can create family dramas! You have been warned! (I will tell you one of my experiences and how we came up with a solution down below!)

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Ceremony Options

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Religious Ceremony

You can opt for a religious ceremony in your chosen church. If you are getting married in a church you need to contact your vicar or priest and they will guide you through the process. At a religious ceremony, you will get legally married at the time that you say your vows in front of your guests. 

Civil Ceremony

A civil ceremony is a non-religious ceremony. You can have a civil ceremony at any council ceremony room (Registry Office) or at a licensed venue. This is where your hotels, barns or gazebo ceremony spaces come in.

If you plan to get married in a licensed ceremony room once you have confirmed the venue has your date available you need to ring the registration office to book your registrar. The venue will often give you the right number. If using the council registry office you can just ring and book the ceremony room with the council.

The ceremony is usually quite short and formal and follows a specific script. Depending on the registry office room that you have booked some allow you to add music and readings. If you are having a civil ceremony at a licensed venue then you will have the prescribed ceremony text but will be able to add personalisation around it.

Humanist Ceremony

I spoke with Katie the Celebrant who explained to me that “a humanist Ceremony is a non-religious ceremony. But rather than being atheist where the concentration is on lack of belief humanists believe in humanity and celebrating human behaviours such as kindness, love and friendship”. A humanist ceremony is completely bespoke and tailored to the couple. You will need to hire a celebrant who will help you to design a ceremony. Sounds perfect – afraid not. Humanist ceremonies are not legally binding (YET) and so you will need to do the legal ceremony as well.  

outdoor ceremony
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Outside Ceremonies

Civil or humanist

To get married outside you need to either have a civil ceremony or a humanist ceremony. In order to get legally married at the time you say your vows then you have to opt for a civil ceremony which means you need to find a licensed venue. 

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The venue must be licensed to be legal

BUT, in order to have a legal outdoor civil ceremony your venue has to have a licensed permanent outdoor structure. It also means that you, your witnesses (a legally required number) and the registration officers need to be within the structure for the duration of the ceremony. Some venues have made beautiful licensed outdoor structures which allow you to get legally married outdoors but plenty remain unlicensed.

london wedding planner
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Other options

So here is the (potential) issue for all you Festival Brides readers. We have fallen in LOVE with the outdoor wedding. We have all swooned over the incredible outdoor floral arches and bohemian rug aisles and WE WANT IT. The bad news is that you cant actually get legally married this way. SO, what do we do? The most common option for my couples is that they have a registry office ceremony the day before with their closest family where they take care of all of the legalities. They then have a humanist ceremony at their wedding venue where all of their guests get to witness their exchange of vows and emotional commitments. 


This brings me on to my example. A couple approached me last year who were in a bit of a state. They had fallen in love with a venue by a lake for their tipi wedding. They wanted to get married outside with an extravagant floral arch and the lake behind them. In order to do that, they had to get married at the registry office the day before. The problem was that the bride’s dad could not get his head around it.

He wanted the moment he walked his daughter down the aisle to be the actual moment that she got married. As a mother, I totally get that sentiment and plenty of Dad’s do feel that way. The bride and groom had fallen in love with one idea for their wedding. However, their Dad had a lifetime of dreaming of walking his daughter down the aisle and they were at loggerheads.

We talked through sooo many options – one even included the bride and groom going off to the registry office during the reception drinks (which was CRAZY).

The solution we found, was to find a beautiful 15th century barn with a licensed ceremony room, a pitch for the tipi and yes… a lake! They allowed us to hire just the tipi pitch and the ceremony room (although the barn was a wonderful wet weather option). The couple had a humanist ceremony outside with all of their guests. They then came inside for an intimate civil ceremony with the registrar. It all felt part of the same ceremony so the parents were happy and the couple did not have to disappear for too long. It worked really well but you need to check with your registrar that they are happy to conduct a ceremony in this way.

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Prioritise early on

You will always be able to find a solution. But, my point in this blog is to get you to really think these things through at the beginning of your venue search and to talk to your family so that you know what your “Must Have’s” are when you start searching for your venue. You will save yourself so much heart ache if you know from the outset exactly what it is that you want. 

Other Factors to consider

Wedding Prep

I have been married for over 10 years and when my husband and I got married we had three rounds of wedding prep (long story!). Now at the time, my husband rolled his eyes and despaired but in the course of our marriage there have been times we have thought back to the advice we were given. We have concluded that it was actually quite an amazing process to go through.

In both a humanist ceremony and a religious ceremony you will go through wedding preparation. You will explore the reasons that you are getting married and what you love about each other. You will discuss why marriage is so important to you both. It is quite an incredible experience and will focus your minds on what it really means to be married. If you are keen to have this experience you will need to consider either a religious or humanist ceremony.

church wedding
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I feel I do have to issue a word of warning about the multiple ceremony option I have suggested above. Whilst they are becoming increasingly common, there is an added cost. If you get married at a licensed venue you pay the venue for the cost of the ceremony space and you pay the registrar. If however, you have a legal ceremony the day before your wedding you will need to pay the registry office fees for the legal ceremony. You will then need to pay for the celebrant and possibly also an additional fee to your venue for an outdoor ceremony so it can get significantly more expensive. The same applies if you decide to have a registrar and a celebrant. You will need to pay both, along with any fees the venue charge for a ceremony space. 

Article written by us for Festival Brides. All images by Photographer Hannah Duffy http://www.hannahduffy.com

Please note that images in this article are not of Songbird Work.

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