I thought it might be quite interesting to have a post on types of wedding ceremony, as I realised recently that although I had an inkling, I really had no idea what a humanist ceremony actually was. Must research, I told myself.
And in times this, we, the weddings team, turn to Sophie’s book; Your Wedding Your Way (which Louise holds true was the most useful resource when planning her big day). On page 95, Sophie discusses types of ceremony, and although I won’t go into all the detail, here are some basics of what you might want to know.
Traditional ceremonies include a civil ceremony, Church of England and Church of Wales, traditional church blessing, Roman catholic church, Non conformist churches, Jewish and Asian (apologies if any have been missed here!). You probably already knew about most of these.
The alternative, personal or other non legal ceremonies are quite intriguing. Most are not legally recognised, but could follow a civil ceremony to then give you a bit more freedom to plan how you would like a longer ceremony to play out. For instance, you can have the ceremony at whatever time you want, and in a field if you fancy. So, although you might have to dedicate some more time to ceremonies during the day, you can do it the way you want. Or, to make the day less hectic, you could have your civil ceremony a few weeks earlier, and dedicate your actual wedding day, with a larger group of your friends and family, to a more unusual ceremony!
Buddhist ceremonies are only very occasionally legally recognised, and to be legal the wedding must be conducted at a temple licensed for marriages, or for a Buddhist blessing to follow a civil ceremony. Buddhist ceremonies are appealing to couples because they can be a different assembly of various rituals, and the couple are not bound by specific rules, only a respect for Buddhist beliefs.
Not legally recognised either, so also often follows a registry office ceremony. The Oxford dictionary sum up Humanism as being ‘a rationalistic outlook or system of thought attaching the prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural views’. A humanist ceremony allows you to make the vows more your own, without being tied to a religion – you can decide the words, the length of time you want the ceremony to be and how many people you want to be there (often not an option at a registry office). The more personal, less restrictive humanist ceremony can be seamlessly made part of the whole ceremony. There is more information to be found on the Humanist Association website, of which you do not have to a member to choose a Humanist ceremony at your wedding.
Adapted from pagan marriages throughout history and now adopted for modern use by a New Age following, Handfasting is an ancient form of marriage or betrothal ceremony that may include the exchange of rings, vows, prayers and handfasting itself: the hands are tied together with gold, silver and green cords, to symbolise the union, then untied to show that they remain together of their own free will. If you want to read more, this site is quite useful.
Vow-exchanging or Non-denominational, Independent religious ceremony
The first is more often secular, but can still involve religion if you wish, and the second is much more based on religion, but both of these ceremony options in short involve the couple preparing their own ceremony. Vow-exchanging is completely based on the couples interpretation of marriage, but the independent religious ceremony would still need to follow the ideals and principles at stake of their religion, which usually means being loosely based around the tradition of aisle, vows, prayers and readings, and is prepared with an independent minister, outside of any denominational or established procedure or expectation. Neither is legally recognised, meaning both need to follow a civil ceremony.
Getting married abroad
In countries where the power to marry is vested solely in the minister (and not in the location), a legal marriage can be anywhere that she/he is prepared to go. But if you plan to go overseas, ensure you follow the regulations of the country where you marry, to be confident it is all valid when you return home. The British Consul in your chosen place of marriage should be able to provide this, or from that country’s embassy in the UK). Some countries – like the US and Greece – also have local or regional laws, so be sure to double check!
It’s your ceremony, and what the wedding day centres around, so it’s almost certainly worth taking the time to think about this bit carefully and not to feel that you must follow any expected path. You want to feel totally comfortable with your words, and not rushed at all when you speak them, so giving enough thought behind your decisions here will make the wedding day more relaxing and meaningful.
‘Your Wedding, Your Way’ by Sophie Cornish – not in print anymore but you might be able to get a sneaky copy from Amazon.
Personalised Bride and Groom £45 by Laura Long
We’ve researched the above, but we are no experts – if anything has changed from the information provided, please feel free to comment!