With the number of mixed marriages taking place, many couples are opting to have a civil ceremony instead of a religious ceremony for their wedding. This allows them to include special readings, vows, symbols or wedding themes (whether religious or not) that they may not be able to include in a religious ceremony or location.
A civil ceremony contains no religious elements (except for what the couple may add) and can be performed in a judge's chambers, registrar's/lawyer's office or a venue of your choice, depending on the area in which you wish to get married in. Different laws apply to different states and countries and you can usually find out most of the information from the local court house or City Hall in the city where you wish to be married.
For a small fee, they should also be able to supply you with a list of names, addresses and phone numbers of
various officiants who can perform a civil ceremony.
It's a good idea to set up appointments and meet with 3 or 4 different officiant's, as some won't be available on your wedding date and some you may not like. It is important that you feel comfortable with the officiant who is performing the ceremony and that you feel that he/she is interested in you as a couple.
Some important questions to ask the officiant are:
The officiant should be able to advise you on the procedure you will need to follow in order to get your marriage license. Here are a few things that are fairly standard in most areas. You will each need to have the following documents:
Some locals still require couples to have a blood test before issuing a license. This is probably a good idea regardless of whether it is required or not. Remember, you're not just marrying one person...
but every other person your mate may have slept with.
Also keep in mind to budget for the various fees, such as the officiant's fee (for the ceremony), the registration fee and the marriage license fee. These vary from location to location.
As with any marriage ceremony, you will need to have two witnesses to sign the legal documents once the ceremony is performed. If you are eloping, often times the officiant can provide the two witnesses from his/her staff.
All in all, a civil ceremony is much more flexible in today's world. You both may incorporate aspects of each of your religions if you wish, write your own vows and have any type of wedding theme you want, whereas a typical religious ceremony tends to restrict much of this. Civil ceremonies also tend to be a favorite with
the budget conscious couple, as they are usually much cheaper in the long run. Whatever type of ceremony you choose, the most important thing to remember is do what makes you happy as a couple. It's your wedding after all.
Rose Smith is the author of How to Create a Beautiful Medieval Wedding and several other wedding ebooklets. Visit Wedding Themes and More for great ideas on theme weddings, favor ideas, budget tips, honeymoon destinations, decorations and more.