How difficult can planning a wedding be?
Well, don’t go asking that question to too many people!
Even if finances don’t enter into it (but they invariably do), you have so much to consider. Things like the venue, any theme you might be having, the reception, the dress, decoration, presents, catering, flowers, cakes, photographer, the guest list – it seems never-ending.
One thing people tend to overlook (or postpone) is the ceremony itself. In many cases, couples assume that the service must either be a full religious one or a register office ceremony.
You do not, however, need to put on that straight-jacket. In fact, you have a lot more choice than that. The only obligation you must comply with is to have your wedding legally documented. (This will normally be part of the full religious service.)
Not everyone is comfortable with a full religious service. Nor is it permitted for all, either. So what alternative is there, particularly if you want a personalised ceremony, which a register office service – or indeed, the church – won’t really offer?
You are quite welcome to celebrate your marriage wherever and however you wish (well, within reason!), once the registrars have done their bit. So you could go to the register office the day before your wedding in jeans, with two witnesses (remember to make an appointment first, though) to become legally married, and then appear at the venue of your choice, relaxed and happy, for what to all intents and purposes is your wedding. Then your celebrant can conduct the ceremony of your dreams that reflects your personalities and beliefs.
You can even have the celebrant-led ceremony directly after the registrars have left the room, if you want consecutive ceremonies.
This works particularly well for people of different religions who want at least a religious element, but cannot be married in their church/synagogue/mosque/temple etc. One ceremony I am conducting will include the bride’s mother, who is Russian, presenting icons and also bread to the couple. I have gladly put Jewish rituals and blessings into several part-Jewish weddings.
Some people don’t want any religion really, but are keen to keep their families happy, so choose to include a few token elements – maybe a religious reading, prayer or blessing.
Others want their wedding to stand out, so they may incorporate religious – or pagan – elements that are, to say the least, unusual. For example, they might appreciate a Unity Sand ceremony. Each of the couple has a container of sand – one might be red, the other blue. Together, accompanied by suitable words spoken by the celebrant, they pour the contents of their container into a funnel, and the different sands merge in a third container (which the couple take home) to symbolise their new unity.
Some may choose a handfasting – partial or total (I talked about this in a recent blog).
The point is that you can work together with your celebrant and put together your ceremony. It’s your big day, and you should be able to celebrate it as you really want. Let it be perfect for you.