Planning A Wedding – There’s Always Another Approach

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.)

Another Approach

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.

Location, Location …

Location, Location …

Where to have your wedding? The location is obviously one of the first things that couples want to arrange. For one thing, the more popular venues may be booked up a year or more in advance. Secondly, the atmosphere of the wedding can largely be dictated by the sort of venue chosen, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

First considerations

Obvious things to consider are your budget. How much money do you want to devote to this? If you choose a less usual date or time of day, you may be able to secure the venue at a better price. Obviously, you will need estimates, possibly from several venues, before you commit.

The size of the venue is clearly important – you don’t want the wedding party engulfed in a huge area, but you certainly don’t want to be squashed together for the ceremony or reception. A preliminary visit, together with the events planner, is essential. Be prepared to ask lots of questions and be absolutely clear what the price actually includes.

Would you be intimidated by a castle setting, say, or do you want to push the boat out and go up the Shard or hire a Stately Home? Would something more homely suit?

And go with your gut. Is this a place where you feel you can be really happy?


The next question is: are you going to want to have your reception at the same location as your ceremony? If not, you’ll need to think about the logistics. Will the party drive from the wedding venue to the reception? What about non-drivers? How long should you allow for this? Will your reception be spoilt, if it takes longer than you think to reach the venue? Is parking going to be an issue?


Unconventional Ceremonies

Naturally, the type of wedding you want will also dictate where you have it. If you are planning a handfasting wedding, then you’re probably going to have it in a field or at an Iron Age fort, for example. You’ll need to get permission from the landowner and you’ll have to decide what sort of reception you hold, if any – and where.

If you want a secular wedding, then the registrars have to be involved for the legal bit. If you want them to come out to a location of your choosing, it will have to have solid walls, for example (ie a marquee won’t do). So do your homework here.

If you don’t want a full religious service (eg church, synagogue, etc) but you want more than the routine register office ceremony, you can have the best of all worlds with a civil celebrant-led ceremony. Then you can have the service that you want in the location of your choice.

vow renewal

Civil Celebrant limitations

I am often asked what limits my availability, as regards location. Well, I can’t conduct a service in a C of E church, but that’s about it. Any other location – from hotels and restaurants to the Stonehenge inner circle, to a mountain top, a canalside, a back garden or underwater ( think creative!) – all these are technically available for wedding ceremonies.

Personal availablity

I live in Harrow, so I tend to work mostly in London, Herts. and Bucks., but I have conducted other ceremonies in Salisbury, Andover, Worthing , Epsom and the like. I guess that I haven’t been further afield because travel expenses inflate the fee. However, I was invited to conduct a wedding blessing in Ibiza last year – unfortunately, to my great regret, I had a clash of dates.

If you’re not planning to have your celebration in the South of England, don’t let it deter you from asking me for a quote. I’d love to help make your big day really special, wherever you choose. I can be surprisingly flexible!