There are a number of points to consider when planning the date and venue of the ceremony. Is the marriage based on religious grounds? Do you want to be married in the eyes of God? If you have no religious beliefs you may consider a civil ceremony, perhaps followed by a blessing.
If you plan a church wedding it is advisable to check availability (and their willingness to marry you) as soon as possible. If you plan a summer and/or saturday ceremony, again check availability to give yourself the widest choice - and book early. If you plan a mid-week ceremony you are most likely to book the venue of your choice and be closer to your original date. The disadvantage with a mid-week wedding is that guests may have to organise days off work and therefore it is likely less people will be able to attend.
Remember when setting your budget that churches will charge for the service, the organist, choir etc. This is usually in the region of £200/£300. You will need to discuss the arrangements with the vicar/priest who will be happy to assist with your choice of hymns, readings and orders of service. The church will usually suggest a rehearsal (or two) a few weeks prior to the big day. They will also be able to advise you on the maximum number of guests that can attend the ceremony.
Traditionally the two families are seated either side of the aisle. This dates back to a time where the bride herself would be a peace offering in an attempt to unite two tribes. Often someone would show their disapproval at the union so the two tribes were kept apart to avoid possible conflict.
A Catholic church ceremony is sometimes performed in two parts. Firstly the main marriage ceremony - a religious uniting of husband and wife which includes readings, hymns, prayer and the legal and civil responsibilities. The second part usually takes place when both bride and groom are practising Catholics. This involves the partaking of Holy Communion. The Catholic church does not usually charge for the priest's time. However an envelope containing a small donation (£80/£100) is often given to the priest after the service. The flowers used to decorate the church are also left as a token of thanks.
Civil weddings are proving more popular than ever these days. It is advisable to check availability and book as soon as possible. Civil weddings however cannot usually be booked earlier than 3 months before the day. The bride and groom need to have been resident in the country for at least seven days prior to giving notice (England and Wales only, not Scotland). If the bride and groom live in different districts, both districts must be notified of the intended wedding. If the couple wish to marry in a different district from where they both live, contact must first be made with the registrar of the district where the marriage is planned. Both must give notice independently and in person. There is a fee for each notice.
Firstly decide if you prefer to marry in a register office or at a licensed venue. When deciding on dates remember that the summer months and saturdays in particular are the most popular, so availability may be limited. Once a date has been decided on and confirmed as being available, the registrar should be contacted. Enquire as to how much notice is needed. The registrar will require original documents (birth certificate etc) when you give notice of intended marriage.
There are no set rules on dress. The bride and groom decide how formal the dress code will be. The registrar will be able to advise you on music, the maximum number of guests and the arrangements for photographs. Remember, the registrar will have other weddings to perform on the day so ensure you and your guests arrive in plenty of time.
After the bride and groom have confirmed various details to the registrar, the guests will be called upon and the service will begin. The bride and groom will then be asked to confirm that they are both legally allowed to marry.
I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I (their name) may not be joined in matrimony to (their partner's name)
or: I declare that I know of no legal reason why I (their name) may not be joined in marriage to (their partner's name)
or: by replying 'I am' when asked 'Are you (their name) free lawfully to marry (their partner's name)?'
The exchanging of vows and rings then takes place, after which the registrar will record the marriage. The bride, groom and witnesses are asked to check and sign the register. The registrar will then sign and present the certificate to the bride. The ceremony lasts approximately ½ an hour.
There are thousands of licensed venues available in the UK today. Many of these venues offer the complete wedding service, often including the reception and accommodation. Couples are able to compose their own vows, assuming they meet the legal requirements. As each venue must renew their licence, it is worth checking that they still hold their licence before deciding on a venue.
The law does not allow civil weddings to be held in the open air, or in marquees, boats or trains. Civil marriages can not be held in buildings that have any religious connection, either past or present.