Ever watched ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ and thought “I didn’t know you could get married in a forest/swimming pool/chocolate factory”? Well you can! But there are some things you need to know and do to make sure it’s legal!
In order to have a legal marriage (in the UK all you need is to have a registrar present and to sign legal documentation in front of two witnesses. That’s it! You can do it in the Register Office for around fifty quid – job done. Of course, we all want a little bit more than that and so the fun of wedding planning begins.
Most venues will have a license to marry and that means you can have a registrar leave the safety of the Register Office and come along to your wedding (for quite a lot more than fifty quid…) so you can sign the register in front of witnesses in the place of your choosing, and be legally married as you leave the room.
The reality of this type of ceremony is that to have a licensed wedding in a licensed venue you are quite restricted with what you can do. While the reception can be as ‘out there’ as you like, the ceremony itself is a legal, and sometimes slightly boring, affair and follows a set path.
At this kind of ceremony you can’t (should you feel the need) release doves, swap roses, have a dog bring the rings etc. You can’t refer to anything remotely religious in your readings or have a sing along.
You also don’t meet the person who is going to marry you until the day of your wedding, about 10 minutes before you say ‘I do’. So if you don’t like the look or sound of them…well, tough!
So what’s the alternative?
Anything you like! You just need to do the boring bit and rock up at the Register Office before or after your Big Day to sign the register otherwise you’re just not married.
Your ‘do it anywhere’ wedding check-list:
♥ Choose your venue. Whether it’s your back garden or a forest, on top of a mountain or underwater, there’s bound to be a place that special to the two of you that would work as a wedding venue.
♥ If you are choosing a ‘normal’ (ie not a field) venue make sure they are happy for you to do this. Most venues have a licensed room, but what if that’s not the room you like? Or what if they’re not licensed? Some venues might not be aware that you can have any kind of ceremony you like, as long as you do the legal bit before or after. Of course if your venue is a field or the ocean there’s no-one to check with!
♥ Book into the register office either before or after your main event otherwise you’re not legally married!
♥ Find a celebrant (you can find one here) or ask a family member or friend if they want to do it. Having a Wedding Celebrant is a good idea as they usually have experience and can guide you along the way to craft a ceremony as unique as you are (and possibly guide you away from the completely daft…!). They will meet you in the lead up to the Big Day, discuss everything with you, get to know you both and if they’re right for you they could be the key to a really memorable day.
♥ Plan your day. You can literally have whatever you want. Want your congregation to burst into song as you walk down the aisle? That’s ok! Want to write your names in sand and join them together in a big heart – that’s ok too. What about have a paparazzi camera shoot as you get out of the car and walk down the aisle! How about that song you love as a reading – no problem. Pretty much anything is possible. Your Celebrant will also have lots of ideas so use their expertise to help craft your day.
♥ If it’s outdoors be mindful of how your guests will get there, what foot wear they might need (climbing a mountain or down a cliff side? Heels won’t cut it!) and other bad weather issues you might need to consider. And please tell them! You don’t have to give it all away but maybe put a ‘you might need wellies’ card in the invitation!
♥ Think about your vows and what they mean to you. You can write your own completely with no guidelines to follow, make them totally about the two of you. Do you want to join your hands together with ribbon? How about giving each other a gift? Or lighting candles (which can be thought of as a religious symbol but you can’t use it for non-church, registrar’d weddings).
Really, planning a non-licensed wedding is much the same as a licensed one – you just have the ability to be more creative and you need to be a little more thoughtful of your guests. Other than that, have at it and let your imagination run wild! ♥