Three steps to heaven (oops, I mean, to ‘getting married’)

The biggest challenge to getting married is finding the right person to share your life with. Once you’ve done that (congratulations!), but you still have some choices as to how you get wed and perhaps even some pressures on the options you should choose.

I see the whole process as three phases – the legalities, the ceremony and the celebration)

You need to do the legal bit to get married; the other two are matters of choice. Here’s a summary of the advice I give to my couples.

a) THE LEGAL BIT: – i.e. signing the register and getting your marriage certificate.This can be quite simple. The only legal requirements (in UK) are to say some ‘declaratory words’ – “I know no reason why I cannot be married ….” and some commitment words, “I take this person to be my lawful wedded …whatever..” Do this in a licenced venue in front of two witnesses and that’s it.  You have to book this activity via your local registry office and you’ll have to prove you are who you say you are and that you have a legal right to get married in the UK. Everything else – such as making vows and exchanging rings is pure ‘ceremony’ and can be done anywhere – or not done at all.

A registry office will probably try to ‘sell’ you a package which includes a wedding ceremony (I don’t blame them; it’s all good revenue) but you have other options.

b) THE CEREMONY: Most weddings have some kind of ceremony or ritual – although it isn’t legally necessary. Marrying someone is a significant event in our lives and we want to make it special. Elements of ‘ceremony’ such as entrances, vows, music, exchanging rings etc. can be done at any location and at any time. Once marriages had to be officially licenced, it was natural that churches and registry offices started to ‘sell’ wedding ceremonies as part of their packages.

A celebrant run ceremony is just that; it’s a ‘ceremony’. It won’t give you a marriage certificate (at least not a legal one); you’ll need ten minutes at a registry office to get that. A celebrant marriage ceremony often comes a day or so after a registry office event for family members; it’s a personally designed and. unlike registry office or church ceremonies, celebrant run marriage ceremonies can take place anywhere and at any time.

A celebrant ceremony gives you almost unlimited alternatives; you can make it very personal in content, time of day and location. You can also add rituals (such as handfasting) if you choose to do so.

Most couples want a gathering of family and friends to celebrate their ‘marriage’. This could be anything ranging from a conventional wedding reception and ‘wedding breakfast’ to an informal gathering in a wine bar, restaurant or back garden.

As a toastmaster and master of ceremonies, I’ve been involved in many different kinds of celebrations:- formal hotel-based events, celebrations in garden marquees, village halls, restaurants, sailing boats, camp sites and family homes.

If you are Surrey, London or home-counties based, and will help you.

Couples have told me that thinking of these three separate phases to their wedding day has helped them; I hope it does the same for you. You can get more information at