From Religious to Humanist: Exploring the Different Types of Wedding Ceremonies

From Religious to Humanist: Exploring the Different Types of Wedding Ceremonies

Before the flowers or the first dance, every fairytale reception begins with the wedding ceremony. Unfortunately, you can't just pop into the church day-of and expect a tidy little homily. It's common for budding couples to get so caught up in the bells and whistles of their fantasy celebration that they neglect to consider the actual ceremony itself.

The act of getting married is about more than pretty vows. It requires planning and preparation. Have you considered the ceremony type, location, or music you'd like to hear as you float down the aisle?

We've created this wedding ceremony guide to help you learn about the different kinds of weddings you might choose and how to prepare for each. Read on to discover your wedding options so you can move on to planning the entertainment!

Religious Ceremonies

Practising a religion isn't always enough to qualify for a religious ceremony in the UK. Religious ceremonies involve a lot of paperwork and planning—plus, there are loopholes to consider for interfaith or international couples. Understanding the rules in advance can save you a lot of headaches as you approach your wedding day and your wedding-related tasks begin to pile up.

We'll outline the four most common religious ceremony types in the UK. Contact your local registry office for further details if you don't see your religion listed below.

Roman Catholic wedding ceremony

Roman Catholic Religious Ceremonies

Marrying in a Roman Catholic church requires significant preparation. To qualify for a Roman Catholic wedding, one spouse must produce proof of Baptism and confirmation a minimum of six months before the ceremony.

Both individuals will also need to attend Catholic mass and wedding preparation talks at the church for a minimum of six months before their wedding day.

Before your wedding, be sure to contact your local civil authorities. You will need to give notice and obtain an official license before your marriage is official, and most couples prefer to do this quite far in advance of their ceremony.

Each Roman Catholic church will often have a designated music director. This individual can give you access to the approved music for ceremonies in a particular church. You'll need to communicate this information to any ceremony musicians you hire for your Roman Catholic ceremony.

18th-century classical music is popular for Roman Catholic ceremonies, including pieces by Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, and Purcell. You might choose to hire a string quartet, pianist, or chamber choir for your ceremony.

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Church of England Religious Ceremonies

If you choose to marry in the Church of England, be aware that rules and regulations sometimes vary by parish. If you choose to have your ceremony in a church your family doesn't attend, there's often an expectation that you'll attend several services leading up to your nuptials. You may need to call banns beginning three Sundays before your ceremony.

Some couples may need a common license from their civil authorities for their wedding to be official. This is often the case if either spouse isn't English.

A wedding in the Church of England allows more room for creativity in your music selection. You can pair favourite music from nearly any genre with hymns from your church's approved list. As a general rule, couples should seek approval from the vicar for any unique musical choices.

Because there's more flexibility, some couples choose to have contemporary pop music played in a classical style. If you and your partner have "a song," you might hire a string quartet to play it during the bride's entrance.

Church of Scotland Religious Ceremonies

Church of Scotland ceremonies are relatively flexible. The only requirement is that a clergy member performs the ceremony, regardless of location or the couple's residential status. Many international couples seeking a religious ceremony choose to marry in Scotland.

You'll need to give notice of your wedding to the Superintendent Registrar at least fifteen days before your ceremony. Nearly any church or chapel is appropriate for your ceremony. There is some flexibility in the wedding structure, so speak to your minister if you have ideas.

When choosing hymns for the ceremony, be sure to use the approved edition of the Church of Scotland hymnal. Otherwise, your musical options are fairly open-ended. Many Scottish ceremonies involve pipers, but nearly any vocalist or ensemble is welcome.

Generally, the music suggestions for Church of England weddings apply to Church of Scotland weddings.

Jewish wedding ceremony

Jewish Religious Ceremonies

A Jewish ceremony is efficient, fulfilling both civil and religious requirements. You can apply to the local authorities and the register office with one application.

There are no restrictions on location, though many couples choose to hold their wedding in the temple. It's inappropriate to hold your wedding during the Sabbath, so plan to avoid a Friday or Saturday ceremony. In the Jewish faith, Tuesday is the luckiest day for a wedding.

Wedding music at Jewish weddings might vary depending on whether the couple is Orthodox or Reformed. Much of the traditional music is upbeat, often played in a klezmer style. You may wish to hire a wedding band with experience playing Jewish weddings.

same sex civil ceremony

Civil Ceremonies

A civil ceremony is a legal, non-religious marriage ceremony. These often occur at a registry office, but several other approved venues exist.

If you'd like a civil ceremony, you'll need to pay a £35 fee and give at least 28 days' notice. After that, you'll have one year to hold your ceremony. There's often an additional fee on the wedding day, and there may be further fees if you choose an outside venue or if the registrar must travel to attend.

When you choose a civil ceremony, you have complete creative control over the music played at your wedding. Your ceremony may not have hymns or religious songs to legally qualify as a purely civil ceremony. Otherwise, the world is your oyster.

The music you choose will depend on the tone you have selected for your wedding. Many civil ceremonies feature popular wedding music beyond traditional wedding songs. Others prefer a classical ensemble and request a more eclectic setlist, mixing contemporary music with familiar classical selections.

Civil ceremonies don't have a mandatory format or structure, so feel free to make use of your musical act in whatever way you see fit. You can begin or end with a short performance, include a secular singalong, or underscore all the proceedings.

Humanist Ceremonies

A humanist wedding is similar to a civil wedding, only without the rules dictated by the 1836 Marriage Act. A humanist wedding celebrant will conduct the proceedings and will work with you to devise a completely bespoke ceremony personalised to you, with no limits on the venue.

Many same-sex couples in the UK choose humanist ceremonies.

Humanist weddings in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Jersey, and Guernsey fulfil civil and legal requirements. Humanist marriages in England, Wales, and the Isle of Man require prior registration at your local register office. Specific requirements may vary, so it's always wise to reach out to local authorities for more information.

The wonderful thing about humanist weddings is that there are absolutely no limits on structure or music. You can even integrate religious components into your ceremony if you'd like to. In the case of interfaith humanist weddings, you may choose to feature music reflecting multiple religious traditions.

With that said, most humanist weddings are secular affairs featuring secular music. Many couples feature their own favourite songs during the proceedings. All musical genres are welcome, so feel free to hire a rock and roll band, a vintage jazz band, or even a wedding DJ!

Start With a Stunning Wedding Ceremony

Once your partner pops the question, it's easy to begin fantasising about dresses, receptions, and decor. Don't forget that your gorgeous, organised wedding ceremony is everyone's first impression of your planning prowess. Whether you choose a religious, civil, or humanist ceremony, it's wise to begin by studying the rules and legalities to get every detail perfect.

Have you begun imagining what might be playing as you walk down the aisle in front of your family, friends, and loved ones? At Bands For Hire, we represent a highly professional roster featuring string quartets, live choirs, wedding ceremony singers, harpists and more. Get in touch to book a live musician that will transform your ceremony into a stunning ritual to remember.