What is a Civil Ceremony?

A bride and groom dancing in a San Francisco street

As I sit on my deck up in the Sierras I started thinking: what a wonderful place for a wedding! I can hear the hourly church bells in our small town. I enjoy hearing them, even if I’m not of that faith, though even if I was it’s hard to have a wedding ceremony at a church when you want it. But look at that view of the Sierras! Wouldn’t it be great to have a wedding here instead of the usual places other people have their ceremonies, legally officiated in places like the beautiful Sierras and without the usual formalities? This could be a wish come true for a happy couple, as regular ceremonies are too tedious, and many couples do not want a religious ceremony.

There’s probably been moments where the couple had passing thoughts of wonderful places or situations they’ve enjoyed, which would be great for their happy occasion. Was there ever such a time or place where you thought or dreamed would be perfect for your big day? This could be an enjoyable conversation between you and your sweetheart. While some religious officiants would be more than happy to accommodate requests like this, many couples may have trouble securing someone or don’t want them at all. In these cases, a civil ceremony would be perfect.

A bride and groom walk barefoot across a country bride

Don’t Have a Religious Ceremony in Mind?

Civil ceremonies are perfect for anyone who wants to have a wedding anywhere, anytime, and on their terms. The ceremony is nonreligious, which is less problematic for people of different religious backgrounds, are LGBTQ, have unique ideals that aren’t acceptable to be clergy, or have no religious beliefs.

A legal official can marry a couple instead of a religious one. These are generally judges, magistrates, a justice of the peace, county or court clerks, or a notary public. Do you know someone (friend, relative, or acquaintance) who can legally officiate in your state and county? Just make certain it’s legal and you paid a visit to city hall for a marriage license. It should also include getting the right kind of counseling, costs, paperwork, and any other details beforehand so “I do” really means your wedding is a legally binding occasion.

Your civil ceremony could include things that the clergy wouldn’t necessarily allow, and instead includes your preferences. You could use your favorite love songs, read poems, say your own personal vows, or even say it in ye olde Shakespearean style with some added performance art. Whatever your style, it should follow some basics, such as a procession, vows, rings or other symbolism, “I now pronounce you..,” and what follows? Oh yes! The kiss!

Whatever Your Budget, There’s a Wedding and Ideas That Are Just For You

The couple can say “I do” wherever or whenever they feel most comfortable. Your wedding can be themed, fancy, laid-back comfortable, or anything you can imagine.

On the news, we’ve all heard of people jumping out of airplanes after saying their “I do’s” and taking the plunge, err, jump into their new lives together. We’ve seen or attended weddings ocean-side and some have even been held underwater. With a permit, your wedding can be at a beautiful park during the peak of floral season, which would certainly save on the flower bill. Want to save a lot? Then there’s always the nudist clothing-optional wedding! However, that can be risky business in a bug-ridden area for the couple and their guests! So maybe instead, do something a little less casual, such as hippie-style with wildflowers. Have a high budget? Then maybe have your wedding at a theme park or find a charming hotel.

A couple sharing their vows during a wedding ceremony

What Might be Heard at a Civil Ceremony Wedding?

Perhaps you like Shakespeare and can have your wedding read from quotes from Midsummer Night’s Dream or Sonnet 116. Or even this one by Shakespeare’s As You Like It,“No sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they loved, no sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason, no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy; and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage.”

Some people write their own vows stating what Shakespeare couldn’t possibly write so personally well. The words written just for your very own love to hear from you. It can be hilarious, fun, sultry, sunny, includes your story, words full of love, but truly words to share just for each other.

If family’s an issue, you could also add-in a religious ritual, which I added to mine, which was said in Hungarian to my surprised mom’s delight.

Civil ceremonies are commonplace everywhere and it’s a wonderful way to start off your new life. Start by remembering your happiest thoughts of places you’d like to be part of again or bring your uniqueness to life.

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