Births, marriages and deaths are the three life events that, by law, have to be recorded (or ‘registered’) by a registrar, usually at a local register office.
All births in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must be registered within 42 days of the child being born. The child’s birthday is, of course, celebrated on the anniversary of its birth, not of when its birth was registered.
Normally, a death must be registered within five days of its happening, usually at the register office in the area where the death occurred. The anniversary of the death is regarded as being just that, regardless of the date on which the death was registered.
It is widely thought that marriages must be registered on the same day and at the same place as the ceremony itself. This is simply untrue. There is nothing to prevent marriages being registered either before or after the day of the wedding ceremony. And it is the anniversary of the date of the ceremony that will be celebrated as the wedding anniversary. In most cases, it is likely that the marriage ceremony will take place after the registration. However, there are no set rules about this: after all, we are born before our birth is registered and we die before our death is registered, so there is no reason why we cannot commit ourselves to a partner for life before or after the marriage is registered.
Only the declaratory words and the contracting words have to be said in front of a Registrar, either in a Register Office or a licensed venue in order for a marriage to be recognised in law and for a marriage certificate to be issued.
“I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I (name) may not be joined in matrimony to (name).”
“I call upon these persons here present to witness that I (name) do take thee (name) to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband).”
These words are the only legal requirements for marriage, as well as formally identifying yourselves to the registrar and signing the marriage/civil partnership register in front of two independent witnesses and a registrar. The rest of the service, including the exchanging of rings and the saying of vows to one another is purely ceremonial and can take place absolutely anywhere and at any time. You are limited only by your imagination.
There are, however, restrictions when a wedding is performed by a registrar that do not apply when a wedding is performed by a celebrant. Ceremonies conducted by registrars can include readings, songs or music, but must not include anything that’s religious, e.g. hymns or readings from the Bible. This restriction has even led to a ban on the song “Angels” by Robbie Williams! There are further restrictions when a registrar is involved and these relate to where you can get married. You are limited to a register office, a venue approved by the local council (e.g. a stately home or hotel) or religious premises where permission has been given by the organisation and the premises approved by the local authority.
No such restrictions apply to celebrant-led wedding ceremonies. It’s your day, your way!
Howard Marshall, as a professionally trained celebrant, will offer an open-minded, stress-free alternative to creating your perfect ceremony, working with you as a couple and adapting to whatever feeling or mood you want to create. It may be relaxed, formal, adventurous or a mixture of everything! But it will be a ceremony designed especially for you: to capture your love, your life, your journey together so far, and your aspirations for the future.
Howard, as your celebrant, can help you in writing your vows to one another, selecting appropriate music and readings and, if you would like, including symbolic elements that reflect your love and commitment to one another on your special day.