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The Friday Fight-Out! Church Wedding vs Civil Ceremony

Church Wedding Vs Civil CeremonyLike most couples every now and then we disagree a little. Hard to believe I know, but once in a while I have been known to challenge the previously undisputed concept that Dom is always right. Of course when such disagreements occur like any other couple we naturally consider both sides of the argument logically, with due care and attention and converse with succinct rationality in only the politest of terms maintaining a gentle, soothing tone throughout. At all times, as of course you will be aware from your own such conversations, we obviously acknowledge and indeed actively and consistently promote, through a process of self examination, any areas in which we may ourselves be at fault or indeed any weaknesses in our respective opinions.

Or, to put it more simply, we shout at each other until Dom decides to ignore me and makes me sleep on the sofa. (Not a tactic I actively promote but undeniably effective as leather sofas get very cold at night and I inevitably end up apologising for my alleged offence if only to prevent phase two of hypothermia).

Anyway, in an effort to exhaust our argumentative energies we’ve decided to battle it out in front of the crowd in a good old fashioned contest. Every Friday on Bride Vs Groom it’s time for the main event as we go head to head pitting two different wedding ideas against each other. We’re ready to take on your suggestions for debate and fight to the death!! Ok maybe not the death, we really quite like each other, but we’ll possibly fight to the chinese burn…maybe even a wedgie…  I digress. Anyway we’ll put your arguments forwards with everything we’ve got but we welcome your comments to carry on the debate! So mount your steed, grab a lance and may the contest begin!!

My lords and ladies, introducing todays topic (and it’s a biggy): Church Wedding Vs Civil Ceremony

On your left, representing the classic church wedding, armed with razor sharp industry knowledge and armoured by years of battle-hardened field experience… Dom “The Tog” Bride

On your right, fighting on behalf of the Civil Ceremony, armed with the piercing knowledge that he has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about apart from a 10 minute sweep of WikipediaMatt “The Gormless” Groom


Dom: Depending on your personal beliefs, marrying in a church may be the only way to ensure God’s blessing on your marriage, therefore it is essential to be married in a church.

Matt: But if you’re not really religious do you really want to spend the most important day of your lives pretending to share other people’s beliefs?

D: Actually many churches welcome anyone to be married in the church regardless of their beliefs. The Church of England website states: “You’re welcome to marry in church whatever your beliefs, whether or not you are christened and whether or not you regularly go to church”

M: Ok but even still church ceremonies are inevitably filled with religious references: hymns, prayers and blessings. If it’s not something you believe in it’s surely hypocritical to include these in your ceremony.

D: Does it really matter whether you agree or not? Being married in the eyes of god doesn’t mean you’re not also married in the eyes of the law. Friends and family may welcome a religious ceremony if it’s something they believe in even if you don’t. Also in a civil ceremony you can’t have ANY religious references at all so if you are religious then a civil ceremony doesn’t offer you any scope for incorporating your beliefs into the ceremony!

M: But some of those same people may feel that you’re actually disrespecting their beliefs by conducting a religious ceremony you don’t believe in, and whilst of course friends and family are important your wedding is for you, not them, and your special day should be how you want it, no-one else! And even if you are religious the bible states that god is everywhere and in everything, so why should it matter whether you are married in a church or not?

D: Churches have an amazing, welcoming community and a fantastic and unique atmosphere to them.

M: With a civil ceremony the community is whoever you want to be there and you have far more freedom to create the type of atmosphere you want.

D: Churches and cathedrals feature some of the most beautiful architecture of any buildings around, some are simply breathtaking and such special places to get married. A lot of registry offices really are just like offices and just don’t carry the majesty of even the simplest church wedding.

M: With a civil ceremony you can get married absolutely anywhere as long as it has a licence and a covering! You have complete freedom to find the type of venue that suits your personalities, from the great outdoors to the grandest castle: the world is your oyster!

D: Because church ceremonies include hymns and blessings they tend to last for longer, usually at least 45 minutes and you feel that you are taking the time to enjoy this most important part of the day and celebrate properly. Many registry offices have so many wedding each day that they can feel more like a conveyor belt with the next happy couple and their guests “queuing up” outside even before your ceremony has concluded.

M: Registry offices are I suppose aimed more at couples who are looking for something simple or perhaps just see the ceremony as a legal exchange. But as civil ceremonies can take place just about anywhere and take whatever shape you’d like (within certain legal guidelines) your ceremony can effectively be as long or short as you’d like and you have more freedom to have readings from any book, poem, quote or lyric: anything that means something to you.

D: With a church you usually have the chance to get to know the person who will be officiating over the most important day of your lives and discuss with them what you can and can’t do, whereas civil ceremonies are more likely to be looked after by a randomly assigned registrar who you may not particularly like and who may not be happy with some of the things you want to do. You also get the benefit of a wedding rehearsal in most church weddings so you can put your mind at ease that everything will run well on the day and get rid of some of those butterflies in the tummy!

M: Whether or not you know the registrar well they effectively have to stick roughly to the same or similar script to cover all the legal guidelines, and most venues for civil ceremonies have someone who looks after weddings and will work closely with you throughout the planning stages to get exactly what you want on the day. Whilst you don’t normally get a full rehearsal with a registrar they will usually come and see you both individually just before the ceremony starts and ensure you know what is going to happen.

D: A church wedding offers you that classic, perfect and oft dreamed-about entrance as you step through the doors to “Here Comes the Bride”.

M: But would you rather walk in to the Wedding March or your favourite song, a song that really means something to you, perhaps a song you shared together and reminds you of another happy memory?

D: With a church wedding all of the guests tend to get more involved; there are hymns to sing…who doesn’t like a singsong??

M: I can’t sing.


Dom: The church wedding is the truly classic beginning to a marriage: the little girl’s dream; the ultimate fairytale, the seal of approval from the very heart of the community. Beautiful architecture, incredible spirituality and the powerful wedding heritage and history within those walls give the church wedding exceptional purity and beauty.  That feeling as the bride nervously walks that same aisle where hundreds have walked before to their own awestruck grooms creates a kind of magic in the air, something simply extraordinary. The church wedding really is a perfect foundation to a perfect marriage and a location rich in heritage, love and romantic ideals.

Matt: The civil ceremony gives the freedom to stamp your personality on a day that, in the end, is all about you. It’s your ideas, your style, it’s whatever YOU want it to be and no-one else. You can choose to be married virtually anywhere, from the grandest castle to that special place that holds such important memories to you and your relationship. So go do it your way.  Get married in a barn or on a boat or in your dad’s potting shed where you shared your first kiss, for wherever you choose to hold your wedding it will forever be sacred to you.

Right, well as Dom slinks off to our lovely warm bed and I settle in for another night on the sofa we’d like to hear your thoughts and opinions on the church wedding vs civil ceremony debate in our comments section below. They say the pen is mightier than the sword (although curiously I’ve never managed to break a sword but get through 5 biros a day) so choose your weapon and let battle commence!

  • Mark - February 3, 2012 - 11:55 am

    Dom, I see your point – Churches are beautiful and, if you’ve been a part of a church community, they can be the perfect place to marry.

    If you’re not part of the regular community in the church though isn’t there a risk of that grand church entrance just being incredibly scary. YOU ARE BEING MARRIED IN THE EYES OF THE LORD! When that’s not someone you really believe in and all you want is to spend your life with the person at the end of the isle doesn’t putting it in a church just pull focus from your relationship?ReplyCancel

    • bridevsgroom - February 3, 2012 - 2:24 pm

      D: I take your point Mark but every church I’ve ever been in has felt so incredibly welcoming that I don’t think it would ever be a scary thing! The church has always been a focal point for local communities and a place of people coming together in love and friendship, and that vibe is almost built into the walls of the building. It’s a magical place to be married, no matter what your beliefs!ReplyCancel

  • Alex - February 3, 2012 - 2:32 pm

    I have to say, aside from the fact that religious buildings can be really picturesque, I’m mostly with Matt on this one. I really liked mine and Gordon’s ceremony, even if it was actually a wee bit more religious than I would have wanted. We got married by a pastor as our options were fairly limited in Bermuda, but he was willing to adapt the ceremony a bit for us. We had good conversations prior to the ceremony (admittedly via email, but it was a distance thing) and whilst there was some mention of god and pausing for prayer, our vows were completely secular ones we compiled ourselves, and the pastor also incorporated some elements of Jewish weddings (which is really more of a cultural thing than religious, for me). I think my stance would be to allow yourself the greatest flexibility possible – this may end up being a religious ceremony in a liberal establishment or a secular ceremony with an officiator/venue that’s able to give you a bit more of a personalised experience. In the end, though, I would most definitely say go with what you’re most comfortable with, and not anyone else. You’re the one who’s gonna get nervous and put the ring on the wrong hand or fluff your lines or trip (though hopefully not! :-), so you should do everything you can to make sure you feel all ok in the environment….ReplyCancel

    • bridevsgroom - February 3, 2012 - 3:22 pm

      Matt: Oh lord, don’t mention putting the ring on the wrong hand I’m terrified I’m going to do that! I only got it right on the proposal because Dom stuck her ring finger out quite pointedly!!!ReplyCancel

  • Ali - February 3, 2012 - 6:42 pm

    I may be biased as I’m not in the slightest bit religious and had a civil ceremony but we didn’t even consider a Church for our wedding. We had our ceremony and reception at a gorgeous local golf club and we were there right from getting ready through to the end of the night so we didn’t have to lose any celebratory time with friends and family by having to travel between venues. We had a wedding planner on hand for months making sure all our ideas came to life and everything ran like clockwork. It’s true we didn’t meet the officiant until just before the ceremony but to be honest I was so focused on my husband-to-be throughout that I barely knew they were there! We had music and readings that were personal to us and now when we hear one of those songs while out and about it always takes back to that moment and you can’t really get that with hymns! Plus to us declaring our commitment to each other before our family and friends held much more meaning and importance to us than something we didn’t believe in.

    Looking forward to seeing who wins this one and which option you go for!

    Ali xReplyCancel

  • elaine diffenthal - February 3, 2012 - 6:47 pm

    Although I understand partly whete din is coming frin, i totally agree with matt. Personally I have never thought of having a wedding in a church as they have nwver been part of my life. Personally a castle where we have visited as a couple and have fond memories of would be my place of chouce as you still get the beautiful arcitecture and surroundings! XReplyCancel

  • Holly - February 5, 2012 - 1:04 pm

    I have to say I am firmly with MATT!!!
    This may be because I am in no way religious, but also, as someone who also works in the wedding industry and have been to too many weddings – I much prefer the civil ones.
    You run the risk of the ‘funky young – “hey guys, christianity can be so ‘cool’!” vicar in a church especially when it’s a younger couple getting married (ie. under 40).
    In my experience I have always found the vicars at weddings to try and take some of the limelight by being some sort of wacky personality whereas registrars – whether it’s in the registry office or a licensed marriage location are usually nothing but lovely, yet sticking to their job and not trying to take over the whole thing.
    Me and my Matty had a slight argument about this whole Civil vs Church thing because he’s South African and he says it’s just the done thing to have it in a church in S.A. but I point blankly refused because I’m not religious (and neither is he) and in a church ceremony you have to go through the whole thing of “you’re not just making your vows to each other, you’re making them to God” – and I’m like – I don’t even believe in God so that’s invalidating the most important thing I will ever do or say by doing and saying it to something I don’t even believe in! I married Matthew because I love HIM, it had nothing to do with God. And I just think that unless you are both religious and believers then it’s making a bit of a mockery of the whole thing.
    I agree that churches have beautiful architecture, but so do many of the now legalised marriage venues.
    Also, if it’s ‘Here Comes The Bride’ that you want to walk down the isle to, you don’t have to get married in a church. I’ve played at tonnes of weddings in civil ceremonies where the bride has had that as the entrance and they’ve exited to The Wedding March!
    Also though, it’s so nice when they ask me to play their favourite song – I think the bride’s entrance is the most emotional part of the whole day, and the song that she enters to can really push that extra magic into it. Personally I think ‘Here Comes The Bride’ is a bit brash and not all that gentle for such a beautiful moment, but each to their own!

    There’s my two penny’s worth anyway!!! GO MATT!!!!ReplyCancel

    • bridevsgroom - February 6, 2012 - 1:27 pm

      Dom: Wow Holly, some excellent points! What’s interesting is there really does seem to be a huge difference in what you can and cannot do and how the ceremony is run depending on the venue and the individual conducting the ceremony. Some registrars can be very strict but others completely flexible, for example as a photographer some registrars just respect whatever the couple want in terms of where I am allowed to go during the ceremony to get that killer shot (as long as I’m discreet!) whereas others will only allow me to stand at the back. This has on occasion been the case with the music where the Bridal March has been deemed a religious piece of music and therefore inappropriate (despite it actually deriving from an opera). Interestingly though I believe that the Roman Catholic Church actually views the Bridal chorus as a secular piece and therefore and therefore generally doesn’t use it! Anyway with such variation based on individual personalities I really do think it’s important to meet whoever’s conducting the ceremony in advance whether it be a church OR civil ceremony: they do have an impact on your day and I want to really like mine! For me the church does have the edge on that, though increasingly some venues will arrange meetings with registrars so I guess it’s finding whatever’s right for you!ReplyCancel

  • Religious Wedding Favors - February 8, 2012 - 6:49 pm

    This is always a tough topic. If health insurance is needed or if the couple is buying a house then a civil ceremony may be the best thing. If the couple has the budget to for a wedding ceremony then of course that is the best option.ReplyCancel

  • Mark - February 10, 2012 - 11:16 am

    Hmmm. I’m thinking about this again and remembering a bunch of weddings where being in a church has actually made it all the more of a spectacular day. One of my good friends had a ceremony in a church last year and the Priest was funny and did show more of a personality. I found it was actually really nice because of it – it felt more inclusive.

    I always find that registrars speak really quietly and you don’t hear them so miss sections of the ceremony where as priests are used to getting their message heard!ReplyCancel

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