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Guide: Plan a marriage or civil partnership

Part 5 On the day of the ceremony

If your ceremony is taking place in an approved venue please make sure at least one of you is at your venue at least 30 minutes before the ceremony is due to begin. For a register office or additional ceremony room, you should arrive at least 15 minutes before.

The registrar will need to speak to you privately to check the details to be entered in the marriage register. You will also be asked to give your father’s full name and occupation.

If you do not wish to see each other before the ceremony please stagger your arrival to allow the registrar to speak to you individually.

Witnesses

Your civil ceremony must be witnessed by a minimum of two people who can understand English and who are fully aware of the nature and meaning of the ceremony.

Conventionally, we ask that a witness should be over the age of 16. The registration service is not able to provide witnesses for you – they must be your witnesses and cannot be employees of the registration service.


There is no need for you to be nervous about the ceremony.

Remember that the registrar is there to help and guide you through all you are required to say and do.

Although it is not possible for you to meet the registrar before your ceremony, there is an option for you to have a face-to-face meeting with one of our registration staff (a fee will be payable for this). In order to book an appointment, please phone us on 0345 155 1002. Please be aware that this may not be the member of staff attending your ceremony.

Once your guests are seated the registrar will say a few words of welcome and explanation and then lead you through the ceremony and your legal declarations.

Some of the content of a ceremony including the declarations and contractual words are prescribed by law and you will repeat these words after the registrar.

As well as the legal declarations, a ceremony will contain other wording and will be adapted and personalised by the registrar using the information you have provided in your ceremony preference form.

Vows

You are more than welcome to write some personal vows to each other but these must contain no religious references and cannot use any of the following as they are from the Book Of Common Prayer:

  • to have and to hold
  • from this day forward
  • for better, for worse
  • for richer, for poorer
  • in sickness and in health
  • to love and to cherish
  • till death us do part
  • according to God’s holy law
  • in the presence of God I make this vow

You can either read these to each other from a card, request that the registrar break them up into short sentences so you can repeat them when prompted or, if you’re really brave, try and memorise them off by heart.

As a contingency, it is a good idea to bring a written copy just in case nerves get the better of you. Please make your preferred option clear when completing your ceremony preference form.

Readings

You are able to choose one reading for your ceremony.

The registrar will decide when to place this in your ceremony, but if you would like it to be read at a specific time during the ceremony, please make this clear when returning your preference form.

Again, your reading must contain no religious connotations whatsoever, so if you are unsure whether a chosen reading may be religious, please contact us at ceremonies-mailbox@devon.gov.uk to discuss further.

Should you have any difficulties with speech or language, please let us know in advance.

Music

Facilities for playing music should be checked with your venue’s management.

If you are having your ceremony in a registration office you can bring along your music on a CD or iPod (with speakers). If you are bringing an iPod or other such device you will need to allocate a guest to operate it during the ceremony.

No religious connotations are allowed by law, so we are unable to permit hymns or Christmas carols. If you are unsure whether or not your music choice is permissible, please contact us at ceremonies-mailbox@devon.gov.uk to discuss further.

We recommend playing a few tracks while the guests assemble and one track for the entrance.

The exit would only require one track.

If you wish to make a video recording of your marriage, please let the registrar know before the ceremony so that the person filming can be directed to the most suitable position.

Signing the register (marriages)

As of 4 May 2021, there has been a change in how marriages are registered in England and Wales. Instead of authorities being issued and the register written by the registrar during the ceremony, a document called a marriage schedule will be signed by the couple, the witnesses and the registration officers. This will be taken away and registered on the national registration system which will then be the legal record.

This all means that marriage certificates will now not be given to you on the day but will be posted to your home address within 7 days of the ceremony.

This change allows for up to 4 parents/step-parents to be added and for the mother’s name to be recorded. It also means that photographs can now be taken as you sign the schedule.