The issue of choosing between a religious or civil wedding ceremony has troubled me personally ever since I started working in this industry. Coming from one of the few Jewish families in South East of London, I knew the likelihood was strong I would meet a woman who wasn't Jewish and the consideration of where we would hold our wedding ceremony was a conversation that would inevitably arise. As predicted, at the age of 28 I now find myself in a happy relationship with someone I hope to marry some day in the near future and the question of religious vs. civil ceremony is now more prominent than ever.
Having attended hundreds of weddings over the past six years, either through work or friends (but mainly work), I have always felt there is something truly special and spiritual about a religious ceremony, whether it's held in a church, a synagogue or a mosque. I know my family would be over the moon if we were to have a Jewish wedding and my girlfriend, in many ways, has a similar predicament. Having been brought up as a Catholic going to church on a regular basis, she too knows the importance religion plays in her background and her family. Even more crucially, there is a certain church in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire that pretty much her whole family have been married in, so to say tradition is well ingrained is an understatement. So with both families following their faiths so closely, how then do you find the right balance for your ceremony? Having done a little research myself whenever the conversation arises (which is often, due to my profession!), I've discovered a few options that might work for us, and could work for you too.
Opt for a deconsecrated church
A deconsecrated church is a former religious location that has had it's religious blessing removed, enabling it to be used for other purposes. By opting for a location like this, it means you can hold whichever types of ceremony you might choose; in our case perhaps a civil ceremony with a religious blessing afterwards, whilst still embracing the beauty of being in a former religious building. This is an ideal solution if you feel like nothing quite beats the spirituality and tradition of getting married in a building filled with history.
Tailor the ceremony to you with a celebrant
With many of our friends getting married this summer and plenty more coming over the next few years, there can be a slight tendency for civil ceremonies to feel impersonal with a conveyor belt-esque feel to them at times. We know that this is far from what we want, as it's not just the act of getting married that's important to us, it's all that surrounds the ceremony that makes it unique. In this circumstance, I feel a celebrant could be a good choice. Now although a celebrant cannot legally marry you (this you'll need to do separately at a registry office), they will work with you to create and conduct a ceremony that is entirely unique to you, incorporating the elements of each religious wedding ceremony you wish to include, in a location of your choosing. The chance to put your own stamp on the wedding ceremony along with a nod to the traditions and cultures of both families is a great option. Plus with this ability to really tailor it to you, it could be just what you need to strike the perfect balance.
Focus on an element that is uniquely 'you'
With my eldest brother and his wife both in the military and it being a huge factor of how their relationship came to be, they chose to really incorporate this into their day to make it a truly memorable civil ceremony. Amongst other parts of the day, a moment that really sticks out is when their fellow members of the military created a sword arch for them to walk through as they exited the church. Similarly to this, I've been to quite a few civil ceremonies where the couple have added something uniquely 'them' to proceedings. This addition of personality to the day really makes a huge difference and has the ability to add spirituality and that extra special feel you need to the day.
So whilst this will be a recurring topic of conversation for me and my other half, until the day we take the plunge, it's reassuring to know this is something the wedding industry is tackling and offering some really great options for. If you are finding yourself in the same predicament or have faced this issue previously, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this too via Twitter @robin_weil
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