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what is involved with a civil ceremony?

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I keep trying to google some information on what to expect for our civil ceremony on Monday. This is happening so fast and I'm the type of person wh is usually very organized and prepared.


Do we say vows? Do I need to write them myselfhuh.gif


Do we need our rings? we don' have those yet either...


How long does it take?


Can my FH's mom be our witness??


I need help please.

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Known as the fastest, easiest way to get get married, the beauty of a civil ceremony is its flexibility. The ceremony details will be determined by you, and there is no limit to the customization you bring to the process.

Who Has A Civil Ceremony?
The civil ceremony is not just for irreligious couples who want to cut to the chase with a quick "I Do" in front of a justice of the peace at City Hall. Some couples on a tight budget want a simple, inexpensive solution to the wedding ceremony. Most civil ceremony couples are either not sure of their religious convictions, or need a non-religion option for any number of reasons. Additionally, some couples want to include specific readings, poems, officiants, vows, music, or other details in their ceremony that might be counter to the rules of certain religions.

Where Can A Civil Ceremony Be Performed?
Though civil ceremonies are most often performed in the offices of an officiant in a City Hall, as their numbers have increased, so have the variations in ceremony location. To make it easier on the guests, some couples choose to designate a special area at their reception site. Others have it at a rented mansion, a hotel room, poolside, on a cruise ship or yacht, on the ski slope, at a sporting event, in a garden, on the beach, and even in a hospital delivery room! Your imagination is the only thing limiting your civil ceremony location. Just remember to keep your guests in mind. They will need to have easy access to the site, as well as a view from a comfortable place. Some couples have the ceremony in the comfort of their own home, followed by an intimate at-home reception.

Who Can Perform A Civil Ceremony?
The answer depends on the state and country where you plan to get married. You should check with the local marriage license bureau or municipal county clerk's office to determine who is legally recognized to perform a civil ceremony. They will certainly know the policies and laws you have to keep in mind as you go through the planning process. Their contact information is here on our site.

In most American states, there are many officiant options. You'd be surprised how many official jobholders are authorized to perform the ceremony. Some couples want a specific, unauthorized individual who is special to them to perform their ceremony. Usually, this is possible as long as a licensed local official witnesses the event and fills out the legal documents.

The officiants listed below are commonly authorized to perform civil ceremonies.

• Chaplain
• County clerk
• Judge
• Justice of the peace
• Mayor
• Minister
• Notary public
• Pastor
• Priest
• Rabbi
• Superior court clerk
• Township council member

Remember, it is important to contact your officiant to determine the counseling, fees, paper work, and other logistics that may be required in order for your civil ceremony to be considered a legally binding event.

Design Your Own Civil Ceremony
Because it can be flexible and informal. Usually the bride will wear a wedding gown and the groom a suit, though some brides prefer more informal attire. Things can get really creative when you desire a themed civil ceremony such as Halloween, Hawaiian, Western, Hollywood, etc. And complete freedom of choice carries over into the selection of music.

Most civil ceremony officiants have experience writing the ceremony. But you might want to include your own work or the words of noted authors or poets in your readings, vows, or other symbolic acts. You can certainly involve your family and friends as well.

Usually, the ceremony consists of the following sections, listed in order of occurrence.

• Opening words
• Readings
• Consent
• Vows
• Ring exchange
• Final thoughts or readings
• Closing words

Civil ceremonies usually eliminate other traditional moments such as the processional, the ring bearer, religious readings, and the recessional. But, as with the rest of the ceremony, you should feel free to include any aspect of any traditional ceremony you would like.

Ceremony Length
There is no set length for a civil wedding ceremony. Quicker is often preferred by your guests, but also remember the special nature of the occasion and be sure to include any important personal touches. Do what feels right and natural for your special day.
Hope that helps?

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Thanks Melissa!!! That was great... but now I realised how unprepared I am. LOL

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Don't stress!


I don't know if this will make you feel better or not but my boss and her husband woke up one morning and said "hey...wanna get married?"

They had had their marriage licence for a few months but hadn't really planned anything

They threw their clothes on, stopped at a jewellery store to pick up some rings and headed to city hall....their witnesses were the next couple waiting to get married.

They didn't prepare at all and everything worked out fine :)

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awe thanks melissa, that does make me feel better beleive it or not.


I wonder if we could just use my engagement ring as a wedding band for now and pick his out ASAP. We went and loked last weekend and he wants some Tungsten one.

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You could always get fake rings for now. Gumball machines, WalMart, Costco... anything would work. Don't rush on picking out a ring that you will wear for the rest of your life.

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I don't even know that rings are important basically its just the legal document saying you are married, but if you want to feel like a married couple and because of INS you might want to get a cheapy for now while you wait for yours to come in.

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I don't think a ring is required to have a legal wedding. I think it's just normal that someone has them. I would say don't even worry about that part, and just tell the judge you don't have rings.

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A friend of mine got married at City Hall. They weren't prepared either!! But everything worked out great for the two of them!!! They were really glad they did it that way.

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OMG you read my mind! My civil ceremony is in 2 days and I was just going to ask you guys what I need to bring.


If we can we'll just ask the judge to skip the rings part. In fact we have no readings or vows either. I just need the darn paper so I can get the free champagne and bath robes on my honeymoon!! I'm calling tomorrow to ask them what I need, but I think it's fairly simple. There are like 6 courthouses in L.A. that schedule them every 15 minutes so it can't be too involved.

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