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A church weddings vs a civil ceremony: the pros and cons

This is a question that many couples face when considering their wedding ceremony: should I get married in a church or have a civil ceremony? While the answer may be easy for some, for others it will take a lot more consideration. While both a civil ceremony and a church ceremony serve the same purpose, there are some striking differences between them. Choosing to have a civil wedding ceremony or getting married in a church is entirely up to you and your partner, and what feels right for you both.

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What Is A Civil Ceremony?

The simplest definition of a civil ceremony is that it’s a non-religious marriage between two people. This is the biggest thing that sets it apart from a church wedding; the lack of religion. While church weddings are usually set in churches with vicars, a civil ceremony is set in a non-religious setting with registrars. This doesn’t mean it’s not a proper marriage, it’s still completely legal and you have a marriage certificate and everything else. There’s just no religious involvement at all.

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What Is A Church Wedding?

This is the traditional wedding ceremony: it’s hosted in a church, and the ceremony is given by the vicar. It involves readings from the Bible as well as the singing of hymns. People from both families go up and read passages from the Bible as part of the ceremony too.

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Every good evaluation of positives and negatives starts with your gut reaction. Firstly, we really encourage you to think about your personal response to each type of ceremony. If you would both much prefer a civil ceremony, then go for a civil ceremony. However, if you are more on the fence then work on it together. We shall go over more objective pros and cons, but look at what is most important to each of you.


Churches are usually old, and older buildings tend to have had hands cast over them which know a great deal about beautiful architecture. This is what these magnificent and ancient buildings can lend to your wedding – tradition and beauty. St. Andrews is definitely no exception to the rule. The beautiful 13th Century St Andrews Church, which nestles in the grounds of Brympton House, has been described as one of the most ‘stunning’ churches in the UK.

You can make amazing vows in a church. The Vicar also has a very important role to play in your wedding. They can blend ancient tradition and modern experience to reflect your story. Because of the relationship with the Vicar, your wedding can be made personal, memorable, meaningful and beautiful. Churches have a certain atmosphere that makes marrying in them a particularly special experience.


Be aware that some churches will not allow you to marry there unless you are a member of the parish and perhaps go to church regularly. St. Andrews, the church on the Brympton estate, is delighted to welcome you to marry provided you meet the qualifying connections or create one by attending the church's usual services at least 6 times. Photography and videography can also be an intrusive problem for some clergymen. In some cases, photography of all kinds may be banned entirely from the church. This may also be the case with music, and remember that old buildings may have limited electricity (although for some, this will be an pro - as the church will be lit entirely by candlelight!).

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Variety is the spice of life, and civil ceremonies allow you to get married in all sorts of interesting locations. You can marry in buildings as old and as traditional as churches, such as the stunning Castle House. Castle House dates back to 1350 and with an elegant long aisle, leading up to a beautiful arched mullion window, it has the air of a Church. It provides a perfect ceremony space throughout the year and can seat up to 200 guests. You, sometimes, can have more say in how you want the space set out. You can also choose whether you want music playing or not.


A civil ceremony is a strictly non-religious affair. This means that everything you use, from the music to the readings, must be free of obvious specifically religious connotations. For those who are deeply in touch with their religion, then civil ceremonies are far from perfect! Even those who want to play the same hymn their parents did will find an issue as any religious content of any kind is banned from a civil ceremony. With the exception of castles and other epic venues, many licensed civil ceremony rooms can simply lack the gravitas and grandeur of getting married in a church. And registry offices can sometimes exemplify the worst of this.

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Like many decisions that you will have to make during your wedding planning, you need to weigh up what matters most to you. Ask yourself what feels right for you two... Then go with that!

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