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Groom With a View: The Ceremony

Every month our resident former-groom James will be tackling the big wedding topics from the man's perspective...

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In August 2011, James and Rox got married. Throughout their 18-month engagement, James blogged for Y&YW about his experiences as an enthusiastic fiancé. Now married, he’s obviously had to shed his H2B status. So James re-joins us in his brand new role as Groom With a View. Same guy, just a little more under the thumb. Every month James will be tackling the big wedding topics from the man’s perspective. So grab your own impending grooms and get them to tune in. You’ll thank us girls – they might learn something.

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Of the 300,000 marriages each year in the UK today, nearly two thirds are non-religious. This is not the case in many other countries, most notably the US. There’s a smörgasbord of Christian offshoots available in America, of which you’re normally compelled to choose one. As a result, congregations continue to swell and civil wedding ceremonies are far less prevalent than they are here. Of course, it’s also possible to be married by an Elvis impersonator in The States, so who’s to say what’s right?

These days, couples frequently pick the reception venue first and then scramble around afterwards for a suitable location to hold the ceremony. Many reception venues are actually licensed to conduct marriages, thus further accelerating the decline of church weddings. So as an impending groom, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Am I religious?

Do I consider a religious ceremony to carry more significance than a civil one?

If you answered ‘no’ to either of these questions, do not pass GO and do not collect £200 – you’re going straight to Hell. I’m kidding of course. It is your immutable right to choose where you get married. As long as the venue is legally allowed to conduct wedding ceremonies, and your bride-to-be is fully on-board, you’re good to go. You can tie the knot on an ancient Indian burial ground if you’re that way inclined, as long as it’s licensed and your partner is up for it.

Opting for the non-religious route gives you the greatest degree of flexibility. You’ll be free to get married at any certified location on the planet, from your local registry office to a 5-star beach resort in the South Pacific. Civil venues are usually well set-up. Most of them come with a wedding co-ordinator to help guide you through the process, and provide everything you’ll need to get married. So don’t think of the civil route as a DIY option – there’ll be plenty of help at hand.

If you answered ‘yes’ to either of the above questions, then you need to be aware of the options and implications. The simplest option, and the most commonplace, is to get married in a church within your home parish. Once you’ve picked the church, go and see them straight away to ensure that it’s available on your preferred date. Remember, some couples book their wedding years in advance, so making a timely approach to your local church is job number one.

Saturday is the most popular day to get married. Your guests won’t need time off work, and you’ll have all Sunday to recover from the night before. However, there’s no legal impediment to holding your wedding on any day throughout the year. So in theory you can get married on Christmas Day, although some guests may get upset at missing the EastEnders Christmas Special. Also, it shouldn’t make any difference to the cost which day you choose – marriage fees remain constant all year round.

If you fall in love with a venue outside of your local parish but you still want a church wedding, it’s now possible to get married in any church anywhere in the UK. In order to qualify though, you have to join the local parish register by attending regular church services for at least six months prior to getting married. This is a big commitment and can cause havoc with your social life since most church services take place on Sunday mornings. This is actually the route that I chose, so I speak from bleary-eyed experience!

Even if you’re not especially religious, some people feel that a church ceremony adds a degree of gravitas to proceedings. Church weddings have been taking place in the same format for centuries. You get a real sense of historical responsibility when you consider that couples through the ages have been exchanging exactly the same vows as we do today: it’s hard not to appreciate the romanticism in that.

So think carefully before deciding between the religious and the civil route. Unless of course you’re dead set on being married by an Elvis impersonator, in which case the decision will have already been made for you.

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Our Groom with a View tackles The Ring