A Complete Guide to Your Wedding Ceremony

Getting married in Cornwall can be a great experience. But you would be forgiven for getting confused about all the different options and marriage requirements. As a Cornish wedding photographer, I am always ready to share valuable advice with couples.

One element that can be confusing is knowing what kind of ceremony to plan. You both know you want to get married, and then you hear about the many options. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. I’d love to help clear that up a bit for you. So, this post is about ceremonies.

Here’s a complete guide to the different wedding ceremonies you can have in Cornwall and beyond. 

First, Let’s Talk Legal

To get legally married in Cornwall, as it is in England and Wales, you must both be 18 years. For people between 16 and 17, you’ll need parental consent. You should also not be closely related or already married. Then you’ll need two witnesses for your legal ceremony.

Couples will first have to attend an interview at the register office. You’ll need to show your passport, council tax or utility bill to confirm your legal name, address and nationality. You’ll also need to notify them where and when you intend to get married. So please have that sorted out prior. 

Remember that your venue must be licensed for civil marriages for a legal wedding. If one of you is not from the UK, their visa requirements will have to be confirmed too. This usually pushes your wait time to 3-4 months, so start your process early. 

After the notice interview, there is a waiting period. This takes up to 28 days, except in situations I have already mentioned. At the end of the wait, you’ll be given the authority to go ahead with your wedding. This is valid for 12 months from the date of your notice interview. 

For the Church of England

For a legal marriage by the Church of England, couples must contact the vicar. This has to be the vicar of the parish where you intend to get married. They’ll schedule a meeting where you’ll also need to provide the documents mentioned above. 

Once satisfied, your banns will be read out at the main service. Please note that this has to happen for three consecutive Sundays three months before your wedding. Only after this will you be given the go-ahead. 

Now that we have that settled, we’re ready to learn all about ceremonies. Below are some lovely ceremonies you can have for your wedding in Cornwall.

Civil Ceremony

This type of ceremony is non-religious and performed by government officials. These officials are known as registrars, and the wedding has to be at an approved venue or a register office. Two witnesses must be present for this ceremony, but no religious content is allowed. 

Civil Partnership

Civil partnerships aren’t entirely defined as marriage, but they recognise a relationship between any two people. It also involves similar tax benefits, inheritances, pensions, and responsibilities. A civil partnership has to take place in front of a registrar but does not include vows or a ceremony. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t request them both; however, they are just not as compulsory as with the civil ceremony. All you are required to do is sign the documentation before two witnesses. This is the route many same-sex couples follow. The recipients are referred to as partners as opposed to husband and wife.

Religious Ceremony (Church of England)

A religious ceremony by the Church of England is presided over by a vicar. This is also who registers the marriage. There is a preapproved service by the Church of England which is used. Couples can, however, choose hymns and music. They can also include loved ones in their readings. 

Religious ceremony (not Church of England)

The second type of religious ceremony takes place in any registered religious building. An authorised minister is who presides in this sort of ceremony. A vow exchange is compulsory, and same-sex couples can get married here if it is registered for that.

Sequel Wedding

Sequel weddings have become popular recently due to the pandemic. In a sequel wedding, a couple has a two-part celebration that starts with a smaller event. This is followed by a larger celebration at a later date. Only one of these ceremonies is legally recognised, and most couples choose the first one. For example, a small legal wedding at a registration office, with only the witnesses present and then a more significant unofficial service held by a celebrant or family member. This larger event can be held anywhere. The venue does not need a marriage licence as no official service is taking place; you could therefore hold it on a beach, garden, field etc. Past couples I have photographed have done all of these.

Commitment Ceremony

A commitment ceremony is a type of wedding ceremony conducted by a wedding celebrant or a friend. As a result, it has no legal rights or responsibilities. The status of the couple also doesn’t alter as a result. 

There is a lot of flexibility with a commitment ceremony. It can be held wherever the couple wishes and include or remove any element they want.

Humanist or Independent Celebrant Ceremony

Humanist ceremonies as a delightful alternative to regular traditional weddings. They aren’t considered legal, so they can also take place anywhere and are very flexible. Please note that there is a difference between a humanist and an independent celebrant. A humanist celebrant will not add religious elements to the event, while an independent celebrant will if the couple requires. 

Pagan Handfasting

Couples who want something out of the ordinary can also go for a pagan handfasting. This ancient marriage ritual is usually carried out by a celebrant. In it, the coupes have their hands bound together to signify their joining as a couple. It isn’t legally recognised but is still a valuable way to show your love.

At a handfasting, the couple’s hands are put together with their pulse points or wrists touching. A ribbon made of two parts from the couples is then used to loop around their hands, tying them together. Vows and declarations are made as this is done. Some couples choose to integrate this ritual into other types of ceremonies.

Vow Renewal

Last but not least, of course, is a vow renewal. This is for married couples who want to celebrate their union again. This can happen every decade, or at any time the couple wishes. 

Vow renewals can take place anywhere and can be officiated by anyone. They are also not legally binding. Most couples choose to have their vow renewals on a milestone anniversary to make the memory even more special and often choose to hold them at the location they met or where they got engaged, such as a beach.

Final Words

Planning a Cornish wedding ceremony can be beautiful if you know where to start. Do any of the above ceremonies speak to you? Remember to pay close attention to the legal requirements for your marriage too.

I would love to document the special moments at any kind of Cornish Ceremony that you have. Here at Steven Rees Webb Photography, weddings are my speciality. I enjoy working with couples. Want to find out how we can work together? Contact me today!

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Professional, Fun and Relaxed Wedding Photography

My name is Steven! I'm a full-time documentary wedding photographer from Cornwall. I specialise in relaxed and unposed photography, capturing the moments of your day as they happen.

I love what I do, and I always have fun doing it. If you are looking for someone to capture every moment, create beautiful lasting memories, someone who will laugh with your guests, talk to the kids, pet all the dogs and get stuck into almost any task on the day, then I am the person for you!

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