What Is a Civil Wedding Ceremony?


In order for the United States government to legally recognize a marriage, a couple must be civilly married. As opposed to a religious ceremony, which is often bound by the constraints of specific traditions, a civil wedding ceremony can include almost anything a couple wishes.

Why Choose a Civil Ceremony?

  • The biggest draw of civil ceremonies for many is their flexibility, according to WeddingChannel.com. The secular services are useful for those who find it hard to blend different religious faiths or denominations with their partners, couples who don't want spend money on a lavish ceremony, or those who simply want more freedom in planning how, where and when to say their wedding vows.

Differences From Religious Ceremonies

  • Just as a religious ceremony will not necessarily meet the requirements to formalize a civil marriage, a civil ceremony may not qualify as a marriage under the requisites of a specific religion or culture. For example, a Catholic marriage requires a priest authorized by the Catholic Church or another church-approved official perform the ceremony, advises the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. A civil wedding ceremony can include as many or as few religious traditions as a couple desires and an officiant allows.


  • Like many contractual arrangements, civil wedding ceremonies are bound by the rules of the location in which a couple chooses to be married. Some states and municipalities may require residency in order to secure a marriage license; others may even require both individuals complete a blood test.


  • Those who want to have a civil wedding ceremony should first decide where they want to marry and examine the rules in that locality. Couples must also choose who they want to perform the service. The county clerk's office is often a good resource for finding a qualified person to perform a civil ceremony, recommends Brides.com. The rest of the ceremony's planning is only limited by a couple's imagination.

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