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What Is a Civil Ceremony?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 16 March 2014
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A civil ceremony is a type of wedding that is usually not associated with any type of religion, and these ceremonies are very popular with couples who are either not religious or are both of different faiths. Civil ceremonies are most commonly officiated by judges and might take place in a city clerk's office or within a judge's chambers. Even though civil ceremonies often take place inside courthouses, they can actually be held wherever the couple wants as long as they have a licensed officiant to perform the ceremony. It is also not unusual for a couple who is religious to opt for a civil ceremony instead of a traditional wedding held inside their church, and this may be done when the couple wants to customize their wedding in such a way that would not be permissible inside their church.

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Other reasons a couple might choose to have a civil ceremony in place of a traditional wedding are owing to cost and convenience. Civil ceremonies are typically very easy to arrange, and a couple who wants to get married quickly can normally do so by way of a civil ceremony. Unlike with traditional weddings, very minimal planning and preparation are involved with civil ceremonies, and they can usually be as inexpensive as a couple wants. Even though many civil ceremonies are small affairs, they can also be just as extravagant as a big wedding would be if the couple desired that. Apart from the non-religious element, the customization of civil ceremonies may be one of the main reasons why they are so popular with couples.

People who can officiate at a civil ceremony might include justices of the peace, judges, or mayors. County and city clerks are also occasionally licensed to officiate at civil ceremonies. Sometimes a couple will want a specific person who is unlicensed to officiate at their ceremony, and this is sometimes possible if someone who is licensed is present at the ceremony to witness it.

In spite of the fact that a great number of civil ceremonies are non-religious, many of them still do proceed in the same manner as a typical wedding. A civil ceremony will usually include opening statements made by the person officiating along with an exchange of vows and rings. After the couple is pronounced married, a kiss may follow. Guests at the wedding might also be asked if they object to the marriage. Civil ceremonies can also include religious rituals if the couple so desires.

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