Can we have a religious blessing after a non-religious civil ceremony?

Written by    Last updated: June 6, 2006

Blessings are an integral part of many civil ceremonies. And it’s quite easy to see why…

If you’ve chosen a civil wedding, you might want to add a blessing too. Here’s what you need to know…

Of course! If one or both of you would prefer some kind of religious aspect to your day, or you both have different religious beliefs, a good compromise is to have a civil ceremony followed by a religious blessing, or for the couple to be married in one religious tradition and have a blessing in the other.

For example, as Catholics are not allowed to re‐marry in church, divorcees often opt for a civil ceremony in a register office, followed by a blessing in church afterwards too.

Alternatively, you may choose not get married in church as you welcome the freedom of a civil ceremony that allows you to choose a fabulous, quirky venue of your choice, but be keen to have the marriage recognized in some spiritual manner. Again, in order to achieve this, you could opt to have a blessing.

Blessings are a great way to inject a religious dimension into an otherwise fairly secular occasion, but they don’t have to be religious and they can take the form of a self‐contained ritual that you can tailor to fit your own requirements perfectly.

What is a blessing?

A blessing is a short ceremony that takes place after the official civil ceremony.

Unlike the marriage itself, a blessing is not legally binding ‐‐ it’s a more spiritual way of symbolising the strength of your commitment to one another. It’s like a seal on the relationship.

What does a blessing involve?

A blessing usually involves a reading, a hymn or song and a prayer.

You could include traditional wedding music, or something that has special meaning for the two of you ‐‐ there’s lots of scope for making the ceremony your own.

For example, Anne and James got married in a register office and then had a blessing a few days later on the Cornish cliffs. Their blessing made no reference to religion ‐‐ it talked about love, honesty and, above all, commitment.

If you’re going for a formal religious blessing, it must be performed by a priest. This will normally take place in a church, though some priests are more flexible about venues.

The bride is not escorted into the church or venue or given away by her father. Bride and groom enter together, as husband and wife.

When can we have the blessing?

There’s no time limit on when you can have a blessing. It’s customary for it to happen very soon after the wedding, usually on the day itself, but some couples prefer to have their marriage blessed several days after the wedding.

It’s also possible to have a blessing as part of a register office wedding. If this appeals to you, have a word with your registrar.

How do we organize a blessing?

When organising a blessing, the first thing you need to do is speak to the person you want to give it. They should be a recognised official of whatever church or tradition you favour.

Explain exactly what you want and discuss how best to go about it. Remember, blessings don’t have to be conventionally religious ‐ you can put your own stamp on them. Linda and Stephen got married in a civil ceremony and had a blessing in their garden given by a member of a Pagan order.

When it comes to what to wear, it generally depends when the service is taking place.

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