Written by Paula Jones Last updated: September 13, 2006
Q. Do we have to visit the registry office before the spiritual ceremony for us to be a legally married?
A. You’re not legally married until you’ve signed the marriage register. In England and Wales, the only spiritual ceremonies at which it is possible to sign the register during the ceremony are weddings at places of worship , which are also registered for the solemnisation of marriages. There are two such places in England where interfaith ministers can conduct weddings, but these venues are both very small. However, there is no necessary connection, as far as the law is concerned, between the legal ceremony and any spiritual ceremony.
You could have the two ceremonies months apart, at different ends of the country, if you wanted! It also means that you can hold the spiritual ceremony anywhere ‐ on a beach, in your own home, at a park, in a village hall; the possibilities are endless, as long as the celebrant will travel there and, of course, you have permission to use the chosen space.
Even though there are now various venues in England and Wales which are registered for weddings ‐ mostly hotels and historic buildings ‐ the ceremonies at these venues are conducted by a registrar, and thus they have to stick to the standard legal ceremony, with no mention of anything religious or spiritual.
It is sometimes possible to have the spiritual ceremony immediately before or after the registration, for example in another room in the hotel, as long as it is clear that the two ceremonies are separate. In Scotland, the situation is a little different, in that it is people who are registered for conducting weddings, not places. At present, no interfaith ministers are registered to conduct registered weddings in Scotland, but this may change in the future.
For now, the same situation applies as in England and Wales ‐ the legal ceremony is held in addition to the spiritual ceremony.
The location and timing of the spiritual ceremony is completely up to the couple
Q. We’d like to write our own vows, but have no idea where to start.
A. One of the greatest foundations for any marriage is to have made vows to one another that are absolutely heartfelt, and which truly reflect what you want your marriage to be about. If you’ve chosen an interfaith minister to conduct your wedding, he or she will ask you both to consider a number of questions, which will help you to distil your thoughts on marriage (your own marriage in particular!).
This process always brings out certain key themes and words, which then form the basis for your vows. Whoever you have chosen as a celebrant should be able to help you in this way.
If they can’t, here are some of the questions that I ask couples to consider, both together and individually:
What is most important to you in your relationship?
What do you really love and appreciate about each other?
What is your intention in being together?
What do you want to give to, and receive from, this marriage?
What gifts do you hope your marriage will bring to your families and the wider community?
Our various celebrants may offer very different answers to the same questions, not only because of the religious tradition they follow, but because they have their own personal views too ‐ religious questions don’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer!