Oh God.

So I thought we were having a civil ceremony, and that meant the church had nothing to do with it – right?

Oh no. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Because the church essentially decides what a civil ceremony is. In fact, the church are so massively paranoid about civil ceremonies that they can’t get enough of them – or enough out of them.

So what is their problem? Well, something like this…

If people are allowed to get married outside the church, people will leave the church, because there aren’t really that many believers left, and they need that 28% to boost their political influence. If civil ceremonies allow people to express their personal beliefs, personalise their ceremonies and don’t have to conform to the rigid doctrine of their particular denomination, then people will stop having church weddings and follow their OWN beliefs. This would be awful, because the church would no longer be controlling these people. Not to mention many people’s only interaction with the church is through weddings, christenings and funerals…

So the church dictates what can and cannot happen in a civil ceremony. Originally, it was reduced just to the legal basis, and has since expanded and become more ceremonial, but it’s still restricted. As it were, it’s a cripple, but we now have a wheelchair and crutches.

We’ve just come up against a brick wall again with our registrars. They are very nice and helpful people, so we know it isn’t their fault, but they have changed their minds to our annoyance and expense. This is our problem: eating and drinking has religious connotations. Yes, the church OWN eating and drinking. You cannot eat, drink, or pretend to eat or drink in a civil ceremony in England.

We were originally told we couldn’t have our quaich ceremony because we couldn’t eat or drink. We were sad. We had wanted to share this with everyone. But we gave it up and decided to have a “dry” quaich. We sent the registrars an updated version of our ceremony plan, and they said it was okay. Today we called and begged to be able to speak to our registrar, as she was now allotted. During the call, she told us the quaich was a no-go. Ah! But we updated it! we said. We removed the drink, as we were told to. No, apparently a quaich ceremony is a no-go because eating and drinking at a wedding is religious. Even if there isn’t really any food or drink, and you tell everybody that fact.

She’s going to call back at 3.


The thing that bothers me is that we’re the last people to want a religious ceremony. We’ve personalised our writing about the quaich to be symbolic of what we

Symbolism in fact, seems to be the church’s problem. If it’s not about god, how dare we have symbolism, how dare we express deeper meanings? Most church-goers probably think this is as silly as I do. Of course their is depth and meaning in non-religious things – take love, for example – but the church authorities seem either to believe there isn’t, or fear that people will work out that there is. Facepalm truly is the appropriate word.

Their paranoia is getting to me too. It makes me wonder – what else isn’t allowed in civil ceremonies because it’s nearly churchy? What about “hymn style” singing – i.e. everyone standing up and joining in. Maybe that’s forbidden. Maybe that’s why they suggest readings? I’ve never heard of it in a civil ceremony myself.


About RowenaFW

I am a Fish. But you wouldn't know it just from looking at me. View all posts by RowenaFW

3 responses to “Oh God.

  • John H

    Just to clarify: it’s not “the church” that determines what can or cannot be in a civil ceremony: it’s the Marriage Act 1949 (as amended in 1994), which states that “No religious service shall be used at any marriage solemnized in the presence of a superintendent registrar.” And it’s then the registrars that apply the law as regards what does or does not constitute a “religious service”.

    I’m sorry you’re not able to have the ceremony as you wanted, and it does sound like the registrar is being a bit inflexible on this one (I can’t see any reference to religious symbolism in Wiki’s article on the quaich), but if you’ve been told that it’s “the church” that is responsible for this then I think you’ve been misinformed: it’s the law, and the registrar’s interpretation of the law.

    • shapingpromises

      True, John, it is the law – that is why the registrars are tied by it. However, it was under the direction/instruction of the church that this law was written the way it was and specifics were outlined to registry offices, which is why they – and thus I – refer to it as “the church”.

  • Rowan May Hendry-Horne

    I do wonder why it is taking England so long to follow in Scotland’s footsteps and move marriage out of the dark ages. The Church should not be the be all and end all of marriage when there are so many other religions and non-religious belief systems out there which deserve equal rights!

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