Civil ceremony

A civil ceremony is a non-religious legal marriage ceremony performed by a government official or functionary. In England and Wales, this person is normally called a registrar. In American jurisdictions, civil ceremonies may be performed by town, city and county clerks, judges and justices of the peace, or others possessing legal authority to officiate a marriage.

In England and Wales, a civil ceremony cannot include hymns, religious readings or prayers, and the marriage must take place at a registered or licensed venue to be legally valid. Many private premises are licensed to hold civil ceremonies. Couples wishing to marry outside of their area of residence must reside in that location for 7 days and then wait a further 15 days before they may marry. As well as each party to the marriage signing the register, signatures of two witnesses are also required.

In most American jurisdictions, civil ceremonies are subject to the same requirements as religious ceremonies, including venue reservation fees, marriage license fees, and age restrictions. The ceremony may take place in many places, including courthouses, parks, gardens, banquet halls, hotels, and other approved venues. Many venues may also accommodate the reception. Like non-civil ceremonies, the formality and style of the ceremony depend entirely on the tastes of the couple.

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