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Are there any rules or restrictions for music at a Civil Ceremony in the UK? Get the lowdown here.

So here is what you need to know.

If you are getting married at the Register Office or an approved venue, the Registrar who will come to your venue and perform the marriage usually ask for notification of what music you would like well in advance of the wedding. Due to legal constraints, no religious music is allowed at a civil ceremony and they like to double check this is all in order and know in advance of your music choices.

That said, it doesn't mean that things are too restrictive. You can still have a lot of fun organising the music for your wedding. In fact, when it came to planning my own wedding, deciding the music was one of our favourites tasks! We quite often ended up with a glass of wine in the evening, having a little boogie in the front room as we tried to whittle down the tunes!

Let's talk about it now and start at the beginning of the ceremony. While your guests are being seated for the ceremony, it is not uncommon for music to be playing softly in the background and it helps create a friendly ambient atmosphere while people are sitting and chatting. You should think carefully about something really special to make your entrance to as you walk down the aisle. You also need at least 2 songs to play while you are signing the register. Usually the official photographer will take some photos of you with the Register and then your guests will be invited to take their snaps too. After this, the guests are asked to return to their seats so the Registrar can close the ceremony and introduce the newly married couple. With that, you need a song to play for you and your new husband to walk out down the aisle. Okay, that is the basics. Now we can turn to changing the basics into something more memorable.

Music for a civil wedding ceremony in the UK

Do you want live music? I have attended weddings that have included Classical Quartets, Harpists, Pianists, Choirs, Trumpets, Singers….all sorts. It can certainly make the ‘feel’ of your ceremony very special, and being professionals, you are safe in their hands as they know exactly how to play during your ceremony. I have been to ceremonies where family members or friends have sung during the ceremony or played an instrument. Even better, as a Registrar I have seen many bridal and groom parties make their entrance by dancing their way down the aisle and this can be great fun.

If you choose something pre-recorded the venue may ask for the songs to be downloaded in order of play, onto a CD so their staff can manage this for you on the day. Please bear in mind that in some cases certain venues will ask you to nominate one of the guests to do this for you. Now this is okay, but being totally honest with you, I can promise you from my Registrar experience and meeting this nominated person on the day, it is not the best of jobs to have to do as a wedding guest. I have never met anyone yet who isn't a total nervous wreck worrying about messing it up especially as they are unfamiliar with the music equipment and remote controls. If this is the case, make sure that they are aware of these few little tips that I would always pass on to this poor guest by having a quick chat with them before the start of the wedding to try and ease their nerves:

Tips on playing the right tracks in the right order for the Ceremony:

Have a word with the Registrar/Celebrant. Hopefully they will be willing to give you ‘a nod’ to start the entrance music as the bride arrives at the top of the aisle and the Registrar asks all the guests to ‘Please stand for the Bridal Party’. When the bride arrives at the grooms side, do not just stop the music abruptly. Let it continue playing for a few long seconds and then fade it out slowly. Once the volume is completely down, it is useful at this point to move the CD onto track number 2 and pause it, ready for when the couple sign the Register later in the ceremony.

As the ceremony comes to a close, the Registrar normally says something along the lines of ‘I am very pleased to pronounce that you are now Husband & Wife.’ At this point the guests normally join the Registrar in a round of applause and this is when you need to play track 2, fairly loud. Bring the volume down to suit as the clapping subsides. The couple will now sign the Register and have a few photos taken and 2 tracks should be long enough. If you are running out of time and music tracks, DO NOT EVER let track 4 (the walking out together track) play by accident. Just rewind back to the beginning of track 1 or 2 to fill in some time.

Once guests have returned to their seats after taking a few photos, or the official photographer has finished, the Registrar usually finishes with a few words to close the ceremony and introduce our couple as Mr & Mrs………or Mr & Mr….......Mrs & Mrs.........whatever you would like! At this point, you need to get that last track on good and loud so it can be heard over everyone clapping and cheering as the couple walk out down the aisle together. Got all that?? - Well Done, No Pressure!!

After the Ceremony

It is usual to have soft music playing in the background as the drinks reception starts and of course as a couple, if you are planning on dancing the night away with your guests, you need to have play list and think carefully about the differences in music tastes, ages and generations and have fun with it! You need a good balance of styles that encourage the festivities and continued celebrations. Enjoy thinking about your first dance together especially if you are considering doing a special dance to entertain everyone!

If you are working with a DJ or a live band, it's best not to dictate EVERY SINGLE TRACK, but meet with them before the big day so they can get a feel for the styles and music genres you like and of course give them a list of those songs that are ‘absolute musts’ but also remember to let them know of any songs that are ‘absolute NOTS!’

Choosing your ceremony music and evening playlist can be really good fun, enjoy yourselves, and please pick 'I Ran by A Flock of Seagulls' for me....that will always get me up on the dance floor!

Dancing shoes for a wedding

If you want to hear more about what you can and cannot do at a civil ceremony in the UK, go to Essential Insider Info section and also find out what legal preparations you need to do before you can get married or if you are planning a simple ceremony followed by a personal wedding celebration, let us help write a totally unique ceremony for you to make your day complete.

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