Your Ceremony - Somerset Registration Services

Marriages & Partnerships

Your guide to getting married or forming a civil partnership in Somerset & North Somerset.

Your Ceremony

Weddings and Partnerships are wonderful occasions filled with hopes and dreams and we look forward to being part of your special day.

Your ideal ceremony may be a traditional celebration with bridesmaids and pageboys, or a relaxed family gathering, a quirky themed extravaganza or an intimate exchange of vows: This is your day, and the choice is yours.

We are here to guide you through the process of getting married or forming a partnership, and hope that this guide will tell you everything you need to know. If there’s anything we’ve missed, we’re happy to answer your queries. Please go to the Forms & Downloads section in More Information for your pre-ceremony check form and guidance.

What is the difference between a full ceremony and a basic "2+2" ceremony?
The basic or “2+2” ceremony is a short ceremony that includes the legal elements needed to perform a marriage. The only people to attend will be yourselves, your two witnesses and the registrars. It is the cheapest and shortest option available. It only includes a declaration, contracting words and an optional ring vow, chosen from a short standard selection. Couples often choose this if they don’t want the expense of a larger ceremony, or if they want to have a reception elsewhere or on another day. It’s available at selected Registration Office locations and will take place in a small private office.

The full ceremony option is available at our Taunton, Yeovil and Weston locations and at all our licensed ceremony venues. You can customise this ceremony to include readings, music and personal vows on top of the basic legal declaration, contracting words and ring vow. You can invite friends and family to a full ceremony, and we have a great range of locations to suit all sizes and budgets. It can last a little longer and costs more than the basic ceremony, and the price varies depending on the day and location.

How do I book my ceremony?

You need to book your ceremony with the Register Office, and also with the venue if you want to get married at one of our Approved Premises. Do check that your chosen venue is available before booking a Registrar to avoid disappointment. You need to fill in our Ceremony Booking Request form, which you can find on our Contact page. Payment can be made by card at our offices or over the phone and is normally due up to 8 weeks before ceremonies.

How much will it cost?

Our Basic Ceremony costs just £57 including a certificate, while the price of a Full Ceremony varies depending on the location and date. Please see our Costs section in More Information for full details. You will need to pay for your Full Ceremony at least 8 weeks before the event. If you are having a Basic Ceremony you may pay on the day by card or cash, or we can accept a cheque 8 weeks prior to the ceremony.

How do we choose what will happen in the ceremony?

You will need to decide what legal declarations and vows you want to say to each other (these words do not need to be spoken aloud during a civil partnership ceremony). If you’re having a full ceremony, you can also choose music and readings as well. We need to have details of everything you want to include at least 4 weeks before the ceremony so we can personalise everything for you, or we will prepare a standard ceremony format. You can also include details of personal vows, the entrance party or any other details or special requests on the form.

Download our Pre Ceremony Guidance and Ceremony Form from the Forms & Downloads section in More Information for either the Basic, Full Ceremony or Civil Partnership, as appropriate. If you have any queries, we’re happy to help – just email the team or give us a call. Email or post your completed form back to our Taunton office.

What details do I need to put in the schedule (formerly known as the register)?

You will need to provide your name, age, occupation, marital status and address, and sign the schedule using your normal signature of your pre-marriage name. Formerly you would have been asked to provide your father’s name and occupation. Following the introduction of the Marriage Schedule System on 4th may 2021, you can now include details of up to 4 parents each. 

Parents may include: 

Mother(s), natural, adoptive, or step parent*
Father(s), natural, adoptive or step parent*
Parent(s), this could be a non-binary identifying parent or when legal parenthood has been transferred by a parental order
 *A step-parent is a person who is, or who has been married to or in a civil partnership with the mother, father or parent

The inclusion (or not) of parent details on your registration is entirely your choice.  If you have a particular preference for the order in which parent details appear on your registration you will need to inform the registrar before your ceremony. 


How long will the ceremony last?

A simple ceremony will last between 15 and 20 minutes. If you want to personalise the full ceremony with readings and take photographs it can last around 30-40 minutes. If you’ve booked your ceremony at a Register Office, you will have a 45 minute time slot. If you choose to get married at an approved venue you will have a booked time for the ceremony itself. You can then be more flexible with your time after the ceremony for the rest of your celebrations.

Can we write our own vows?

You do have to say the legal vows (the declaration and contracting words) during your marriage ceremony, but you can add your own words if you want to and have opted for the Full Ceremony. You don’t have to repeat any vows aloud for a civil partnership, but have the option to speak the legal wording and your own vows. Let us have a copy of your personalised vows in advance so we can build them into the ceremony. They need to be non-religious in nature, and appropriate for solemnising a union.

Can we have a religious ceremony?

You can’t hold a religious ceremony at a Register Office, and we only license Approved Premises for non-religious weddings and partnerships. For Church of England marriages you should make an appointment at the church where you intend to marry. Church of England clergy are authorised registrars and can normally carry out all the necessary legalities. For other faiths and denominations, you should contact the minister to check whether they are authorised to solemnise marriages. You will need to pay for a Registrar to attend your ceremony with a register.

Can we choose our own music?

Yes – as long as it is not religious. You can have a string quartet or a brass band, if there’s space! If you’re using a recording, check with the venue to see what format they will need. Our Registration Office venues are normally equipped with bluetooth speakers for you to connect to remotely. If you are having your ceremony at an approved venue, please supply your music choices directly to them. See our downloadable Guidance sheets for suggested use of music during the ceremony. It’s normal to have music for the entrance, signing and exit stages of the ceremony. Please choose something that is a suitable length and is ok to use from the start, and be stopped as the ceremony requires. It may seem like a romantic idea to wait until the dramatic climax of your favourite song to make your big entrance, but that wait can seem like eternity on the day, and leave guests wondering if you are getting cold feet!

Can we have readings?

You may have up to 3 readings if you wish – the main requirement is that they are not religious in nature. There are a huge range of popular choices on the internet, or you may have a personal or family favourite. Please provide your choices to us in advance. We need to make sure they are appropriate and work them into our ceremony preparations. You can ask a friend or relative to do the reading, or our registrar will be happy to do this.

Can we have a ceremony at our home?

A civil marriage or partnership must be held at a licensed venue – it is the venue that is licensed not the person conducting the ceremony, as is the case in some other countries such as the US or Australia. It could be possible to get your family home licensed for weddings but this is a costly and impractical option, especially if you don’t have room for guests. There is a requirement that an approved premises should be regularly available to the public for holding ceremonies, which would not normally be the case for most private homes. Somerset has over 120 approved venues to choose from, so there should be something to suit everyone.

Can we have an outdoor ceremony?

Licenses are only granted in England and Wales for specific rooms or permanent structures that must have a roof. Unfortunately you can’t get married under a tree or on a beach, as is often seen in movies and tv shows. These are normally in other countries that allow this, or are non-legal celebrant led ceremonies, or sadly just fiction.

Many venues are licensed to hold ceremonies in outdoor structures such as gazebos, barns or bandstands. They will normally also have a licensed indoor room available in case the English weather is less than perfect. Browse our venue directory to see what is on offer – you can filter for an Outdoor Ceremonies option.

Can the ceremony be in another language?

Our ceremonies are all required to be in English. If either of you cannot speak or understand English then you will need to bring an interpreter. You may also need a lip reader or interpreter if you have hearing problems.

Who can be a witness?

You will need 2 witnesses to sign the marriage or partnership schedule. They might be close friends or family, but don’t need to be. We ask that they are at least 16 years old, and they must be capable of understanding the proceedings, witnessing and signing the register. You will need to bring your own witnesses as Register Office staff can’t perform this function.

Do I have to be given away?

You can start your ceremony however you choose. You can walk in alone, with a family member or enter as a couple – whatever would suit you best. You can even head in with all your guests if you’d rather things were really casual. Let us know who will be walking up the aisle with you and whether you would like to be given away on your pre-ceremony check form – this is not an essential part of the ceremony and is entirely up to you.

Do we need to exchange rings?

It is traditional to exchange a wedding ring or rings, but you don’t have to. You may wish to place these on a cushion or arrange for a ring bearer or best man to step forward at the appropriate moment. The wedding ring is normally placed on the third finger of the left hand, as this is traditionally thought to be connected to the heart – but again, you can discuss with your partner if you’d prefer to have it placed on another finger. If you wish to exchange a different token, you may – some other cultures exchange necklaces or other jewellery, but you could give each other books, small tokens or other gifts that have a special meaning to you both. If you’d rather skip this part, that’s absolutely fine. Just let us know on your pre-ceremony check form.

Are photos and videos of the ceremony allowed?

Absolutely!  This is your special day and we want you to be able to capture it. We do ask that photography doesn’t detract from the ceremony. You might consider just having a professional photographer take shots during the ceremony so your friends and family can relax and enjoy the proceedings. Let your guests know if you’d prefer them not to take their own pictures. Our registrars will normally check if you would like to have pictures taken of the signing of the schedule (formerly the register).

Can I invite a few extra guests to the simple “2+2” ceremony?

We’re afraid not. The rooms used for these ceremonies are small offices and are only licensed for Basic Ceremonies. Only you, your partner and your witnesses will be able to attend. If you want to bring along additional family members, children or friends – even if it’s only a couple of extra people – you will need to book one of our larger ceremony rooms. These are still very affordable options and give you more flexibility in terms of who you invite. It’s up to you whether you take advantage of the full ceremony options available with these rooms or keep the ceremony short and sweet.

Who arranges the seating?

This is something you’ll need to delegate, traditionally a job for the best man or a wedding coordinator. It’s up to you whether you seat your guests according to “bride” or “groom”, or let people choose their own spot. Whoever you put in charge will need to make sure there’s enough seating at the front reserved for key family members(eg father of the bride, bridesmaids and groomsmen) to sit during the ceremony and schedule signing.

Can I decorate the venue?

If you will be getting married or forming a partnership in a Register Office, there won’t be an opportunity to decorate the room to a personal theme as we often hold several ceremonies a day. These rooms are dressed for ceremonies, so you just need to bring yourselves!

However, if you have chosen to hold your event at an approved venue, you can arrange for flowers and themed decorations with their wedding coordinator. Browse our Wedding Supplier Directory for local professionals who can work with you to create your dream theme.

Can we have confetti?

We’ve introduced a biodegradable confetti only policy at our Registration Offices. Paper, petals and bubbles only please! While throwing rice is an old tradition to bless the couple with fertility and good fortune, we’d appreciate guests avoiding this as it tends to turn to turn our carpets into rice pudding and attracts unwanted wildlife.

Our approved ceremony venues each have their own policy, so do check with them and let your guests know. Popular environmentally friendly choices include dried lavender,  rose petals or DIY confetti made from hole punched leaves. Beautiful!