Registry office weddings are popular among brides and grooms on a budget, and those that would prefer fewer guests. By having a smaller ceremony, you can save money and keep your special day intimate and private.
But registry office weddings don’t have to be boring or plain. Your still able to wear a fancy suit or dress even to the smallest ceremony. You can still ask friends and family to play a part in your wedding, even if there isn’t an aisle to walk down. And by writing your own romantic wedding vows, you can fully customise your ceremony.
Depending on the venue, you may even be able to bring your own decorations, or choose your own music. Here are our top tips for making even the smallest registry office wedding a memorable one.
Dress for the Occasion
Just because you’re having a registry office wedding, that doesn’t mean you can’t wear the wedding dress (or suit) of your dreams. Wherever you choose to get married, it’s still the biggest day of your life.
Whether you feel you can go all-out on your clothing and accessories depends on why you’re holding a smaller ceremony. If you’re trying to save money, then maybe buying an expensive suit or dress isn’t realistic. But as you’ll be saving money by inviting fewer guests and not hiring an expensive venue, you could always spend a little of those savings on your suit or dress for the day.
There again, wedding dresses and suits don’t have to be expensive to be special. Plenty of high street wedding boutiques carry dresses and suits designed for brides and grooms on a budget. You could even try to find a suit or dress second hand and even charity shops sometimes stock name-brand gowns.
You’ll also have free rein over the dress code for your guests, if you’re inviting any. Feel free to specify black-tie, smart-casual, or any other theme of your choosing.
Pick Your Witnesses Carefully (Strangers vs. Loved Ones)
This is one of the key choices you’re going to have to make if you want a small registry office wedding. While it’s far less formal, a registry office ceremony is still a legal one, which means you’ll need witnesses to sign your certificate for you.
You’re free to have perfect strangers sign as witnesses for you if you like. The problem with doing this is that you may feel that your ceremony is less intimate.
If you’d like just two witnesses, choose someone special to you. For example, you may choose the father of the groom and the father of the bride. Picking your parents helps make a basic ceremony more meaningful, just make sure they’re free on the day!
Of course, you may be able to invite more than just two witnesses. Some registry offices have larger rooms that can accommodate ten, twenty, or even more guests. Sharing your day with loved ones will make any small wedding feel special.
Involve your Friends and Family in the Wedding Party
Though you’ve opted out of a traditional large wedding, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a wedding party. By inviting some your friends and family to be bridesmaids or groomsmen, you can make the day feel special.
Many registry offices have larger rooms, and some even have an aisle to walk down. Visit your local registry office before the big day to get an idea of what you’re working with. Find out how many guests you’re allowed to invite, and where they’d sit or stand for your ceremony.
You may elect to have one or two bridesmaids and a best man. You can coordinate their outfits and accessories, such as bouquets, if you like.
Younger members of your family can still act as flower girls and ring bearers, if you so choose. Be aware that most registry offices won’t allow petals or confetti to be sprinkled indoors but don't mind you using them outside.
Change Your Script & Write Your Own Vows
Registry office weddings include an exchange of vows just like any other kind of wedding. This will usually take place just before the rings are exchanged.
The registrar running your ceremony will have a script that they’ll read from. In some cases, they won’t mind if you make changes to that script, although you’ll have to ask first.
Some registry offices already have pre made scripts for you to choose from (e.g. romantic, traditional, unconventional and so on). All scripts will include the legal prescribed vows that you’ll have to declare that you’re legally free to marry, for example. But there’s nothing stopping you from adding to these.
Many brides and grooms choose to write their own vows or have readings (such as poems) during their registry office ceremony. You can make them as personal and as sentimental as you’d like.Talk to the registrar to see what options are available to you. They’ll give you an idea of how long your vows should be, and how many readings you can have.
Registry Office Wedding Music
Again, like in a regular wedding ceremony, a registry office ceremony can be made more special with music. You can play music of your choice as you walk up the aisle or sign the register, for example. This can help you set a theme without breaking the bank: if you want a romantic wedding, for example, then you can’t go wrong with certain classical pieces. But for a more personal ceremony, you could pick the song that best defines you as a couple (whatever that might be).
Most registry offices have a set list of music for you to choose from, which is usually heavy on classical tunes; but others let you pick your own music. What you can pick depends on copyright and the license that the registry office holds for the playing of music, so be sure to double check before picking something out (or your hopes might be dashed).
Some venues will ask for you to make a physical CD for them to play. Others will have the ability to play music from your iPod or smartphone. Make sure you find out what to do well in advance.
Bring Your Own Room Decorations
Depending on your local registry office, you may be able to bring some decorations along with you on the day. Though you’re more limited than you would be with a traditional wedding, you can still add some personal touches to make your day feel special.
Some registry offices will allow you to bring flowers or balloons, for example, to place around the room. You probably won’t be allowed to hang anything on the wall, or use confetti or anything hard to clean up. Contact your registry office to ask what decorations they will and won’t allow.
Bear in mind that you’ll have a limited time to set things up before the ceremony. You’ll also be expected to take everything away with you after the ceremony is over. But you can still add a few personal touches to make your day sparkle.
Pick the Perfect Venue for Your Reception
If you don’t want a big ceremony, but you do still want a big reception, this can go some way to making your wedding more special. As you aren’t spending lots of money on your ceremony, you can afford to loosen the purse-strings a little when picking somewhere to hold your reception.
Your reception is when you get to relax and enjoy time with family and friends, so in some ways, it’s even more important than the ceremony! Generally speaking, the more expensive the venue the nicer a time you’ll have. So take a look at your budget and how much you’ll have available by saving money on your ceremony to figure out what you can afford.