Civil Ceremony Music

Hi everbody, this weeks blog looks at the music you can, or, more importantly, can not play during your your civil ceremony.  Your choice of music is a personal choice  and you will have, I’m sure a favourite song or piece of music that instantly springs to mind.  It is the most personal part of the ceremony (besides the vows) but be warned, choosing your music can be a bit of a minefield!

According to UK law any reading, music, words or performance which forms part of a ceremony of marriage celebrated on the licensed premises must be secular in nature.  In other words there can be no religious connections.  So, if you were thing about Bach’s Wedding Cantata or Schubert’s Ave Maria its almost certanily a no!

It is up to registrars and local authorities to determine that the music played during your civil ceremony, from the arrival to the departure of the newly married couple, whether sung or instrumental, or performed live or on CD, must observe this guidance.  They are, in my experience, human and they want you and your guests to have a good time.  A few years ago Robbie Williams song ‘Angels’ and Shania Twains song ‘From this Moment’ were a no, however laws have relaxed a little so it is important to check.

The normal spots for music are as follows:

  • Music to encourage your guests to take their seats
  • The bride’s entrance
  • The signing of the register
  • The married couple and guests leave the ceremony



The registrar’s interpretation

The definition of ‘religious’ is left to the registrar or senior registrar. Most local authorities require details of the music for the ceremony to be given to them in advance, often at the first planning meeting; and from then on it cannot be changed without permission.

The interpretation of ‘religious’ varies greatly from authority to authority. Most registrars are happy for anything to be performed or played, provided it is not directly religious in nature or if it is instrumental rather than sung.

Consider your music carefully, and if in doubt, always phone your registrar to check. Or contact the General Registry Office on 0300 123 1837 for advice – though the decision is always left to the registrar on the day. Remember this aspect of law applies just to the contents of the ceremony, so you can select anything you like for the prelude (as your guests take their seats).

Thank you for reading this blog. I hope that it helps you with your music choices. If you have suggestions, feedback, or want to share your favourite wedding song please do drop me a line at

See you next week for more wedding planning tips.

Abbey Signature