The woman who marries, every day
14 Jul 2011
The woman who marries, every day
Without registrars, more than 1000 couples couldn’t have been married in Norwich last year. Here, area manager for Norwich Sue Sayer answers some important questions about the big day.
Register office weddings have risen in popularity over the last decade. Why do you think this is?
The service offered is very different to how it was twenty years ago. Couples had very limited choices in terms of how they wanted the ceremony to be. It was literally a five minute job and many people considered it to be not as special compared with the longer service they could have in a church.
This stigma has disappeared because we can offer a lot more flexibility, enabling couples to make it more like a traditional wedding, including your choice of non-religious music at three different points during the ceremony.
You can also involve your guests by having someone give the bride away, choosing bridesmaids, asking a friend or relative to perform a reading, or asking a child or sibling to help with the exchange of rings.
The couple also have a choice of ring words and vows, or of course they can create their own, which is always nice because it’s a personal message between the couple.
Modern register office weddings couldn’t be more different from the quick and clinical affairs they used to be.
What’s the difference between getting married in a register office and at a registered venue?
Both ceremonies are performed by a Norwich registrar so couples need to book the date and time with us as early as possible to ensure a registrar is available.
The basic elements of the ceremony are exactly the same but there is more flexibility at registered venues.
Instead of just one reading they can have up to four, which makes the ceremony longer and stops the guests from getting bored of simply listening to the registrar. Live music is also allowed at venues, so if you’ve got friends or family with musical talent they can play as the bridal party enters and at other points in the ceremony.
It’s personal choice which option you choose and both have their merits. If you want a very small, informal affair then a register office is ideal, and if you want a bigger wedding then venues can offer more scope.
What’s the most common question you get asked when couples come to see you?
They normally ask how long the ceremony takes early on in the discussions. I think that’s because most people are nervous about having to stand up in front of people and talk. Sometimes they just want to say what they have to and that’s it, and if that’s the case we try to suggest that they bring in other people to do readings to stop the ceremony being over too quickly.
Who gets more nervous, the bride or the groom?
I would say the bride during the planning but on the day the men take over. I think it’s because women have daydreamed about the moment they get married for months, while men are taken a bit by surprise that they are the centre of attention, especially if the bride is late.
Do you perform many civil partnerships?
Everyone thought that we’d get loads when they were introduced, but it was a gradual build up and now we get a steady stream of around one a week.
The ceremony is basically the same as a civil marriage, the only difference is that a bride and groom are legally married when the bride has said the contracting words, while a civil partnership is legal upon the signing of the official document.
Have you been to many themed weddings?
We do get a few, but I think you really have to know your guests well and trust that they will go along with it, otherwise it will look very odd with half of them dressed up and the other half in normal wedding outfits.
Black and white or western are popular themes. We he had rock gods and chicks the other day, which was really good fun. The children dressed up as fairies with wings and everything.
What’s your favourite part of the ceremony?
The exchange of the rings is lovely but I think my favourite moment is when the bride and groom first see each other. You can see their excitement at seeing each other all dressed up and looking lovely. They’re amazed at how they feel about what they’re about to do.
It’s just nice to be involved in planning and having such an important part in the biggest day of people’s lives, every week of the year. We’re here to make the couple feel special, but it’s not completely unselfish. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve helped someone’s dream wedding come true.
Sue’s top tips
Many people think getting married at a register office is quick and easy. In reality the allocated time slots get booked up well in advance, especially during the summer months, so book early.
Make sure the venue knows exactly how you would like the ceremony to work. They are there to make your day as perfect as possible so don’t be afraid to tell them what you want.
Don’t over-manage the ceremony. If you get caught up in organising every detail to the minute you will only be disappointed if it’s not perfect.
It’s ok for the bride to be a couple of minutes late but don’t leave the groom sweating for too long.
Don’t celebrate too much the night before. There’s nothing worse than having a hangover on your wedding day.
Don’t have too many attendants around the bride just before the ceremony. The registrar will need to speak to her and it’s the last opportunity to take a deep breath before the ceremony.
Most importantly, relax and enjoy your special day.