Let’s be honest, the term “civil ceremony” doesn’t exactly romanticize the idea of getting married. But contrary to what we might assume, a civil wedding ceremony doesn’t actually have to be a plain, boring, personality-less courthouse exchange.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that civil ceremonies can often be more personal, more creative and more fun than a traditional one.
That’s because civil weddings aren’t limited by any tradition or religious practice. (More on that in a moment.)
As a destination wedding planner in Malta, Croatia, and France, I help coordinate a lot of civil, non-religious weddings and I can tell you first hand that they are some of the most stylish events we see!
So if you’re considering a non-religious, civil ceremony, I have 6 unique themes to spark your creativity in finding one that allows you fully express yourself and make your wedding one of a kind.
What Is a Civil Ceremony?
First, let’s establish what a civil ceremony is – and is not – in case there is any confusion. Civil wedding ceremonies are totally different from a common law marriage or a Vegas-style drive-thru ceremony.
Civil weddings are simply non-religious ceremonies.
Instead of having a religious officiant oversee the vows, it is officiated by a legal official, and sometimes even a close friend, colleague, or family member (if he or she gets properly ordained and your state recognizes the certification).
Photographer: Lukart Wedding Photography
Although civil weddings have often been held in a courtroom in the past, nowadays, they can basically be held anywhere. It’s your choice. You can have it on the beach, in a greenhouse, a private estate, a restaurant, or even just in your backyard.
So now that you know what a civil ceremony is, let’s explore 6 fun themes you can use to bring out your personal style and flair.
English Tea Party
This theme works really well when the wedding is held in a big backyard, a tent, or a garden. Usual motifs for this particular theme are pink and blue, blush and mint, yellow and gray, white and pink, and old rose and nude.
If long for a simple ceremony, but want to go lavish on decor and flowers, the English Tea Party theme is perfect for you. Even though your ceremony might be short and simple, your reception could be the complete opposite.
You can make it as sophisticated as you want. Think colorful roses, porcelain tea sets, cupcakes and macarons, pearls and lace decor, and tiffany chairs.
If you’re determined to having a civil wedding that makes a “less is more” statement, then consider a modern minimalist theme. Your motif is mostly white, just with very minimal pops of color.
Modern minimalism has mostly clean lines, no frills, less clutter and a touch of contemporary elegance.
Your attire might consist of mostly white and nude shades, with sleek fabrics (sans the lace, pearls, patterns, or prints). The venue would have fewer installations and any furniture and decor would be mostly white or black, transparent, or metallic. Your invitations contain only the most important details, without too much design.
Photographer: Pixie Dust Weddings
Elements of a modern minimalist wedding theme might include a naked wedding cake, a plain and sleek wedding dress, simple centerpiece accents with foliage, single-flower boutonnieres and bouquets, and modern calligraphy signage.
Boho / Coachella
They say that Coachella isn’t just a music festival anymore – it’s now more of a state of mind. And it seems to have made its way into the wedding scene.
If you’re a couple who’s more laid back, more adventurous and less formal, you might opt for a boho-Coachella theme. It’s also an excellent choice when you’re planning a destination wedding; particularly in the Mediterranean where there are plenty of beaches, gardens, villas and outdoor spaces to host an event.
Because this theme is more casual than any other wedding motif, the first thing you’ll want to think about is what’s comfortable – for both you and your guests. You can have your boho wedding on the beach, in your backyard, in the middle of a vast farmland – any open, natural space will do.
Flowy dresses. Crop tops. Flower Crowns. Off-shoulder tops. More flowers. Floor pillows. Teepees. Lanterns. These are just a few of a ‘chella-themed wedding soiree. More party-ish than a formal ceremony.
The barn wedding seemed to take over weddings for several years. But the rustic barn look isn’t exclusively for those getting married near stables.
So if you’re planning a civil wedding in a backyard or garden, at a private estate, or even on a ranch, the rustic barn style of wedding can pull it all together.
Photographer: Lukart Wedding Photography
What’s really fun about rustic barn themes is that they can truly show off your creativity in every detail, while still being executed affordably. Many elements can be created in do-it-yourself fashion on a budget, yet be full of personality and charm.
Your unique take on the rustic barn look doesn’t have to follow the same trends of the past. You can blend it with industrial elements or tone it down with more romantic touches.
Either way, to get the ideas flowing, take note of some staples that are typically be found in this type of wedding theme: barrels, crates, pallets, baskets, lanterns, fairy lights or market string lights, string, yarn, horseshoes, hay stacks, lace, DIY floral centerpieces, and wooden DIY installations.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
If you see yourself as an evolved blend of classic, modern, minimalistic and glamorous, then having a Breakfast at Tiffany’s theme would feel right at home for you. White, pearl, black, and teal are the ideal colors for this motif.
Imagine your venue having less than usual flowers but more lace, pearls, ribbon, black and white, and glitter. Venues with chic crystal chandeliers and rich, opulent details are best.
You’ll look stunning and sophisticated in a sleek white dress or even a jumpsuit with a hat and birdcage veil, while your bridesmaids or witnesses (as they may call it for civil weddings) may all sport little black dresses. As for the men, you may let them wear uniform black sunglasses or suspenders.
If you’re up for the feel and coziness of a rustic barn wedding but think using wooden pallets, barrels, and boxes are too cliche, then an industrial-themed civil wedding may be perfect for you.
This theme is perfect for a simple restaurant, loft, warehouse, rooftop bar, or art gallery as the venue. Consider spaces with historic charm, like exposed brick and original hardwood floors to warm up the space in contrast to some of the more masculine details that come with this style.
Industrial themes typically combine bold, metallic, and modern city elements with a bit of that personal, rustic charm. Hence, metals, brick, glass, steel, iron railings, wire, cages, and concrete are some of the key characteristics of this theme.
Neutral colors like silver, bronze, copper, pearl white, gold, black, nude, gray, and muted green are most common for industrial themes, but a pop of bold color can bring a contemporary edge too.
To soften the hard look, couples can go with elegant, minimal attire. Or, for a more edgy couple, you could incorporate leather or denim into your outfit.
So if you’re not really a religious couple, don’t shy away from a civil ceremony because you’re concerned it will be lifeless. By getting a little theme inspiration and then infusing your wedding vision with your own personality, ideas and style, you can make your civil wedding as colorful and charming as you wish.