Planning Your Civil Partnership Ceremony

By Nicola Hill

Once you have recovered from the euphoria of the proposal to hold a civil partnership ceremony, you need start preparing for the big day. There is a lot more to it than you think but if you make a month-by-month countdown plan it won’t seem quite so stressful.Of course, you can call on the help of a wedding planner who will orchestrate the event for you. Some will work within your budget and others charge a fortune. Services include finding a venue and sourcing suppliers such as photographers, florists and cars. They will often take the strain on the actual day by liaising with suppliers, guests and the venue.

If you opt to organise the event yourself, here are some tips for what you need to think about in the build up to the big day.

Getting started

Tell your friends and family about your news, maybe put an announcement in the press and start to think about whether you want a best man or woman – it’s nice to ask them when you tell them your news.

On the financial front, you need to think about setting a budget. The average wedding last year cost £17,000. You can hold a wedding for a few thousand or really push the boat out but you need to decide how much you want to spend early on. It is a good idea to open a wedding bank account so you can start saving towards the big day.

Once you start shelling out money, you should consider taking out wedding insurance. This will cover a wide range of eventualities. The top five claims are wedding attire damaged, having to re-take the wedding photos, cancellation of the wedding due to an illness or bereavement, caterers not turning up and loss of wedding rings.

The next important step is to decide on a date and find a venue. As some wedding venues and suppliers get booked up a year in advance you may need to be flexible on dates or start planning at least a year in advance.

You also need to book the registrar through your local council. Officially registrars only have to allow you to sign the civil partnership register and don’t have to celebrate your event. Hopefully, most will not be homophobic and will agree to conduct the ceremony at the registry office or at a licensed wedding venue. There are around 3,500 licensed wedding venues across the UK, ranging from hotels to football grounds, from castles to ships.

When you visit the venue, discuss all the options such as having outside caterers, menus on offer, vegetarian or special diets, any extras such as hire of cake stand and knife, equipment for DJs etc. Some venues will have lists of preferred suppliers. You also need to find out policies on cancellation and minimum numbers.

At least six months in advance you should book your transport, photographer, videographer, florist, musicians, entertainers, toastmasters and order stationery. You need to check that any suppliers have the necessary public liability insurance.

Make sure you arm yourself with a list of questions before you discuss your arrangements, for example, do you want a theme or a particular colour scheme. This could follow through from your invitations to your flowers, to your attire and table decorations.

At least four months before the big day, you should start any fitness regime, if you are concerned about fitting into your outfits or you just want to look radiant on the day. You also need to purchase wedding rings, order your wedding cake, choose a gift list company, make a draft of the invitation list and organise your outfits.

You should send out invitations, including accommodation options and gift list information. Many of the big stores such as Selfridges, Debenhams and Argos have gift list services. You tell them what you would like on the list and people can ring up or sometimes search online to choose what they want to give you. You could also select a charity for people to donate to instead of gifts.

If you want to give people wedding favours – little gifts for them to take away, you should either order these or start making them. There are online stores that specialise in gay themed favours.

Two months before the big day, finalise your honeymoon arrangements, book any vaccinations you might need if you are going somewhere exotic and organise your going away outfit. You should write any personalised wedding vows and book a rehearsal with the registrar.

You need to print order of service sheets and contact local or national newspapers to announce your civil partnership ceremony.

In the final month, chase up any unanswered invitations and draw up a list and seating plan if you are having a formal sit down meal. Write out place cards. Confirm final numbers with your venue and caterers. Double check with all your suppliers that everything is booked.

Make hair appointments for the morning of your big day. Organise any pre-wedding party you might want – the equivalent of stag or hen nights.

Book your travellers cheques or foreign currency if you are going abroad for your honeymoon.
Type up a list of shots you want your photographer to take.

The day before, you might want to arrange for your honeymoon luggage to be delivered to the hotel if you are staying overnight. Have any pampering treatments you need. Make sure the rings are ready, that someone is picking up flowers for any buttonholes and have a good meal to sustain you through the next day. Try to relax!

On the day itself, enjoy yourself – you deserve it!

Nicola Hill is a director of Gay Friendly Wedding Venues, a website promoting venues and suppliers for the Big Day. She is also a journalist, having written for numerous magazines and editing publications such as The Guardian.