There are a variety of marriage options: civil, religious, common-law, and live-in. And while many people assume that religious marriage is the only alternative if you don’t want to get hitched in city hall and get tied legally with someone at the same time, there are some pretty compelling reasons why you might want to think twice about getting married in a church or another house of worship. If you’re planning on getting married anytime soon – whether it be in an auditorium, online or somewhere else entirely – here’s why you should have a civil marriage rather than a religious one.
You get to decide what your marriage will look like.
If you’re getting married in a church, you’ll likely be expected to conform to a religious ceremony, with all of its inherent traditions and rituals. Even if the ceremony is more modern and stripped-down, there will likely be some aspects of the religious ceremony that you have to conform to. You won’t have that problem with a civil marriage (mariage civil in French). You and your partner(s) can decide exactly how your marriage will be structured, from how you’ll walk down the aisle to what vows you’ll say to each other to the type of rings you’ll exchange (or whether you want rings at all).
You and your partner(s) can remain legally independent.
A major goal of many (particularly second) marriages is to keep things streamlined and avoid the pitfalls of messy divorces by keeping everything as simple and straightforward as possible. One way to do that is to remain legally independent from one another. A religious marriage may require you and your partner(s) to sign a legal document that essentially says you are now legally married to one another. A civil marriage, however, does not automatically require this – and it’s important to note that you don’t have to sign this if you don’t want to. That doesn’t mean you’re not married if you get hitched in city hall – it just means that you’re not legally married to one another.
Civil marriages are recognized by the government and have legal benefits.
If you’re in a common-law relationship and looking to get hitched, you probably want to know that your marriage is legally binding. You want to know that, should you and your partner(s) break up, you won’t have to worry about things like alimony and child support. You also want to know that if one or both of you are injured or disabled – or die – the other person will be legally entitled to your benefits. All of this is possible with a civil marriage. Whereas a religious marriage is seen primarily as a religious act, a civil marriage is seen as a legal, contractual agreement between two people – and is thus recognized by the government.
There is no religious ritual or requirement for your guests to participate in rituals.
Unless you’re getting married in a non-denominational church or a non-religious setting, a religious marriage will involve a number of rituals you might not be comfortable with, such as the exchange of vows, a ring exchange and the pouring of wine. If you’re not someone who is comfortable talking in front of a large group of people, or who doesn’t want to exchange rings in front of your friends and family, a civil marriage is a good alternative. There is no ritual to participate in, no vows to exchange and no rings to exchange at all.