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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 00:44 GMT
Civil wedding music rules relaxed
Wedding rings
Civil ceremonies were introduced in England and Wales in 1837
Robbie Williams's Angels and Aretha Frankin's Say A Little Prayer are among songs to be allowed in civil marriages after a century-old ban was overturned.

A prohibition of lyrics and poems with religious references had been in place since civil ceremonies were introduced in England and Wales in 1837.

Other favourites, such as the poem How Do I Love Thee by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, also have the green light.

Readings from sacred texts, hymns or religious chants are still barred.

Classical music with religious origins, such as Pie Jesu, Ave Maria or Zadok the Priest, may be allowed but only after discussion with the local registrar.

When civil marriages were introduced, the law was drawn up to keep the ceremony distinct from church weddings.

Today, civil marriages vastly out-number religious ceremonies. In 2003 there were 181,000 civil weddings compared to 86,000 church ceremonies.

They will allow couples to enjoy some of the well-loved readings and music barred under current rules
John Healey, Treasury

The General Register Office lifted the ban after it was backed by religious organisations, registration offices, local authorities and members of the public - who took part in a four-month consultation.

The GRO is now issuing fresh guidance and advice to local officials.

John Healey, financial secretary to the Treasury and minister responsible for the GRO, said: "These changes will help to make registration services designed for Victorian times fit for today, where two out of three marriages in England and Wales now take place in civil ceremonies.

"They will allow couples to enjoy some of the well-loved readings and music barred under current rules, and they will improve the service offered to couples by putting greater responsibility and accountability in the hands of those who deliver the service."




SEE ALSO:
Pair's wedding becomes dog's day
19 Aug 05 |  Cumbria
Robbie's Angels 'too religious'
18 Aug 05 |  Manchester


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