Celebrant or Registrar? Wedding Ceremonies
Updated: Mar 3
Wedding Ceremony Planning
Congratulations! On your engagement and decision to have a wedding ceremony to celebrate your love and commitment to each other.
“So, you are planning to marry, what are your options?”
You may have considered your preferred venue for the wedding. But were you aware of the many options available to you?
“Do you have to marry at a licensed venue and officiated by a registrar?”
Quite simply, no! You have choices, lots of them. It is your day after all.
If you have chosen a licensed venue and wish to continue with this, you can still choose between a Registrar or a Celebrant. The ceremonies they offer vary considerably.
In my experience, some licensed wedding venues may assume that you intend using a registrar, to conduct your marriage. They may be unaware of local celebrants who can offer a unique service, or it may be because the booking has come directly from the local Registry Office, or that the venue events coordinator is not aware of the celebrant’s role themselves. I suggest you ask your venue or wedding planner about the additional choices you have.
Continue reading, to discover the options you have and be totally informed to make your own decision. The most important part of your day, the ceremony, should focus on your relationship, your journey, your love, your commitment and your promises to each other.
You may well be wondering: 'what is a wedding Celebrant?' Traditionally there is a set style and order to a wedding ceremony, being officiated by a Priest, Rabbi (or another religious leader) or a Civil Registrar. When my husband and I got married, many years ago, we were unaware of the role and options a Celebrant could offer. We would have explored and embraced the options, flexibility and personalised nature of a Celebrant led ceremony, for our own wedding. It is important to note that not everyone wishes to follow the traditional path for their wedding day.
You have so many choices when planning your wedding, from the catering, to the flowers, to the colour scheme to the stationary. It is important that you also consider the choices available and plan who will officiate your ceremony. The actual ceremony is such an important part of your special day. Some may dream and plan for a wedding, unique to others they have attended, one that truly reflects the couple’s relationship, journey and union. You may wish to have a 'fusion' ceremony with some traditional elements coupled with modern or bespoke elements too. A Celebrant led ceremony can offer you all these choices and flexibility to make the ceremony totally unique to you.
The choices continues, as there are several different types of Celebrants including independent, civil or Humanist. What is important, is that you connect with your officiant and have confidence that they will work with you, understanding your ideas and provide the best wedding ceremony for you.
So, before you make your final decision, why not discover what a wedding Celebrant is, and what they can offer you, on your most important day?
“What is the difference between a Registrar and a Celebrant?”
A Registrar is employed by the local authority to administer the registrations of births, marriages and death. They are authorised to conduct legally binding marriage ceremonies.
A Celebrant is a self-employed professional who will work directly with the couple to write a totally bespoke wedding ceremony, just for you. This is a non-legally binding celebration ceremony but offers so many more personalised options for your wedding ceremony. The beauty of a Celebrant led wedding ceremony is that by separating the legal registration of marriage from your wedding ceremony you are able have a totally personalised, handwritten scripted ceremony, one that no one else will have. Celebrants pride themselves on their passion, connection with the couple and the honour of creating a ceremony which the couple truly deserve, one centered on them, rather than having a set format and wording. Gone are the days when ‘one style fits all’. Couples deserve a totally unique ceremony, different from any of those gone before or after. You can have a totally one of a kind wedding ceremony!
“What about the ‘legal’ part if you have a Celebrant led ceremony?”
You complete the legal requirements, in a “no frills” ceremony at your local Registry Office. This costs approximately £50. This should be arranged and completed during the week prior to your 'big day' as part of your preparations, allowing you to leave the exchange of personal vows and rings at your 'real' wedding ceremony. Your wedding will still be valid and legal if you have a marriage license and a signed marriage certificate.
“How does a Registrar-led ceremony differ to a Celebrant-led ceremony?”
“Where can you have your wedding ceremony?”
According to current Welsh and English law, a Registrar-led ceremony must take place either at a licensed venue space or at a local Registry Office. The licensed space has to conform the legalities: “You need to identify a specific room or rooms where weddings or civil partnerships will take place. This must be part of the building - not in the open air or under a marquee.” https://www.gov.uk/approval-of-premises-for-civil-marriage-or-civil-partnership
A Celebrant led wedding ceremony can take place anywhere (not the moon just yet!).of you may wish to have an outdoor wedding ceremony, on a beach, in a garden, by a lake, on a golf course, in a sports stadium, in a forest, under a Tipi or in a marquee. You would need a Celebrant to conduct these ceremonies, due to their locations, as they would not hold a license. Your preferred venue may be a ‘ special place’ to you where you would prefer to your ceremony, but it happens to be restricted by not being a licensed venue. A Celebrant-led ceremony will enable this ‘restriction’ to be lifted. https://www.outdoorceremonies.co.uk/
“When can you have your wedding ceremony?”
A Civil Registrar may be constrained by timings, on the day, due to multiple ceremony commitments on your preferred date. A Celebrant can meet with you before the ceremony, be in contact throughout the process and be able to run a rehearsal, should you so wish, to calm any nerves or to answer any questions. A Celebrant can afford you to take your time and not be rushed as you will be their only client on the day and so will have their full attention. You may have a specific time slot you wish to have your ceremony. So, for example, a recent client was unable to ‘book’ a Registrar for their preferred time of ‘noon’, instead offering 3:00 pm. This meant they would have lost three hours of their planned wedding day. A Celebrant can offer any time of the day, including a sunrise or sunset ceremony.
“What can you say in your wedding ceremony?”
A Registrar follows the legal wording of their civil wedding script. As a civil ceremony there aren't any religious references or any spiritual elements. A Celebrant-led ceremony is totally handwritten and tailored just for you, from start to finish. You can include your own stories, readings, poems, music. You may wish to keep it non-religious, have a Humanist ceremony or add in your own spiritual or religious elements. You may wish to write and say your own vows or promises as a true reflection of your relationship. A Celebrant can help you with the writing of these, if you so wish. You could add symbolism or rituals, such as a beautiful hand fasting, unity candle lighting or sand ceremony. Cultural elements are respected and included too, such as a Chinese tea ceremony. Celebrants can provide many suggestions and ideas of how to enhance your ceremony. A Celebrant script is totally flexible and enables the wording to totally reflect you, on your special day.
“Who can you involve in your wedding ceremony?”
A Registrar will require you to have two witnesses to sign the marriage certificate. A Celebrant ceremony will allow you to involve as many guests as you wish to, sometimes all the guests can take part in a ‘warming of the ring’s’ ritual or other fun ways such as a 'heartbeat' ceremony. You may wish to involve guests of a four-legged variety, perhaps as a flower pup or a ring bearer, after all, those precious pups are such an important part of the family too!
"What if I wish to change the entrance to our ceremony?"
You may wish to arrive and enter as a couple together, have the 'bride' waiting for the 'groom', you may wish to have someone with you as you enter or enter independently. Once again, the choice is yours.
“What if you wish to sign a certificate in front of your guests?”
A Registrar will conduct a legally binding signing of the marriage certificate. A Celebrant can also produce a 'wedding certificate' to be signed by the couple and witnesses if you wish. The official legal marriage certificate, previously signed at the Registry Office, can be shown during the ceremony or a personalised additional certificate can also be signed. You decide!
“Will a Celebrant Wedding Ceremony feel less real?”
Society is changing, views and values are changing. Milestones are still important and are still celebrated. There is simply more choice, ideas and opportunities for ceremonies today.
Celebrant-led ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular, including naming, civil-partnerships, vow renewals and funeral ceremonies. Often, once someone has experienced a Celebrant-led ceremony, they are impressed with the personalised essence, tone and content of the ceremony. They become ‘converted’ or ‘aware’ of Celebrant led ceremonies for the first time and are 'open' to experiencing or having Celebrant-led ceremonies.
For many, the opportunity to marry where you want, when you want, how you want, saying what you want and involving who you want, is their dream ceremony. That dream is now a reality. Other countries have conducted Celebrant-led ceremonies for years and it has become the norm e.g. Australia, Scotland and New Zealand. The opportunities and freedoms are now being embraced and are offered in Wales and England too.
The legal “marriage” part, conducted by a Registrar, involves the formal process of signing a register and verbally confirming your commitment in front of two witnesses in a Registry Office. The wedding ceremony itself, with all your guests, is the magical part. One that lasts, in the smiles and memories of those present, for years to come.
“Can we have a themed wedding ceremony?”
Celebrants will accommodate and embrace any ideas/themes you may have. From whimsical, eco, vegan, historical, sport, film to character themes. Do you want a themed wedding with costumes? Celebrants may have to research your theme, but they will wholly take it on board, from costumes to music to wording: “May the force be with you!”
The only constraint is your own imagination and vision. Unless it involves a Celebrant climbing, sky diving or abseiling. This would take some practice first!
“So, registrar or celebrant led ceremony?”
It is your ceremony, so decide which is best for you!
DMG Ceremonies' motto:
“Your Day, Your Ceremony, Your Way”
Donna Marie Graves