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Why have a Celebrant Led Couples Ceremony if they are not 'legal'?

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

Why have a Celebrant Led Couples Ceremony if they are not 'legal'?

In England and Wales, Celebrants do not (yet!) conduct the legal 'marriage' part. They do in Scotland and many other countries such as New Zealand and Australia, where it is the 'norm'. Instead, the legal registration of 'marriage' is conducted by a Civil Registrar or a Christian priest, vicar, minister or other members of the clergy.

Why do people have to attend the Registry Office?

In England and Wales people are used to visiting the Civil Registrars office to legally announce and register certain rites of passage.

When a birth is legally announced, the baby's arrival date and legal name is 'registered' at the local Registrar's office. A birth certificate is filled out and signed as part of the legal paperwork. Parent(s), guardian(s) do hold hold their celebration ceremony, for the child's birth, at the registry office, instead they plan a joyous ceremony and celebration at their religious place of worship (Christening or Dedication) or at a place of their choosing for a naming ceremony. The legal part is kept distinct from the ceremony and the celebration with family and friends.

Also, when someone, unfortunately, passes away their death is also registered with the Registrar and the legal paper work is issued, namely a 'death certificate'. The 'Celebration of Life ceremony' or 'funeral' service is then arranged afterwards, with a personalised eulogy, music and readings. The legalities are once again kept separate from the ceremony, customs and rituals.

Registrar for the legal 'marriage' part and the marriage certificate?

'Marriage' is the legal requirement. There has to be a legal announcement, exchange of some words and paperwork for a 'marriage' to be recognised in England and Wales. This process can be completed at the local registry office with the Registrar, in a similar manner and way to legally recognise someones birth and death. Think of the 'marriage' in the same way, the same legal process. This allows you to have a separate 'wedding' ceremony (just as the naming and funeral ceremonies are kept distinct from the legal signing) uniquely designed and shared with their family and friends.

So what happens with the 'legal' part?

They complete the legal requirements, in a “no frills”process at their local registry office. This costs approximately £50. Ideally, this should be arranged and completed prior to their 'wedding day' as part of their preparations. Although in the current climate, some clients are deciding to have a 'micro' wedding ceremony and celebration, online or with social distancing (hopefully soon!) prior to conducting the legal marriage signing. Many are finding it difficult to 'book' a Registrar with all the 2020 dates being postponed or re-scheduled. So they are deciding to go ahead with the 'wedding' and leaving the 'legal marriage' until afterwards, when a Registrar becomes available.

If they are able to complete the 'marriage' signing at the Registry office prior to their 'wedding ceremony' this allows them to have their exchange of personal vows and rings at their 'real' wedding ceremony, in front of their guests and not just two witnesses required by law. Their 'marriage' will still be valid and legal when they have completed the marriage license and a signed marriage certificate.

Separate the 'Marriage' from the 'Wedding'!

'Marriage' Part:

In England and Wales, a legal 'marriage' takes place with a civil Registrar.

This ideally takes place prior to the 'wedding' or afterwards if a Registrar is unavailable (due to pandemic restrictions and 2020 postponements).

It costs approx. £50 and you must have two witnesses with you.

There is an exchange of words and the marriage certificate is completed and signed, marking the 'marriage' as 'legal'.

'Wedding' Part:

This can be a Celebrant Led ceremony, on a different day. This is the personalised ceremony celebrating their love and commitment. The hand written vows and promises are shared in front of family and friends (in persona, socially distancing or online connection!). Their vision of the 'wedding' is fulfilled.

So, in England and Wales, people are used to the legal process of birth and death with a Civil Registrar, signing the legally recognised papers in the registry office. They can follow the same process for the 'marriage' opening up a wonderful freedom to have a 'wedding' ceremony and celebration as they wish. The two can be completely separate. A Celebrant led ceremony can afford clients with so many added choices and options, otherwise restricted by a purely civil wedding ceremony. See my other blogs!

'Your Day, Your Ceremony, Your Way!'



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