In the past there were two main ways to get married – a religious service at a place of worship or a civil ceremony conducted by a registrar. But now of course there’s a third, rather fabulous alternative, which couples are seeking out for a more personal expression of their relationship and their values – the celebrant led wedding ceremony.
I plan lots of fusion weddings and celebrant led ceremonies are perfect for honouring a blend of beliefs and cultures, but despite the rising popularity of celebrant ceremonies (more than 14,000 were conducted in 2021), there’s still some confusion over what’s involved and how celebrants differ from registrars. I asked Anne O’Brien from Bluebell Ceremonies to help explain everything you need to know about why celebrant weddings rock!
What exactly is a celebrant?
Independent celebrants are specialists in creating and delivering ceremonies which are written especially for you. This makes every ceremony just as unique as you are, which is why they’re so AMAZING! Look out for celebrants that are certified with a training body, qualified to diploma level and members of a professional association.
What’s the difference between a celebrant and a registrar?
There are lots, but the two main differences are about legality and freedom. A registrar can marry you legally, but the options for personalising your ceremony are very limited. A celebrant can’t marry you legally just yet (the law is changing though – hurray!), but can offer complete freedom over the style, content and location of your ceremony. So if you want to get married under the stars on the family farm, then be my guest!
I’m still not sure. What’s so great about a celebrant ceremony?
Your wedding ceremony is all about you, and with a celebrant, you get to say just how much you mean to each other in a way that’s beautiful and meaningful to you.
Every ceremony is unique. There are no templates or required words and couples and their guests are usually blown away by how different a celebrant ceremony feels. Often couples choose a celebrant when they can’t match the time or date they want with the registrar’s availability, but 9 times out of 10, they’re so glad they made the switch.
There are lots of fabulous ways to include your guests, from ring warming to a good old sing-along. Chat with your celebrant about which special people you’d like to involve.
There are no rules about what you can include in your ceremony. If you have a mix of backgrounds, you can blend traditions to honour different cultures and beliefs. You can write your own vows and incorporate whatever content feels right for you. Within reason, pretty much anything goes!
A celebrant led wedding can take place at any time and in any location. There's no need for a licensed venue and there’s never any rush. Most celebrants only perform one ceremony a day, so if you need to change plans at the last minute, no problem.
You’ll spend time getting to know your celebrant so that your ceremony is perfectly matched to you. Thoughtful or quirky, flamboyant or pared back - whatever your style, your ceremony will be a reflection of the things you hold dear.
Your ceremony can celebrate many things - the anniversary of the day you first met, the birth of a new baby or an overseas wedding that’s later shared with friends and family back at home.
Not everyone’s comfortable in the spotlight, but working with a celebrant means that by the time you're ready to say your vows, you'll know each other pretty well, so you can relax and truly enjoy the moment.
I’m convinced. How do I do this?
Step 1 Book your celebrant – The busiest celebrants get booked up just like any other supplier, so book yours when you book your venue. I can recommend several wonderful celebrants based near and far.
Step 2 Give notice of your intention to marry - This needs to be done at your local register office at least 29 days before Step 3. It normally costs £35 each and involves signing a legal declaration and presenting some documents, like proof of address.
Step 3 Register your marriage - This can be done before or after your celebrant ceremony at any register office and involves making two legal declarations in front of two witnesses and signing the marriage schedule. It takes about 15 minutes and costs £46.
Step 4 Work with your celebrant to create your dream ceremony - This is where the fun starts. Choose any content and any style. You can keep things traditional and classic, or take inspiration from your heritage and the things you hold dear (love knots for the Welsh, oathing stones for the Scots and a world of other options …). You can include prayers or blessings if you wish, involve your children if you have them, celebrate with a Mexican wave … whatever feels right for you.
Celebrant ceremonies are full of warmth and personality and are completely unique to you. They don’t need to be the boring bit before the celebration gets started, they can and should be the heart and soul of your day. Get in touch to find out more about how we can create a really beautiful ceremony together.
Anne O’Brien, Celebrant, Bluebell Ceremonies
07788 757 822