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What’s the difference between a Celebrant and a Registrar?

Updated: Aug 23

Both a celebrant and a registrar want you to enjoy your ceremony, but the service they offer varies. A registrar can legally marry you and is employed by a local authority. The format and content of the ceremony is restricted by legislation and no religious or spiritual content may be included. Registrars will often carry out a number of ceremonies each day so they will insist on keeping to the designated time (and sometimes may struggle to accommodate your chosen time and date). On the day, a few minutes before the ceremony, the registrar will arrange to meet you both separately for a pre-ceremony interview, this will be the first time you have ever met them. Any readings and music must be approved prior to the ceremony. You won’t know which registrar you are getting until the day itself and you won’t meet the registrar prior to the day of your ceremony.

A celebrant is self-employed and will take time to get to know you both and work with you to craft a beautiful, bespoke, ceremony that reflects your ideas, values and personalities, and you have total flexibility over content and format. Your celebrant will help create a ceremony that is personal to you and that can contain a whole host of things which you can’t do with registrars to personalise it. A celebrant will tell your story and really bring the ceremony to life. There are endless ways you can personalise a ceremony and your celebrant will be able to help make some suggestions. I have loads of resources for my couples too from reading suggestions to symbolic additions to help with writing vows. I’ll even read the readings for you if you don’t have someone you want to nominate to do it. You’ll be in regular contact with your celebrant in the build up to the big day, so not only will you know them, they’ll know exactly what you want which will help with any nerves on the big day.


I am always there in advance of the ceremony to chat to members of the wedding party and make sure if they have a role in the ceremony they know what they are doing on the day.


You can read about some ways to personalise your Celebrant ceremony on this link


Will our guests know our ceremony is not legally binding?


In the simplest terms think about your birthday - that's the day that everyone gets together and has a party every year - no-one celebrates the day your parents went and registered the birth (I would be surprised if you actually knew when that day was).

It is up to you what you tell your guests. A celebrant ceremony is a real and very beautiful wedding ceremony, where couples declare their love and commitment to each other in front of their family and friends. Many couples choose to not tell their guests that it is not a legal ceremony and their guests are none the wiser, in fact regularly guests say after the ceremony that it was much more personalised and beautiful than other weddings they’ve been to!


How do we complete the legal part of getting married? There are a couple of options available to you when contracting your marriage.


Option 1 - Complete the legal aspect at the Register Office prior to your wedding ceremony Many couples book a simple ceremony at their local Register Office in the week prior to their wedding ceremony, they take two witnesses with them and complete the legal requirements of their marriage, saving the vows and exchanging of rings for their celebrant ceremony. It’s a bit like going to register a birth or death, very quick and formal. This costs approximately £60 and is usually available on a specific morning each week so it is advisable to book well in advance to secure your slot. Before you do this you will also need to give notice. This is where you sign a legal statement at your local register office to say you intend to get married or form a civil partnership. You must hold your ceremony within 12 months of ‘giving notice’. You need to give notice even if you are being married by a registrar at a venue and not using a celebrant.

Option 2 - Complete the legal aspect with a Registrar followed by your Celebrant ceremony at your chosen venue Some couples choose a registrar to marry them at their venue followed by a Celebrant-led wedding, but it is more costly. The Registrar attends the venue and completes the legal paperwork just you and 2 witnesses followed by their beautiful Celebrant wedding ceremony in front of family and friends.


Whatever your decision, take your time choosing the option that is right for you as a couple. We all want the same thing; for you to have a wonderful day.


For more information about completing the legal aspects click here

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