What’s the difference between a ceremony by a Registrar, a Vicar and a Celebrant?
Congratulations! If you have just said yes to a proposal (or indeed if you have just been accepted) then you must be feeling over the moon. That’s a feeling that you want to hold onto as long as possible. But sometimes the planning process can seem overwhelming and drain the fun and enjoyment out of this wonderful experience.
Before you do anything else take a moment to breath, think and have a conversation with your partner about what is the most important part of your very special day. It can be easy to be swept along with the excitement of seeing venues and trying on dresses but before any of that have a chat about what kind of ceremony you want. After all the ceremony, the commitments you are making to each other is at the heart of your wedding day, and forms the basis for your married life, so its worth knowing the options before you start.
There are basically three types of wedding ceremony available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at the moment. If you share a religious faith do you want to have a traditional religious ceremony? This might be led by a Vicar or Priest in a Church or another religious leader in a registered space. There are a whole host of rules around this so your best bet would be to speak to your religious leader for guidance. These ceremonies will tend to follow a set format, with a focus on that faith’s view of marriage and your commitment as a couple to use your faith as a foundation of your marriage. There may be some room for personalising the day but you need to check it out as each place will have different rules. Some couples don’t have an active faith but like a particular religious building for a variety of reasons. In this case it’s up to the religious leader to say yes or no to their request, but they will be governed by the rules of that venue.
Currently more couples seem to use a registrar to conduct their marriage ceremony, either in a register office or at a licensed venue. Registrars offer a non-religious wedding ceremony which has to include set wording which is the legally binding bit. Licensed venues, which pay for the license, have to comply with a set of rules, particularly around food and drink. Most register offices will have a basic ceremony option which means that it takes place in a small room with limited numbers of people (often the couple and two witnesses though sometimes it can be up to 10 people). The ceremony will be set and so you have no option about any of the words spoken, the vows used, the music and no readings.
They then offer an enhanced option which can either be in a larger room at the Register Office or at a licensed venue (which must be a permanent structure with three walls and a ceiling). There will be three or four options for sections of the ceremony, including the vows, and you can include music and readings which have no religious connection. A registrars’ ceremony will last about 10-15 mins. You book a slot (one of up to 8 per team per day) and there is no flexibility re timing as they have other ceremonies to go to. You sign the register as a permanent record but it’s the words which are the legal section. Registrars cannot include anything alternative, Pagan, or religious and usually have to leave the venue before anything else can be done.
The final option, and one which many people don’t know about, is to work with a Celebrant who will write a unique ceremony for you, based around you, which includes your personal story. A Celebrant will normally conduct your ceremony anywhere (inside or out) and at a time which suits you. They will often only have one wedding ceremony on any given day which results in a lot more flexibility and support. Most civil celebrants are happy to include any readings, music and elements (such as handfasting, jumping the broom, Unity Candle ceremonies etc). A Celebrant’s ceremony will typically last for 25 – 35 mins (though this is flexible as well). They will work with you to create personal and meaningful vows, and support you to find the right way to say them.
A Celebrant will spend time with you to find the right elements for you – what feels right to some people won’t work for others. They will suggest ways to include guests in the ceremony if you want to, whether it’s your children, your parents or special friends. Any themes, interests and genres can be brought into the celebration and many are happy to dress in clothing fitting the theme. Most will include a parchment signing as part of the ceremony. A ceremony created by a celebrant will be entirely about you not about them!
Using a Celebrant gives you greater flexibility which can positively affect your budget as you are not restricted to licensed venues. You can do a legal ceremony at the Register Office as mentioned above for a minimal cost and then have the day of your dreams with no restrictions. The ceremony will be informal, meaningful, personal and individual, and nobody will ever realise that. it wasn’t legal!
So, it’s well worth having a chat about which route is right for you, and even having a chat with a Celebrant to see what they would bring to your day. I’m always happy to talk weddings so feel free to contact me if I can help in any way! Enjoy your journey!