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  • Writer's picturePetra Tayler

What's the difference between a celebrant and a registrar?

Whenever I think about my own wedding day, I feel really lucky that we knew about the option to have a celebrant. Our ceremony just wouldn't have been the same if we'd had a civil ceremony, and I truly believe everyone should have the choice to do their day exactly as they want to.

I know, however, that idea there's another option rather than a registrar or a church service can be eye-opening, but what's the difference? Here's a handy infographic to get you started:

Let's get into the nitty-gritty. What are the things about celebrant ceremonies that mean they get a great big thumbs up from most couples when they hear about them?

Who conducts your ceremony?

If you book a registrar for your wedding, you won't have a choice of who turns up on the day - they may well be wonderful, but you won't know that until a few minutes before the ceremony is about to begin.

With a celebrant, you do your homework and take the time to find someone you feel comfortable with. Most celebrants offer a no-obligation meet up or video consultation where you can get to know each other before you commit - that way you have the opportunity to suss a few of us out and see who you click with.

When you've decided, you'll then spend the next few months working closely with your celebrant as they get to know you and craft your ceremony. When it comes to your wedding day, the person at the end of the aisle will be a familiar, friendly face who you should be genuinely pleased to see!

Do you want a standard script or a personalised ceremony?

If you want the bog-standard ceremony with [insert name here] all over it, then by all means, go for a registrar. I don't mean that cattily, but there are strict legal limitations over what can be included in a civil ceremony which means there's very little wiggle room for personalisation. You should be able to choose your readings, but these will need to be pre-approved.

On the flip side, a celebrant-led ceremony is created from scratch. It can have as many traditional elements as you like, or none at all. An independent celebrant can incorporate your faiths and beliefs, or it can be entirely secular. There can be a sing-song, a hand-fasting, prayers, or a flash mob. Whatever speaks to your soul, a celebrant can make space for that to happen.

The script itself will also be completely personalised to tell your story - something registrars just don't have the power to do within the confines of a civil ceremony. Over the months you spend chatting with your celebrant, you'll be amazed how much they'll pick up about you both. All of this gets woven into your perfect, totally bespoke ceremony that will be one the main highlights of the wedding day.

You can marry anywhere!

Registrars are confined to perform wedding ceremonies in licensed rooms or spaces, but that's not the case with celebrants. Anywhere with the land-owner's permission is fair game for us! The ceremony space should be meaningful and spark joy, so let your imaginations run wild!

There's no time pressure

Registrars do not like it if the bride's late! They're not being grumpy, but often they have other ceremonies to complete on the same day. With a celebrant, you've got them all day, so if you need a last minute makeup touchup, don't stress. It also means we can hang out afterwards if you want us to! It's always an honour to be asked to stay for the drinks reception or to party on into the night - by this point we are definitely more like friends than supplier and customer!

Does it matter to you when you're legally married?

I've got a blog post coming about this soon, but sadly England hasn't got with the times and made celebrant-led ceremonies legally binding yet. There's change afoot, but we haven't quite got there at the time of writing this.

That means if you have a celebrant ceremony, you'll need to do the paperwork bit, ideally before your wedding day (if it's important to you to do so, of course). This can be a completely basic ceremony with just two witnesses, and some registrars will even attend on the morning of your wedding if it's important for you for both parts to be done on the same day. Most couples choose to do it a day or so before (I did this myself) and trust me when I say it in noway takes away from the magic of your celebrant-led ceremony.

When it comes to your wedding day, it's most important that you know you have choices and what the options are. If flexibility, authenticity, fun, warmth, and joy are important to you, then just know that a celebrant-led ceremony wins every time!

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