A Wedding Celebrant is a person who will lead the wedding ceremony. With a church wedding, the vicar/priest will lead a religious wedding ceremony. Whilst a registrar will only be able to lead a civil wedding ceremony. Both will be constrained by their religious or civil rules.
A celebrant on the other hand can tailor your wedding ceremony to your own personal wishes. You can mix & match different themes and have vows which may not be allowed with the other types of ceremonies.
Often these wedding ceremonies will be called ‘Humanist Ceremonies‘. These are defined as: “a non-religious celebration that is welcoming, inclusive, and personally tailored to you, focusing on your love story and things that are important to you as a couple.” – humanism.org.uk
Are celebrant wedding ceremonies legal in the UK?
In the UK, it is absolutely legal to hold a celebrant led wedding ceremony. However it is important to understand that you will not be legally recognised as married afterwards. In other words, a humanist celebrant led ceremony is not legally binding. Therefore you will still need to do the paperwork at a registry office. This can be done cheaply and with minimum fuss before or after your wedding day. Whilst you could do it on the same day, most couples choose to complete the legalities on a different day. So they can enjoy their special day with friends and family, rather than rushing around.
Why hire a wedding celebrant?
So if you are not legally married afterwards, why would you want to have a celebrant led wedding ceremony rather than one that is legally recognised? Here are three reasons why couples might hire a celebrant for their wedding instead of using a registrar or religious leader.
1. Celebrants can ‘marry’ you in different places
In England, you can only get married in buildings or churches that have been licensed. So if you have always dreamed of tying the knot somewhere without a license. Or outdoors without a licensed structure around then you will need to hire a celebrant. In short, you would not be limited to using a church or a licensed venue.
2. You want an untraditional wedding
A celebrant might be the best choice for you if you want a themed wedding ceremony or something unusual. Or simply you want complete freedom without having to follow rules. For example, you can completely customise your vows to each other without needing to say the legal declaration.
At Sarah & Adrian’s wedding, they included a traditional sand ceremony into their wedding ceremony. This is a tradition where a couple pours sand from separate bottles into a new bottle. It symbolises two people coming together in marriage. This is the sort of extras you can easily add into your wedding day that cannot be done at a civil ceremony or at church.
3. Renewing vows or if you’re already married
If you got married somewhere else (eg. You had a destination wedding) then you could hire a celebrant to lead a wedding celebration for friends and family in the UK.
For example. Here is a photo from one of my previous weddings. Heidi and Sam grew up in Nottingham but now both live in New Zealand. So on their last visit to the UK, they decided to hold a wedding celebration at Hazel Gap Barn so their friends and family in the UK could celebrate with them.
Nowadays with the pandemic forcing many couples to change their plans. Many couples are opting to have a much smaller micro wedding. Then hiring a celebrant for a larger celebration in 2021 once restrictions are lifted. So they can celebrate in style with friends and family.