What is a Wedding Celebrant?

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.

Celebrant led wedding ceremony

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.

Sand ceremony at a humanist celebrant led wedding

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.

Celebrant wedding ceremony at Hazel Gap Barn

Nowadays with the cost of living crisis, a lot of couples are adapting their plans. Gone are the days of huge guest lists just to keep the family happy. A lot of couples now are having smaller, more intimate weddings. Hiring a celebrant means more flexibility and choice of locations for their special day.

carriage hall wedding photo

Frequently Asked Questions

Will friends and family realise it’s not a legal ceremony?


In my experience most of your guests won’t care even if they realise. Ultimately what you are doing is making a life long commitment to your partner. It will be the words you say, the vows you declare that your friends and family will be celebrating.

Whether this is a legally recognised ceremony is rarely on their minds. I’d go as far to say many won’t even realise the difference! They will be too caught up in the moment


Can I use a friend/family member as a Celebrant?

Yes, there are no formal qualifications or training required. However I would carefully consider if this person is the right choice. It is a lot of pressure and not something they will usually have experience of. And they may be too polite to say no.

Hiring an experienced celebrant would give you a professional service and a smooth ceremony.

Can we still exchange vows?


Yes, absolutely! In fact you will have far more freedom to say what you want over a civil or religious ceremony.

Can we still have a first kiss?


Yes, absolutely. Snog away!

How much will a celebrant cost?


Like most things for a wedding. Prices will vary depending on many factors. It is recommended you get a quote from a few and arrange a meeting to meet them. Since a celebrant plays such an important role on your wedding day. You should make sure they are able to deliver the sort of wedding you have planned.

Check out their experience. Ask if they have any videos of previous weddings they have led so you can see their work first hand.

It is such a personal service that price should not be the only factor you consider.

Where can I find a celebrant?


There are many talented Celebrants across the UK. However, a good place to start would be The Celebrant Directory.

The Village Celebrant

Lisa Wilson


Many people will have never been to a celebrant led wedding. However, as a wedding photographer I have had the pleasure of working with many talented celebrants.

Whilst I might be in danger of generalising. In my personal experience, celebrant weddings tend to be more fun, relaxed and personal!

Perhaps because you are not constrained as much by rules? You’re also not as constrained by time. Celebrants can take the time needed to build a picture. Tell your friends and family the story of how you met and fell in love. Your hopes and dreams for the future.

Also, I’ve found celebrants are much more relaxed of the needs of your photographer/videographer. Whereas I’ve found registrars and vicars tend to be stricter. Often there are a lot of photography restrictions in churches. To the point where sometimes, the quality of your photos and video will be compromised.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped you to better understand the role of a celebrant and help you decide if they are the right person for your wedding day.

Most people never consider a celebrant because understandably they want to legally get married. So having a church/civil ceremony kills two birds with one stone.

However, in the near future. After the pandemic restrictions ease. I believe that celebrants will be very much in demand as couples look for a professional to lead their big wedding. The one they couldn’t have in 2020.

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