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What is the difference between a Celebrant and a Registrar

The role of a Celebrant is still, a bit of a mystery to couples planning their wedding. To be frank, it is easier for me to tell you what is the same about a Celebrant and a Registrar – that is the fact that we officiate your wedding – we are the one standing at the top of the aisle ready to perform your ceremony.

Other than that, there are so many differences between a Celebrant and a Registrar. First let me tell you why that is!

The Legal Stuff

If you chose not to have a religious ceremony, the only other way to legally marry (in England and Wales) is with a Registrar. This will take place either in their office (statutory marriage with you two and two witnesses), in a dedicated ceremony room at the Registry Office or within a licenced room or outdoor space of a wedding venue.

So yes, I’m afraid this means as a Celebrant I cannot perform a legal marriage. So why would anyone book a Celebrant for their wedding?

As you can probably imagine, performing something that is legal is tied up within lots of bureaucracy and therefore rules. The issue with these rules is the fact that marriage law remains largely unchanged since The Marriage Act of 1949. Apart from the addition of a bill passed in 1994 to add licenced premises and in 2013 for same sex marriages to become legal; all of the laws and wording remains as it was 7 decades ago! Yes, it is time for change, and yes this change is in consultation as I type – however I do not expect to be seeing any such changes to Marriage Law for around another 2-4 years (watch this space!)

So, let me bring you back to the reasons why you might prefer to consider booking a Celebrant for your wedding day.

What a Celebrant will perform is the Wedding Ceremony. Try to separate this terminology from that of a marriage. The Ceremony is the part where all of your special guests gather to watch you exchange your vows and rings, listen to beautiful readings, maybe even sing a song, kiss and then walk back down the aisle. None of these parts of your wedding day are anything to do with the requirements to be legally married. They are the special bits that time and tradition have added.

So, a Celebrant can and will do all of this for you, without any of the rules. Not only that – there is no “one size fits all” script. Every ceremony is written from a blank piece of paper for each and every couple. We will be in contact for, often, months before your wedding day. We will meet face to fact where I will get to know you in order to write a ceremony that is just the way you want it.

Photo Credits: Becky Harley Photography, John Woodward Photography, Brad Gommon Photography

To recap, what can a Celebrant do that a Registrar can’t?

· A Celebrant will meet you before the big day and you will build a relationship with each other. Often the registrar that turns up on the day of your wedding, will be the first time you have ever met.

· A Celebrant can perform a Ceremony anywhere – regardless of whether the venue has a licence. This means you can think outside of the box of Manor Houses, Hotel Venues and the like (not that there is anything wrong with any of these venues). If you find a beautiful barn without a license, or a spot by the lake of a venue (who’s licence does not extend to this area) or a local community hall, a woodland area, a beautiful museum or within the grounds privately owned by a friend or relative – we can perform your ceremony in any of these areas (with land owners permission of course).

· A Celebrant can perform your ceremony at a licensed venue! Don’t think that because there is a licence and the venue inform you that you need to book your Registrar yourself that this is the only way – it isn’t. Maybe you’ll even consider other areas of the venue that do not fall within the licence (staircase, larger or smaller room or that much loved outdoor space)

· A Celebrant will let you choose the time of your ceremony. I only perform 1 ceremony per day so there is no worry about what times are left available. On the downside it does mean that if you want me, you need to book me quick as dates are more limited. You can choose me knowing I am not rushing from a conveyor belt of ceremonies every Saturday. On that day, you are the only couple I am focused on!

· A Celebrant will write the ceremony just the way you want it, with content relevant to you. I will take into account your vision, whether you want full on tradition or a more relaxed feel to your day; whether you love to be centre of attention or not – we will discuss what makes you most comfortable and this is the way your day will be.

· A Celebrant can add religious aspects to your ceremony – this is a very common misconception that a Celebrant is equivalent to a Civil Ceremony (performed by a Registrar) who will not allow any religious content at all – this includes your choice of music and readings too.

· A Celebrant can even go one step further and blend two faiths into one ceremony!

· A Celebrant will add any additional rituals or symbolic actions that you might like – wine sharing, sand blending, lighting unity candles, handfasting to name a few.

· A Celebrant will offer as much advice and benefit of experience to ensure your ceremony runs smoothly. It is important for me to understand every aspect of your day as well as the suppliers too. I will speak to your photographer / videographer and venue staff ahead of the day and let them know the running order of your ceremony, any special requirements and certainly anything they need to know to ensure your ceremony is just perfect. A registrar will only have had contact with the venue regarding the rules and terms of their licence.

If you are reading this and getting excited for doing things your way – call me! I'm happy to answer any questions so that you have the basis to decide which is best for you.

Kelly Hawes

Independent Celebrant

07827 927947

Social Media: @kellyhcelebrant

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