Clearing up the Confusion

Dec 18, 2023

One of the hardest battles that confront me is persuading couples to use my services! Not that I am not a good celebrant (I believe most would say I’m a very good one!). But the real reason is that, if they’re not having a church wedding, they assume that they can only have a register office ceremony. And that surely means that any civil celebrant ceremony is redundant. There’s no point to it. It’s an expensive luxury.

So what are the pros and cons?

Reasons not to have a celebrant-led ceremony

You may want minimal fuss. You don’t like being in the limelight. You want the ceremony over with as quickly as possible. Oe you really can’t afford a “luxury”.

Then it makes sense to stop at the registrar-led service.

What is the Register Office ceremony like?

The registrars have limited freedom, and can therefore vary their services only slightly. All these have to include certain legal words. Of course, registrars are not allowed even to mention God or anything religious.

Most services last a dozen minutes (plus the signing) and are not particularly inspiring. The couple has minimal input into the content. Also, many registrars are not fully trained in public speaking and may not present particularly well.

What can the Celebrant do better?

First and foremost, the civil celebrant offers a personal service. They will work with you to ensure your dreams are realised, wherever possible. They will create a ceremony unique to you. It will reflect your personalities and beliefs and be everything you want it to be.

So your ceremony may have some religious content (but doesn’t have to). It may include some ritual (eg a handfasting). Readings may be chosen by the couple, as may readers. Individual stories may be recounted, vows written, rings blessed. The tone can be serious, light-hearted or a combination.

The celebrant will have been trained to write excellently and to present effectively.

It may even be that the much-delayed proposed Law Commission proposals for marriage reform goes through. In that case, we hope that (trained) celebrant ceremonies will be considered legal. This would mean that there would be no obligation to attend a Register Office service.

So I hope it is now clear that, although a celebrant-led service is an “add-on” to the Register Office one, it is something different and well worth considering.

Photo: Jamie Dodd