Most people don’t really know what a civil celebrant can offer or why they should investigate using one.
A fallacy is that a celebrant is the same as a registrar. Although a proposal to change things so a celebrant’s ceremony can be legal too is going through parliament at present, the roles are still separate.
A registrar is a civil servant, who is employed by the government to ensure that all the legal bits are carried out to make each marriage valid. Their ceremony normally takes a quarter of an hour or so, and is standardised. So each couple gets more or less the same as the one before, or the next one. What’s more, the service may not contain a single religious word or even mention God.
Given that the registrar’s ceremony is mandatory, why should you bother with a celebrant ceremony too?
The fact that the celebrant is independent is worth a great deal. It means that, once you have been legally married (by the registrar), you are free to have the ceremony of your dreams in the place of your dreams.
If you want some religious items, you can do so; if you want to write your own vows, you are welcome to; if you want a mention of absent friends, not an issue; if you want to talk about how the two of you met – or what is keeping you together – then that’s great!
You can have a mix of solemnity and humour. You can have a unique ceremony, maybe including a ritual or two (such as the Loving Cup or a handfasting), and you can tailor your ceremony so that others can participate.
In short, the ceremony can reflect your personalities and beliefs, and be everything you want it to be.
But only with a celebrant.
Of course, there are many celebrants out there, and each has their own USP. So you need to speak to, if not meet, one or two (eliminating some, once you’ve looked at their websites).
Online reviews are a good starting point. Then you can see if the celebrant is likely to understand and run with your vision of the ceremony.
Your budget is not as important as feeling the person is right for you. (You can usually tinker a bit and save some money elsewhere, if the celebrant is a bit dearer than you had planned.)
As well as showing professionalism, albeit in a likeable way, the celebrant should have great presentation skills.
They should be able to create a wonderful personalised ceremony that is beautifully delivered on the day. They need to be able to work hand-in-hand with you to achieve this.
Michael would be glad to have a (non-obligation) call with you to discuss how he can help guide you to your dream ceremony.
Photo: Soody Ahmed
Who’d plan a major event at this time?
Off-putting as it may be – with regulations changing almost by the day and often ambiguous – people have not been deterred from arranging life-cycle events.
Although some have cancelled their wedding, most have been rearranging them.
The Latest Changes
You will probably have noted that weddings are now permissible again (obviously, subject to social distancing etc.). However, this good news is diluted by other realities.
Apparently, there is a serious shortage of registrars, so this is causing further delays. A number of people are therefore turning to civil celebrants so that they can at least have the service. They then book the legal ceremony at the register office whenever that is possible.
Another cause of delay is the venues. These have to consider risk assessments and may need to make major structural changes.
Assuming all is COVID-secure, here (based on the government’s guidelines this week) are some things you need to bear in mind for your wedding (in no particular order):
The conditions I’m about to mention currently seem to extend only to full religious or register office services. There is no clarity about celebrant-led ceremonies. Probably, the same rstrictions apply.
Services should be kept as short as possible.
Religions may need to adapt traditional practice (eg avoiding processions).
Numbers attending receptions should not exceed 30 people. Social distancing should be observed between different households.
There can be no food or drink during a service, unless required for solemnisation.
If rings are to be exchanged, hands should be washed before and after. Rings are to be handled by as few people as possible.
If an infant is involved, it should be held by its parent/guardian or household member.
Noise (singing, shouting, playing music etc.) should be kept to a minimum. Spoken responses likewise.
Avoid instruments that are blown into. If singing/chanting is required, only one person should do this. Recordings should be used, not communal singing.
So there is – cautious – progress!
If you’d like to discuss working with a civil celebrant, then I’d love to have a chat with you.
To many people, a wedding needs to be either fully religious or else secular (held in the register office). Well, those won’t float everybody’s boat.
Fortunately, you do have wedding choices. One is to opt for a civil celebrant .
Lots of people don’t know that civil celebrants even exist, so here are some Qs & As that should be beneficial.
Can a celebrant marry me legally?
The short answer, according to current English legislation, is no. However, there are two workable options to allow you to marry legally and also to enjoy the ceremony that you actually want.
1) you can have registrars in attendance (provided the venue has the appropriate licence); when they’ve done the legal bit, they leave and the celebrant can take over and deliver your bespoke ceremony.
2) you can marry legally (with 2 witnesses) at the Register Office the morning or day(s) before the ceremony. The celebrant can then conduct what to all intents and purposes is a full wedding or a wedding blessing ceremony (in the venue of your choice). That way, everything is covered.
What’s the difference between the Registrar’s and Celebrant’s ceremony?
The short answer is personalisation.
A registrar will follow a script. Their ceremony must contain no religious references. The time-slot is limited (there is usually a ‘conveyor-belt’ system in operation). You won’t normally have met the registrar who will be conducting your wedding.
Certain words have to be said (to make the marriage legal).
None of the above applies to a civil celebrant. The celebrant offers personal and bespoke service. You can choose what goes into – or is left out at- your ceremony. You also have freedom of choice of venue and even hour.
Would it be a humanist service?
It depends on the celebrant. A humanist, like the registrar, is not permitted to offer any religious content. I am not a humanist, but I can conduct secular services. I tailor the service absolutely according to your beliefs and wishes. I have conducted a wonderful handfasting wedding, which was a fusion of paganism and Judaism!
How are celebrants overseen?
Many celebrants belong to a body that has strict codes of ethics (I belong to the AOIC, for example). These normally ensure that standards are being adhered to, although, in my experience, celebrants are professional, competent and trustworthy.
What about fees?
These will vary between celebrants and, obviously, need to take into account travel, possibly, board and lodging, and any unusual accessories requested.
The amount of work that will go into creating and performing a ceremony will depend on the type of ceremony required, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule. Personally, I usually give clients a firm quotation after our initial chat.
My fees include plenty of contact with clients and as many revisions to the script as we need. Naturally, I conduct the service too. There are details of what is included on my website (www.vowsthatwow.co.uk) and I always send a clear summary in my Ts & Cs, once I have had the introductory chat with my clients.
What restrictions are there to the ceremony?
Beyond what I have already mentioned (especially on the legal side), as long as your requirements are within the realms of decency and reason, you can have what you want at your wedding.
- If you want to dance down the aisle or wear Superman outfits, you can!
- You can get married where you want (within reason) – that includes outdoors, of course, and could be in a hot-air balloon, say
- Your ceremony can include your choice of music, readings, rituals and participants
The idea is that I work together with you towards your big day. The ceremony should reflect your personality and be fun (where appropriate), meaningful and memorable.
That’s where a good celebrant comes in …
Please contact me for a chat.
Featured image: www.lyndseygoddard.com
Most people assume that a wedding is either a religious affair (which involves following the regular marriage service liturgy) or a register office ceremony (following a standard non-religious script). Both are standardised and scarcely, if at all, personalised.
By the way, I have nothing at all against religious weddings. That’s how my wife and I married, and it was exactly what we wanted.
Register office ceremonies may be all that certain people want, and I’m fine with that.
But what if religion isn’t really your thing? What if you’re ‘marrying out’ and your church won’t let you have a full service? What if you don’t want the formulaic ceremony of the register office, but want something bespoke?
Then, of course, the civil celebrant can offer you something special that can tick all your boxes.
But it isn’t legal, is it?
According to current legislation, every wedding needs to be legally registered (which is where a registrar comes in).
If you want a personalised ceremony, this needn’t be a problem. Just go down to the register office (at a pre-arranged time) with two witnesses, get legally married and then have the wedding ceremony that YOU want in front of your guests at a place YOU choose.
If you’re marrying in a licensed venue, you can be a little creative – why not have the registrar’s part done first (even in a different room!) before enjoying the festive part in front of all your guests, relaxed and joyous?
So what’s “personalised” about it?
By definition, no two personalised weddings will be the same! However, this is how the finished product may be arrived at.
After an initial chat of maybe an hour, the civil celebrant will have given you a few ideas, explored your wishes and learnt a bit about you and your story.
“Breaking the Glass” ritual
Depending on what you choose, you can include readings that reflect your personal beliefs (prayers, poems, prose) and control who reads and who participates. Any procession and/or recessional, music, rituals – all can be chosen by you to make a memorable and meaningful ceremony for YOU – and your guests.
Your wedding is probably the biggest, most significant day of your life, so surely it makes sense for you to be able to choose how, where and with whom you celebrate it!
Ask Michael for more information.
Photos courtesy of www.lyndseygoddard.com
What makes a wedding ceremony stand out? What makes a unique wedding?
Of course, there are many contributory factors, such as the decor or flowers, but the ceremony itself is most likely to stick in the mind of your guests.
Maybe a unique service means a full religious one. You will know what you’re getting, so your choice will have been an informed one. But your service is likely to be conventional (rather than unique) and similar to other people’s.
If you’ve decided against a religious service, you may opt for the registrars (either at the Register Office or at a licensed venue that the registrars will come out to). As a minimum, you will need this, as this service includes the essential legal wording. The ceremony will usually last 10-15 minutes, and, however nice it may be, you will be part of a conveyor belt process. Again, not really a unique experience.
A creative option
Should you want religious elements (and you can’t or won’t use your church etc. for whatever reason), you can have a bespoke ceremony in addition to the registrars’ service.
Unlike the two types mentioned above, the civil celebrant-led ceremony will be unique. You and your celebrant will work together and compile a ceremony that reflects your beliefs and personalities, and will be everything you want it to be.
Examples of what you can include that may make your ceremony personal and special are: writing your own vows or putting together your story (how you met, what attracts you to each other, etc.).
However, there are many rituals which can make the ceremony stand out. They are too many to mention, but, to name but two, there could be the Unity Candle and a handfasting.
You can have a special candle made, together with matching tapers. The two of you light the tapers and, together, light the Unity Candle. The symbolism is obvious! (Do take the wind into account, if it’s an outdoor wedding!)
Should you have teenage children, then they could light a taper too, and light the unity candle with you. (Similarly, you could do this in a sand ceremony.)
A handfasting is a symbolic binding of the four wrists. It can be over with in a minute or two or, in a pagan wedding, be part of a much longer ritual.
You choose a cord or ribbon of whatever colour(s) you want, but make sure it’s at least a metre long. You join hands with your partner – left hand to left, and right to right – and your wrists are then bound, as beautiful words are spoken by the celebrant. Oh, and after a while, you will be released!
So just a flavour of what you can do to make your wedding truly unique. To find out more, please contact me (07931 538487), and I’ll be delighted to help.