Who officiates at a Wedding?

Mar 5, 2020
Civil celebrant before civil wedding in Guernsey

A common question I hear is “who can actually conduct a wedding?”. People are understandably confused. Most think that it has to be a priest (or equivalent) or else the registrars. But those are not the only options.

As we’ll find out, there’s also the civil celebrant who can do the job.


Obviously, if it’s a full religious wedding, you’d expect it to be handled through the church (or institution), and that should be that. However, this applies (and I’m only talking about England & Wales) for a Church of England service – or Quaker or Jewish. Otherwise, although you are welcome to celebrate a Catholic wedding (say), you will still need to make an appointment (with two witnesses) to go to the Register Office and get legally married there. Without the registrars’ participation and the pronouncing of certain words, you would not qualify as legally wed.


The registrars offer a service that is totally non-religious. The content varies somewhat from district to district, but the fact that services are completely secular is a constant. Unless you are having a C of E service (or Quaker or Jewish), you will need to call upon the registrars.

There is one element of choice here, though. You can go down (as already stated) to the Register Office, and it will cost in the region of £100 for the ceremony. However, provided certain stipulations are met – notably, four solid walls and a roof – the registrars will come out to the venue of your choice. This will probably cost around £600, though.


There is another option, however, which all too few people know about.

  • What if you don’t want a full religious service?
  • What if you do want it, but are prevented from marrying in your church/synagogue etc. because (Catholic) you are a divorcee or perhaps because yours is a mixed-faith ceremony?
  • What if you (or even your parents!) want to have just a little religion in your service?

Well! Provided that you don’t opt for a humanist celebrant, you can enjoy a personalised ceremony with as much religion as you want.

You still have to get legally married (as before, by the registrars), but you can then have the ceremony of your dreams, compiled and conducted by a civil celebrant. It can be in the venue of your dreams, and, to all intents and purposes, be your actual wedding.  It can reflect your personalities and beliefs, with inspiring spiritual – or even funny – readings, and contain personalised sections, such as self-written vows.

So don’t go thinking that your big day doesn’t have to be the way you want it! Because it can!

Have a chat with me, and I’ll show you how.