As more couples are choosing to have personalised wedding ceremonies, Celebrant led weddings and other family ceremonies are becoming more popular. What is a Celebrant, and how can you have a personalised wedding ceremony?
A Celebrant is somebody who is trained to write and perform various ceremonies including weddings. Trained Celebrants usually belong to a Celebrant organisation from who they trained with. I, and many others belong to the United Kingdom Society of Celebrants. All professional Celebrants should also have full public liability insurance; and don’t be afraid to ask any prospective Celebrants you contact if they are insured.
In America and Australia, Celebrants are also known as officiants, but are not to be confused with a registrar. A registrar is somebody who works for a local council and legally performs standard non religious civil ceremonies in a council run register office or licensed venue only. They are also responsible for registering births and deaths at the register office.
So what is the difference between a normal hotel or register office wedding, and one performed by a Celebrant? The main difference is simple. Every aspect of a Celebrant wedding is about you, and only you. Every ceremony written and performed by a good Celebrant is personal and unique to each couple or family, and constructed for them only. The couple have complete involvement in the entire ceremony. From poems, music and readings during the ceremony, to the all important wedding vows; it’s all about you.
A non religious wedding has to take place in a venue licensed by law to perform weddings. A Celebrant wedding ceremony can be held anyway, at any time. The venue doesn’t need to be licensed. Register office or hotel weddings have to legally stick to a standard script; Celebrant weddings don’t. Say what you like, where you like, how you like.
If you have ever watched a television programme called ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’ you will have seen a Celebrant ceremony. Each theme and ceremony is different and centred around personal choices. From woodland weddings, beach ceremonies, ceremonies performed in hot air balloons, in circus style tents, zombie themed weddings in abandoned warehouses; to weddings held in indoor ski slopes in a Frozen themed ceremony, Eastenders themed on a grassy square in a London suburb, and at a tattoo convention. Nearly all featured are performed by Celebrants.
The programme usually ends with the final shot of the couple making their union legal. Unlike weddings held in licensed venues and performed by registrars, Celebrant wedding ceremonies aren’t currently legally binding. The legal aspect is merely a formality, and most couples choose to do this before the Celebrant wedding ceremony.
Births and deaths are registered before namings, Christenings and funerals take place, so why not do this with weddings? A marriage is a legal partnership; a wedding is a ceremony.
Register offices can for some people, look sterile, impersonal and coutroom like. Usually decorated in plain colours with an arrangement of fake plastic flowers on the desk, and rows of chairs all facing a window where the couple usually stand. To some, these places aren’t exactly the most personalised, romantic and welcoming place to choose to make a public declaration of love and commitment in.
The names of the couples are changed and the rest of the short ceremony will be recited to every other couple who choose to marry there. Choices of music are very limited as not all music fits in with the legal requirements of non religious ceremonies.
Some register offices insist the couple have to meet with the registrar together before the ceremony. This means the groom has to see his bride before the wedding, breaking the tradition most couples find important. This was the case at the register office I got married in six years ago, and my experience led me to become a civil and family Celebrant offering personalised ceremonies.
Think of any wedding you have attended. What about the ceremony do you remember? Everyone is familiar with the words of ‘I do’ ‘lawful impediment’ and ‘I call upon these persons here present’. These words and sayings are standard scripts, made familiar, memorable and recognisable as wedding words. I believe in completely personalised wedding days and this includes the actual ceremony itself which is different for every couple.
As an alternative Celebrant, I help couples who want not only a personalised, but appropriate wedding ceremony. I have created many ceremonies, including Gothic and Steampunk weddings. These have included poems and readings that fitted the lifestyle of the couple. I have helped couples secure their ideal venue which had a special meaning to them, but wasn’t licensed for a traditional registrar wedding.
Having to settle for certain venues, dates or times is something most couples have to deal with. For alternative couples however, it’s important and sometimes vital the person performing their ceremony has a knowledge of their lifestyle, music and subculture. This doesn’t happen with standard weddings. Registrars wouldn’t wear themed clothing, or speak in or recite readings in Tolkien’s Elvish or Star Trek’s Klingon. Celebrants will though, and I have had the pleasure of doing both.
Celebrant wedding ceremonies can also include additional mini ceremonies which can involve family and friends. Handfastings, unity candle and unity wine ceremonies are popular. Couples can choose to add a broom jumping, ring warming or many other elements.
However and wherever you decide to get married, there are choices. The dress, flowers, cake, rings, venue and food served are all chosen by you. You also have the option to choose what kind of ceremony you would like.
For more information on Celebrant or alternative wedding ceremonies, please contact me.