An Independent or Civil Celebrant is someone who conducts services and ceremonies where the focus is placed more on the participants and not on religion. However, the inclusion of religious elements is perfectly okay.
Those with a religious faith will usually have a priest or other religious leader to officiate at a service or ceremony in a church. However, many people today are not affiliated with an organised religion and would not be comfortable with a religious service.
A ceremony led by an Independent Celebrant is sometimes preferred by those of mixed or cross-cultural beliefs where they can integrate various customs, traditions or personal preferences into the service. Others may wish to take a more active role in the planning and participation, or include aspects to the ceremony that may not usually be allowed in a church, religious setting or Register Office.
Using an Independent Celebrant means you can have the ceremony you want in the place and on the day you wish, with fewer restrictions on content or time.
If you have always dreamed of a having your wedding or partnership ceremony in an unlicenced venue, for example at home, in a woodland or forest, on a boat gliding down the Thames, on a moonlit beach or at a festival site then a celebrant-led wedding may be for you.
You can also incorporate spiritual elements should you wish; I’m happy to work with couples of all faiths, or none at all.
More and more couples looking for something more personal, creative and bespoke – more authentically “them” – are choosing to go down this route when planning their ceremony.
The legal bit…
In England legal marriages and civil partnerships can only be conducted by registrars and desiginated religious officiants and they can only take place in licenced venues. A marriage officiated by a Registrar (also called a civil ceremony) cannot contain any references to religion at all. This means that many favourite readings, hymns or music cannot be included.
Usually registrars and religious officants will have a number of ceremonies to conduct on the day of your marriage/partnership; often as many as seven or eight, meaning you will have a limited time-frame for your ceremony which can be an additional restriction when planning your celebration.
Because of this many couples now opt to have a legal wedding with just their witnesses either on the morning of their planned celebration or a couple of days before, and then have the special ceremony in front of their families and friends, led by an Independent Celebrant.
In England and Wales the minimum that needs to be said to make the marriage legal (statutory declaration) is:
I declare that I know of no legal impediment why I [your name] may not be joined in matrimony to [your partner’s name]
followed by the contracting words:
I call upon these persons here present to witness that I [your name] do take you [your partner’s name] to be my lawful wedded husband/wife/partner
All the rest is ceremonial, including the vows and exchange of rings. This means that the bulk of a religious or civil wedding/partnership is set down by the governing body and not the couple getting married. As long as you have said the above words in a recognised venue, in front of two witnesses, you can do whatever you want afterwards.
Not necessarily. Having both a short legal ceremony to cover those aspects as well as a celebration led by an Independent Celebrant need not cost much more, and in some cases may even be less expensive. Ceremonies at the Register Office are cheaper during the week than at weekends. If the two ceremonies are separate there is no reason why the legally recognised one could not take place on one of the cheaper days, even if it is a different day to the main wedding ceremony.
Hotels and other venues that are approved premises for weddings usually charge more just for offering this option, whereas you can have the main event at any venue if the legal aspects have been covered elsewhere, bringing costs down.
For example, the cost of a Registrar-led ceremony at one of the Register Offices in Kent or Bexley* are as follows:
from £340 to £875 Monday – Friday
from £485 to £1,145 Weekends and Bank Holidays
Prices vary according to venue, the cheapest venue holds a maximum of 8 guests, the dearest up to 85.
For a Registrar to lead a ceremony at an approved premises, the costs are:
£595 Monday to Friday
£785 Weekends and Bank Holidays
This does not include any fees charged by the venue.
By contrast, the combination of the simplest legal ceremony at £46 (available weekdays only, with up to four guests) combined with a ceremony led by me could be a more cost-effective option, and give you a personalised, tailored and flexible ceremony that exactly meets your needs, without the restrictions of time or venue.
*information from KCC website for ceremonies taking place 26th April 2021 – 31st March 2024 and excludes the cost of giving notice and certificates.