What is a wedding celebrant? And other frequently asked questions

Many people have never heard of a wedding celebrant, or if they have, are a bit unsure about what a celebrant does. Some people are confused about the difference between a celebrant wedding, a registry office wedding, a civil ceremony or a church wedding. In this blog, I’m answering some of the questions I’m frequently asked, including: can a celebrant legally marry people? What’s different about a celebrant wedding? Can I have a combined celebrant and civil wedding ceremony? Hopefully, you’ll find the answers to any questions you may have.

What does a wedding celebrant do?

A wedding celebrant creates a highly-personalised wedding ceremony,  tailored to a couple’s personalities and the style of their wedding day. The ceremony is crafted – like a made-to-measure suit, or a bespoke wedding dress. I spend time with you, getting to know you, understanding the vibe you want to create on your wedding day, so the ceremony fits you both perfectly.

What’s different about a celebrant wedding?

A celebrant wedding is the most free and flexible ceremony you can imagine. Every word is something that you choose, rather than something pre-set, imposed on you by a faith tradition or the law. With a celebrant wedding, you can have your ceremony anywhere, on any day of the week and at any time. Whatever your passions are in life, eg: travel, cocktails, dogs, dance music, we can find a place for them in your ceremony. If you have a faith, or traditions from your heritage or upbringing, we can reflect those too. The final result is a ceremony that feels completely right for you and is a highlight of your wedding day.

Woman Wearing Pink and White Low Top Shoes Dancing Beside Man

Can a wedding celebrant legally marry people?

No, unfortunately not. In England and Wales, only church ministers and registrars are licensed to legally marry people. Until the law changes (hopefully one day soon), in a celebrant wedding, the legal side of marriage is separate from the bespoke ceremony.

So, how does a celebrant wedding work?

With a celebrant wedding, the legal and personal ceremonies are separated. The legal ceremony could be minutes before your celebrant ceremony, or the day before or weeks or months beforehand. It might be in the UK or abroad. The legal ceremony must be arranged through a UK registration service or the foreign equivalent. After that, your celebrant wedding can take place wherever, whenever or however you choose. It’s wise to book a celebrant at the same time as your legal ceremony, as the most popular summer dates get booked up months, even years in advance.

If we have a legal and a bespoke ceremony, will it feel like we’re getting married twice?

No, it won’t feel like you are getting married twice because the two ceremonies are so different. For your legal marriage, you can book a full ceremony or just a legal signing at a UK registry office. For the legal signing, you will make a two simple legal declarations and sign the paperwork. You won’t exchange rings or the emotional, personal vows, which are included in a full ceremony. A legal signing often involves only immediate family and/or close friends. Although it feels significant, it is more of a simple legal undertaking than a celebratory wedding ceremony. If you marry abroad, naturally it will feel very different for that reason. There are several options and I am always happy to talk them over.

The wedding ceremony that I create for you will be different firstly because we get to know each other and secondly, because your ceremony is unique to you. No one will have the same, ever. You will be making your commitment in your own way. Everything is bespoke: from the moment you walk down the aisle (if you want to do that), to the confetti shower (if you’d like one of those).

What happens at a celebrant wedding?

What happens at a celebrant wedding is whatever you want. I offer you choices at every step. Many couples like to keep the familiar traditions of a wedding, walking down the aisle, the vows, exchange of rings, music and maybe a reading.

After that, there are lots of ways to modernise and personalise your ceremony. One of the most personal elements of a celebrant wedding is your love story. I will tell your story in a way that engages your guests. It will be authentic, romantic, funny and full of the love you share. I’ll talk to you about extra ideas, including symbolic rituals, such as a unity candle, handfasting or a sand ceremony. You might like the idea of live music and a singalong. We can include your friends and family, or the ceremony can just be the two of you. If you want to bring your dog, your baby, or your children – that’s great. Working with dogs and children is one of my specialities!

The ceremony will have your personalities stamped all over it. It might be quiet and romantic, or boisterous and full of laughter. There won’t be anything fake or boring about it; everything will mean something special to you.

If you have different nationalities, faiths, family or cultural traditions, these too can be woven into your ceremony.

Can we combine our civil and celebrant ceremonies?

It may be possible. Each registration district has its own guidelines. It’s always worth asking the question.

How long is a celebrant wedding ceremony?

My weddings tend to range from 30-50 minutes – typically the same as a church wedding and probably a little longer than a registration service wedding.

Who chooses a wedding celebrant?

All kinds of people choose a wedding celebrant, for a variety of different reasons. Some couples feel that neither a church, nor a civil wedding is right for them. This may be to do with their beliefs, or simply that they want to have a ceremony that really reflects who they are, led by a celebrant they have chosen. Some couples really want to be married in an unlicensed venue or a place that’s special to them, such as their family farm, or in their garden at home. There are couples who have already been legally married abroad and want to celebrate their wedding with family and friends in the UK. And there are those who want to celebrate their commitment, without being legally married. It’s all about choosing what feels right for you. And I hope it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that I welcome LGBTQ couples.

Is a celebrant wedding much more expensive?

No – it’s not. I am completely open about my fees upfront. I charge £700 for a bespoke wedding ceremony. The simplest legal signing and notices costs £127 in most districts. To find out what’s included in my fee, please click here: Beautiful Day Celebrant weddings.

For registration service prices in your area, visit your local council’s website. Here are Dorset Council’s wedding prices .

How do I find the right wedding celebrant for me?

It’s really important to find someone you like, who you feel understands you and your ideas for your wedding. You’ll see many different wedding celebrants, with their own personality and style. I hope my website gives a clear impression of the kind of person I am: friendly, professional and creative. I’m always happy to have a phone or zoom meeting with you, with no obligation. It’s a chance for you to think through the different options, ask me questions and feel confident that you are making the right choice for you.

You can find out more about my ceremonies on Instagram @alicendines and Facebook @alicendinescelebrant. I am listed on Hitched and The Celebrant Directory

If you’d like to know more, get in touch. I’d love to hear from you. alicen@beautifuldaycelebrant.com, or 07976 360202.

Alicen Dines, independent celebrant