wedding celebrant ceremony vows

Deciding who will help you say ‘I do’ is one of the first steps of the wedding planning process, but whilst Priests, Registrars, Celebrants and Humanists may be familiar terms, until it comes to booking one, many couples will be in the dark about the differences between them.

Jennifer Constant, founder of The Celebrant Directory has created the ultimate guide for brides-to-be, answering some of the most common questions asked…

Jennifer told Wedding Ideas: “While many people will have heard of a wedding celebrant not everyone understands exactly what they do, and there are a surprising amount of misconceptions, which its time to clear up.

Simply put a celebrant is a person who performs and officiates formal ceremonies, and whilst commonly seen at weddings they can also conduct other services like renewals, baby naming and funeral rites.

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“The beauty of what celebrants offer is the sheer versatility to help couples create tailored, unique ceremonies that reflect their personalities and love for each other.”

Who performs a wedding ceremony?

Independent celebrants, humanist celebrants, religious leaders, and registrars – the choice of who performs your ceremony is a big one, and understanding the similarities, differences and possibilities of each is key to making a decision both of you, and your families are happy with.

What’s the difference between a Celebrant and a Priest?

A priest is a member of the clergy, who will have received formal training to perform ceremonies bound by the religious conventions and rites of their faith.

A celebrant is usually formally trained by the celebrant organisation of the country in which they are based but can perform the wedding to your specification, pulling in any themes or concepts that you’d like.

What’s the difference between a Celebrant and Registrar?

Registrars are allowed, by law, to officiate a wedding via civil ceremony, meaning the ceremony is purely secular with no religious tones whatsoever.

The registrar is in charge of processing and approving the couple’s marriage license, with the wedding ceremony acting as a formality after the legalities are taken care of.

Celebrants can support and guide couples in completing the necessary requirements for the marriage license, but don’t always have the authority to approve it. However, in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, and Jersey humanist celebrants can conduct legally recognised marriages. Celebrants are also able to officiate a far more bespoke ceremony.

How is a Humanist Celebrant different to an Independent Celebrant?

Humanist celebrants are trained and accredited by Humanists UK. They create non-religious ceremonies that focus on the couple’s love and commitment. Their ceremonies include the traditions and rituals that are important to you – such as handfastening or exchanging rings. They do not feature religious or spiritual elements.

Independent celebrants may include religious or spiritual elements in their ceremonies, according to the couples wishes.

READ MORE: Wedding legal advice: Everything you need to know

Can I have readings, music, singing in a Celebrant-led ceremony?

Yes, it’s your ceremony, you can include anything you like within it. 

Celebrant led weddings allow you to pick and chose whichever elements or ideas you want to include so its as personal and unique as you.

READ MORE: Wedding venue questions – what to ask before you book

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