So what exactly is a Wedding Celebrant?…

Sarah Baker is an Independent Celebrant who has been trained by and is a member of the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants. She also worked for many years within the Registration Service, including a management role which involved the recruitment and training of Ceremonies staff,  so she has a wealth of experience when it comes to marrying people!

Sarah is based in North Norfolk but travels far and wide to conduct ceremonies, including to overseas destinations.

In terms of ceremony style and content, nothing really fazes Sarah! On several occasions she has written and conducted ceremonies for the CBBC show ‘Marrying Mum & Dad’, where the themes were generally pretty weird, wacky and wonderful!

Her ethos is very much that your wedding ceremony should truly reflect you, both as individuals and as a couple, and she is passionate about creating ceremonies which are as meaningful and memorable as they can possibly be.

Sarah says she finds it baffling that couples who are planning their wedding will choose carefully every element of the big day – flowers, cake, dress, suits, photographer, venue, décor etc – but when it comes to the ceremony itself, they don’t realise they can still have the choice about who conducts their ceremony and its content!

Sarah frequently exhibits at wedding fairs and spends time chatting to couples about their hopes, dreams and vision for their big day, focussing particularly on the ceremony element of the occasion.

According to Sarah, there still seems to be a lot of confusion about what exactly a Celebrant is and how they differ from Registrars, so she thought it would be useful to answer a few of the questions she is asked the most, to help to clear some of the fog and to dispel the myths!

What is a Celebrant?

A Celebrant is an individual who has usually been specially trained by a relevant organisation or perhaps has a background as a Registrar (of Marriages). A Celebrant will work closely with you, to create a highly personalised and unique ceremony script which truly reflects your personalities and preferences.

Is a Registrar the same thing as a Celebrant?

No – a Registrar is employed by a Local Authority to work for the Registration Service within the Council. One of the statutory duties of a Registrar is to register and conduct marriages at the register office, other council marriage rooms and approved venues.

A ceremony conducted by a Registrar will invariably be a standard script – the same used for all couples – personalised only by a limited choice of readings and music. These will be closely scrutinised to ensure that they are appropriate for inclusion. You will not be permitted to include any symbolic elements, such as the ancient ritual of hand-fasting or lighting a unity candle for example.

A Celebrant conducts non-statutory (i.e. non-legally binding) ceremonies which are far more bespoke and individualised, incorporating any religious/spiritual/symbolic elements you may desire.

What happens about the legal part of the marriage if we use a Celebrant?

This seems to be the element that worries couples the most, as they sometimes feel the marriage isn’t ‘real’ if they don’t do the legal formalities within the ceremony.  In fact, the legal part of a marriage in England & Wales involves making two verbal statements which amount to less than 40 words each – when you put this into perspective of an entire script, it’s only a tiny part and it seems such a shame that couples compromise on the ceremony they have, simply to get the legal part done at the same time. There is no need – you can take care of this in a very short register office marriage registration appointment, which will take approximately ten minutes.

Across the rest of Europe (and elsewhere in the world) it is usual procedure for the couple to attend their local Town Hall to carry out the legalities and then to attend their chosen venue with all their family and friends for the ceremony itself.

It also helps when I share the analogy that each year, we celebrate our birthday on the anniversary of the day we were born and not on the anniversary of the date our birth was registered – eg. the event takes place on one date and the legal registration of the event takes place on a different date.

It simply means splitting out the boring legal part to a separate day/time – we do this for births and deaths but are still rather stuck behind the times when it comes to marriages!

What are the benefits of using a Celebrant?

A Celebrant-led ceremony will be far more personalised and written completely from scratch, for each and every couple. A Celebrant will not only create a bespoke script but they will also guide and support you in writing your own vows to your partner, as well as offering suggestions should you wish to include any symbolic or unusual elements .

It also enables you to hold your ceremony wherever and whenever you want it. You are not restricted to the register office or an approved venue; you can have your ceremony on a river boat, on a double-decker bus, in rustic woodland or on the beach, to name just a few ideas!

It also means you can hold your ceremony in venues which are not necessarily licensed for marriage – eg. village halls, function rooms and other places which you may have a special connection with – perhaps the restaurant where your partner proposed or even where you had your first date!

The options are endless because you are not bound by the extensive legal restrictions of a civil marriage.

There will be no time pressures applied – if you want your ceremony to last an hour then so be it! If you want your family dog to bring the rings down the aisle attached to their collar, that’s fine too!

It’s your day and it should be held exactly your way!


If you would like any further advice or guidance, feel free to get in touch with Sarah, either by visiting here, visiting her website or drop by her Facebook page






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