“Does a Registrar have to officiate our ceremony at a UK licensed venue?”
One UK Celebrant answers the questions asked by many couples when deciding on their wedding officiant, including “Does a Registrar have to officiate our ceremony at a UK licensed venue?”
Great question to start with, and one I am regularly asked and the answer is No! … You have a choice!
If you are engaged and are now embarking on finding your perfect wedding venue congratulations! It is wonderful that you are exploring the possibilities available to you. Not only do you choose your venue, flowers and music but you also have a say in who conducts the heart of your day, your ceremony.
Bear in mind that if you are getting married in Scotland, different rules apply so this information refers to venues in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What are my options for a wedding officiant?
Your wedding ceremony can be conducted by either a Registrar or a Celebrant.
Why don’t some venues offer me a choice?
Some venues receive their bookings via the local Register Office and it is therefore easier for them not to offer an alternative. Another and more likely reason is that they may not be familiar with the role of a Celebrant.
What’s the difference between a Celebrant and a Registrar?
Both a Celebrant and a Registrar want you to enjoy your ceremony, but the service they offer varies greatly. (Different legislation applies to Scotland)
A Registrar can legally marry you and is employed by the local authority. The format and content of the ceremony is restricted by legislation and no religious or spiritual content may be included. Registrars will often carry out a number of ceremonies each day so they will insist on keeping to the designated time. The Registrar will arrange to meet you both separately for a pre-ceremony interview, any readings must be approved prior to the ceremony. Due to time constraints, you are unlikely to meet the Registrar prior to the day of your ceremony.
A Celebrant is self-employed and will take time to get to know you and work with you to craft a beautiful, bespoke, non-legally binding ceremony that reflects your ideas, values and personalities. By separating the legal aspect of marriage, your ceremony can be about love, not legalities. You also have a choice in types of Celebrant, there are Humanist Celebrants and also Civil or Independent Celebrants, both offer non-religious ceremonies, however Independent and Civil Celebrants are also happy to include spiritual and religious elements.
A Celebrant is not restricted to licensed areas, so although you may choose to have your ceremony in the designated area, you also have the option to hold it elsewhere in the venue; perhaps in the beautiful grounds? Many Celebrants also offer the option of a wedding rehearsal so that you are relaxed and ready for your big day.
How do we complete the legal part of getting married?
There are a few options available to you when contracting your marriage.
Complete the legal aspect at the Register Office prior to your wedding ceremony
Many couples book a “small room” ceremony at their local Register Office in the week prior to their wedding ceremony, they take two witness with them and complete the legal requirements of their marriage, saving the vows and exchanging of rings for their Celebrant ceremony. This costs approximately £60 and is usually available on a specific morning each week so it is advisable to book well in advance to secure your slot.
Get legally married overseas
You may choose to have a small legal marriage abroad and have your Celebrant ceremony overseas or in front of family and friends when you return to the UK.
Complete the legal aspect with a Registrar followed by your Celebrant ceremony at your chosen venue
Some couples choose a registrar to marry them at their venue followed by a Celebrant-led wedding, but it is more costly. The Registrar attends the venue and completes the legal ceremony with only immediate family present followed by their beautiful Celebrant wedding ceremony in front of family and friends.
Will our guests know our ceremony is not legally binding?
It is up to you what you tell your guests. A Celebrant ceremony is a real and very beautiful wedding ceremony, where couples declare their love and commitment to each other in front of their family and friends. Many couples choose to not tell their guests that it is not a legal ceremony and their guests are none the wiser, in fact regularly guests say after the ceremony that it was much more personalised and beautiful than other weddings they’ve been to!
Whatever your decision, take your time choosing the option that is right for you as a couple. We all want the same thing; for you to have a wonderful day.