top of page

Celebrant or Civil Ceremony?

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

Choosing between a Celebrant and a Registrar at a licensed venue should be a careful consideration within your wedding planning. I’m here to lead you through the pros and cons of both options so that you are well informed to make the best decision for you.

Wedding Ceremony Kiss with audience clapping, LQBTQ couple. outdoor wedding

The major plus that leads many to choose a Civil Ceremony instead of a Celebrant is that you will have done all the legal paperwork there and then on the day. For a Celebrant led wedding you’ll need to register the marriage; much like how you would register a birth or death. Some couples like to do it before as a run up to the wedding while others prefer after when they feel they are already married. I’ve also known couples leave it for a year or two and use it as an opportunity to renew their vows.

Civil Ceremonies offer different lengths of ceremony the most basic is very short and sweet, the longer tends to be about 45 minutes. Whichever version you choose there are two legal declarations that have to be said.

1st declaration

Modern: I declare that I know of no legal reason why I (name) may not be joined in marriage to (name)


Traditional: I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I (name) may not be joined in matrimony to (name)


Short: Registrar asks ‘Are you (name) free lawfully to marry (name)’ – answer ‘I am’

2nd Declaration

Modern/Short: I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife/husband

Traditional: I call upon these persons here present to witness that I (name) do take thee (name) to be my lawful wedded wife/husband

Indoor barn style wedding of brides walking down the Aisle, LGBTQ+

You’ll also need to be interviewed ahead your Civil Ceremony. This takes place immediately before you walk down the aisle and covers the start of the marriage paperwork such as your parents names and job titles, as well as your own. The names of your two witnesses will also be recorded at this time. It’s a good idea to factor this into your days schedule as it can take some by surprise.

Music and readings can be included during the Civil Ceremony but these must be submitted beforehand and can be refused by the registrar if they are considered to have any religious reference or connotations. I know of one couple that had a popular Beach Boys song refused as it referenced God and another who were told that their choice of classical instrumental rock songs could also be interpreted as religious.

Humanist Celebrant Ceremonies can take whatever form and be as long or short as you like. The story of the couple’s relationship is a popular starting point. Unlike a Civil Ceremony there is no set wording for your vows or exchanging of rings etc. The selected readings can be completely of your choosing. There is no reason, other than personal, that your music or readings would be refused. At my own wedding I was able to walk down the aisle to the song I proposed with mixed into the Final Countdown, have an Irish blessing and use more or less the same vows, as we would have had in a church or civil ceremony.

Grooms having their first dance, LGBTQ+

A potential risk that comes with a Civil Ceremony is that you are unlikely to get to meet the registrar before the day. Sadly it can be a case of the luck of the draw as to whom you may get. We were fortunate when we registered our marriage (3 days prior to our Celebrant led wedding) both our registrars were incredibly friendly and welcoming. I have however witnessed the other options;

The stern one, who will tolerate no joking or light-heartedness - I was summoned to calm a somewhat panicked bride for this one - aka THE SCHOOLMASTER.

The one who is so nervous and shy that they can barely bring themselves to look or speak up – THE MOUSE.

The one who thinks they are playing the O2 – THE BOOMBOX.

And the one who somehow sounds like they are telling you off throughout the whole thing – THE SERGANT MAJOR.

To offer some piece of mind, of all the weddings I’ve witnessed in licensed venues I’d say the split of the experiences is 50/50.

If you’re considering having a celebrant I’d advise you talk to a few to make sure you get the right fit and personality. You’ll be getting to know each other over the coming months while they write your ceremony so its important you feel like you click with them. You can add or remove anything you would like from the ceremony and your celebrant should be able to offer up and guide you through ideas and options to keep it personal.

A Civil Ceremony must take place in a licensed venue whereas a celebrant ceremony can take place in a freezer truck if you so wish. Interestingly you can use a Celebrant at a licensed venue as well, but nor vice-versa. My own wedding took place in a Woodland at a licensed venue. We still chose to have a celebrant led service, as we wanted the day to feel personal and reflect what marriage meant to us. The major positives of the Celebrant wedding is that you can have whatever you want, wherever you want with whomever you want.

If you would like to have a FREE impartial conversation about both options please get in touch to arrange a call. Although I am a celebrant I truly believe that no choice is the wrong choice as long as its right for you.


88 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page