Celebrant OR Registrar?

Should we even be having this conversation or debate in 2024? 

Perhaps not, but this is an issue that keeps raising its head for so many couples. Every week on wedding forums I see the questions being asked…

Celebrant or Registrar…or both?

What is the difference?

Which is better? 

What should we do?

Can a celebrant legally marry us? 

What can a celebrant do that a registrar can’t and vice versa?

So, I am going to attempt to give all the answers in one definitive blog! 

**Please note that this is only relevant to England and Wales as the law in Scotland , NI & the Channel Islands is different, so please check with your local registration districts and celebrants if you live in any of these places.**

So, let’s get down to it shall we? 

What Is The Difference?

woodland wedding

A Celebrant Is…

Technically another name for your officiant, but in this instance we will just use the term celebrant for those of us who are creating and delivering a non-legally binding ceremony in any location, in a way, and at a time of your choosing. 

Type Of Celebrant…

We come in all shapes and sizes, price ranges and skill levels.

You have a choice between Independents Humanist & Faith Celebrants. 

You have a choice between those who have trained with an organisation and those who have come at celebrancy via a different route. 

Some of us are certified, some will say they are qualified. 

**At this time celebrancy in England and Wales is an unregulated industry and ‘qualifications’ are not a requirement, they don’t even need to be a desirous expectation when you are searching for the right celebrant for you! It is highly unlikely that an NOCN qualification or similar will ever be a necessity, although some form of training will always be desirous.

What Will A Celebrant Do? ( What A Good Celebrant Should Be Doing As A Matter Of  Course!)

Your celebrant should be working with a contract. 

Your celebrant can create and deliver a unique ceremony just for your occasion.

Your celebrant should be maintaining contact with you AND you’ll get to know them during the time you work together.

Your celebrant will enhance your day.

Your celebrant will get to know you. 

Most celebrants will normally only conduct one ceremony a day and some of us can offer enhanced after ceremony services. 

Some celebrants have really cool super-powers like being bi or multi-lingual.

Some celebrants specialise in the old ways (Pagan)

Independent and Faith Celebrants can conduct interfaith ceremonies and include as much or as little religion as you’d like.

Some celebrants super-powers include specialising in working with marginalised communities. 

Celebrants are adaptable, if you want something in your ceremony, chances are your celebrant can make it happen. From music to readings, from rituals to food and drink! 

Anytime, anyplace anywhere …is pretty much a given, as long as you have landowners permission we can brave many an element within reason!

Anything, and anyone can be incorporated into your ceremony… as long as its legal, you’ll find a celebrant that can accommodate you! We are a very inclusive bunch, so just ask for what you want!

A celebrant is part of a community, we may be solo workers, but often we can refer people on to another celebrant if we feel we cannot fulfil a certain dream for potential clients. We know when we are not the right person for you, and that’s ok…you should feel that your celebrant gets you, and we in turn should feel comfortable in our working environment. 

Not everybody is right for every circumstance.

What A Celebrant Cannot Do!

At this time we cannot deliver a legally binding marriage ceremony. 

A celebrant cannot pretend that what we can do is legally binding under the Marriage Act…that is against the law! 

We cannot perform any ritual or ceremony that would break the law of the land.

How About A Registrar… What Can They Do?


A registrar will legally marry you in an approved venue, community venue, or at a Register Office 

A registrar is a local government official and is responsible for keeping the register of official records. 

Can I Choose A Registrar In The Same Way I Can A Celebrant? 

Technically yes, IF you know the registrars in your district and you have a person in mind to conduct your ceremony, you can request them. But normally you won’t know who is marrying you until you meet them on your wedding day. 

Are Registrars Restricted?

The short answer is yes! 

A registrar is time-bound. 

A registrar will conduct multiple ceremonies in a day and cannot hang around if you’re running late.

If marrying outside, you will still have some restrictions on the location of your ceremony. 

There will be restrictions in relation to the weather (above a certain temperature and below a certain temperature…so it’ll be a ‘snow go’ for an outdoor winter white wedding!)

A registrar cannot be as creative as a celebrant. Some will make your ceremony wonderful within their restrictions, but they don’t have the freedom to enhance a ceremony the way a celebrant can.

A registrar’s script will not be personal, in fact there will be post it notes everywhere with an ‘insert name here’ reminder more often than not! 

Celebrant OR Registrar, Which Is Best?

Neither is necessarily better than the other. Which one you choose is totally personal to you and your circumstances.

A celebrant can be more fun and inclusive, whereas a registrar will obviously get the legalities of the job done!

What Should We Do?

If you choose the Celebrant route you will still need to legally marry before or after your celebrant ceremony. (It doesn’t matter to a celebrant when you choose to have your legal ceremony, you don’t need to be legally married to have a celebrant wedding, we might just call it a Commitment Ceremony instead.)

So, in order… 

Book your venue, it does not have to be an approved venue, you can have your celebrant ceremony anywhere you wish !

Find your celebrant (check out a few if you need to, make sure you have found the right celebrant for you!) We all have a different way of working but be sure to choose one who works with a contract and can give you a clear breakdown of their working practices.

Book to have your legal ceremony at your local (ish) register office…choose the basic registration option. You might need to make a phone call in order to do this as not every registration district has this on their website as a matter of course.

To legally marry you will need to attend a Register Office. 

The basic registration ceremony can be as short as 6 minutes and does not have to involve an exchange of rings or vows. 

You will have to repeat the declaratory and contractual words after your registrar, sign a schedule and get your two witnesses to sign as well, and that’s it, job done, you’re married! Go off, have lunch, and celebrate your newfound legal status. 

This will cost £35 each for your notices, about £49 for the room hire and £11 for the schedule (certificate) and you will be charged for 2 of these. * prices correct as of Feb 2024*

Now it’s time to get ready for your celebrant ceremony, you have met with your celebrant, the script is written, edited and signed off, you’ve had a rehearsal and you’re all set, have a wonderful day!

If you choose the Registrar route… 

You will need to book your approved venue, community venue or register office.

Give notice at the register office in the area you live IF it is different to the area you are marrying in. 

Book your registrar to come to your venue at the time and date you have chosen. 

I live in Essex and here you can do this up to two years before your ceremony at an approved venue or community venue, or one year before your ceremony at the Essex Register Office.

You will have various target dates to hit so make sure you have made a note of everything in a diary.

If you’re planning to have the ceremony outdoors, there will be extra paperwork to complete…with target dates  and you WILL need a back-up for an indoor ceremony if it is raining (or snowing!)

I hope this little breakdown is of help. 

Every celebrant has different working practices and fees.

Every registration district has different fees for different venues, ceremony types and days of the week. 

How you choose to marry is totally personal, but if you want a totally personal ceremony don’t forget to check out the celebrant option. 

We can really make your day memorable for all of the right reasons. 

If you want to know more about my celebrant services, get in touch. 

If you want to know more about registration of marriage  read more here 

For more information and ideas about how we can work together get in touch now

I can’t wait to work with you and create something funky and magical.

1 thought on “Celebrant OR Registrar?”

  1. Excellent summary thank you! I think the whole when is a celebrant not a celebrant converstion has got a little lost with all the world events taking up so much parliamentary time so it is good to wave the banner whenever we get chance!


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