One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from couples is:
How can we do the legal part of our marriage and have a celebrant-led wedding?
I hope that this blog will guide you through the 4 steps you need to take to plan your celebrant-led wedding.
Book your wedding venue. It need not be a licensed venue if you separate your ‘legal signing.’ This means that you can have your wedding ceremony literally ANYWHERE! YAY! There are no restrictions when it comes to location if you’re using a celebrant as long as you have permission from the venue or land owner.
It’s worth remembering that celebrants will conduct weddings at any time of year, any location and in all weathers whereas registrars are restricted by rules that state once the temperature drops below 16 degrees they must move the ceremony inside.
Over the years I’ve conducted weddings in field, woodlands, on a boat, stately homes, barns, gardens and many more – and in all weathers!
Once you have booked your wedding venue, you should then research and book your celebrant. I always encourage couples to have a consultation to confirm if they are the right fit for you.
This is important as you can build a relationship with your celebrant before your wedding rather than just being given whoever is on the rota that day. I often find that couples turn to me to ask the difficult questions such as how to handle tricky family dynamics. That people put their trust in me is a huge part of why I enjoy this work.
Also, I only conduct one wedding a day. This means that you can choose the best time that works for you rather than conforming to office hours. So if you ask me to do a ceremony at midnight…I’ll be there!
Lastly, having a say in your ceremony content is vital and is the difference between a choice of pre-defined government wording and something that is unique and personal to you both.
Now for the legal bit. You must register your intention to marry – whether you are having a celebrant-led wedding or not. This enables the registration service to prepare your legal documentation and record the details of your marriage.
Contact your local Registrar’s office and state that you have booked a celebrant ceremony so you just require a ‘simple service’ to complete your paperwork. Typically couples book this on a date close to your wedding day but it’s up to you when you want to do this. Some prefer to do the legal bit afterwards – again it’s down to logistics.
Now, if you are a couple from overseas or a UK couple planning your wedding overseas, I suggest that you do the legal bit in the country where you are citizens (where possible) OR give yourselves plenty of time between registering your intent to marry and the actual legal paperwork signing.
Funny story – When Mr Ash and I married many moons ago, I had been previously married (and divorced) to an American. Knowing that the registrar would need to make sure that I was legally divorced, we registered our intent to marry six months before our legal signing. However, on the day of our signing, before the ceremony and with all our family present, we were taken into a side room. Mr Ash was informed that while the registrar was sure I was divorced, they had been unable to corroborate it with the authorities in the USA. He was then advised that he was marrying me at his own risk and that he could be about to marry a bigamist!!! You can imagine how we both felt! Fortunately we both laugh about it now!
When you get to your legal ceremony, remember that you can save your vows, ring exchange and any other personal details for your celebrant-led ceremony. Legally all you are required to do is sign the relevant paperwork and make a short legal statement. You will also need to take two witnesses with you. You will need to inform the registrar in advance that you’d like to do this. Often this is called a ‘simple service.’
You will also be required to pay the registration fees – check with your registrar for the latest cost.
Legal bit done you can now set about planning your celebrant-led ceremony and wedding day!
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