Can a wedding celebrant legally marry you in the UK?
So can a celebrant legally marry you? It’s yet another one of those useful life questions that we don’t get taught in school and for many couples, it’s not until they get engaged that they wish they had the answer!
So I’ve popped together this simple blog post explaining everything you need to know about the legal side of getting married, as well as an easy step by step guide on how to tick that legal box if you are having a celebrant ceremony for your wedding day. Which I’m sure you are!
Are celebrant ceremonies legally binding?
In a nutshell, the answer is pretty much a no, a celebrant cannot legally marry you. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, humanist celebrants (celebrants who specifically won’t include any religious content) can legally marry you, which is the only exception. However, currently in England and Wales all celebrants, (as well as the non-humanist celebrants in Scotland and Northern Ireland) cannot.
Fear not though, this should definitely not stop you from choosing a celebrant ceremony as it’s incredibly easy to get those legalities ticked and still have the personalised ceremony you’ve been dreaming of. There are also so many wonderful benefits to having a celebrant ceremony over some of the legal options, which you can read about here.
So what are the options for getting legally married?
Other than for those in Scotland and Northern Ireland choosing a humanist ceremony, there are 3 ways to get legally married in the UK.
- A religious ceremony in a church or registered religious building. This will be officiated by a priest or member of the clergy.
- A civil ceremony at a register office, which will be officiated by a registrar.
- A civil ceremony at a licensed venue. This involves booking a registrar to come to your venue who will then conduct your ceremony and officiate your marriage.
How to get legally married if you choose a celebrant ceremony
The easiest way to do this is to book a civil ceremony at a register office. Most couples will choose to do this a week or two before their actual wedding day, but you can do it after too! When you choose to do the legal part will have no impact on your celebrant ceremony.
So what are the steps to going about this?
1. Book the register office
First things first is to book your civil ceremony at a register office. This can be booked at any register office, not just your local one! When booking it’s best to request a “basic legal ceremony” which literally involves repeating a few declaratory and contracting words before signing the marriage schedule alongside your witnesses. Yep, that’s it!
This means you don’t have to say vows, do a ring exchange or even kiss! So all of the special parts are saved for your beautifully personal celebrant ceremony in front of your family and friends on your wedding day!
2. Give notice
Once you have booked your ceremony you then have to do something called “giving notice”. This simply involves signing a legal statement to say that you intend to get married. You need to arrange this at your local registry office this time and it must be done at least 29 days before the legal ceremony you have booked.
You will both have to bring some important documents with you to the signing, including:
- A valid passport
- Proof of your address (driving licence or bank statement etc.).
- Documents confirming the venue of your legal ceremony.
If you have been married previously you will also have to bring either a death certificate or a document confirming your divorce.
3. Ceremony day
On the day of your legal ceremony you need to bring two witnesses with you, (usually a couple of friends or close family members). Then before you know it you will have said the magic words, signed on the dotted line and you will be married! Yippee!
4. Time for a celebratory drink!
Although it might not have been the most romantic and personal of ceremonies (bring on the celebrant!), it’s still a hugely exciting moment in your life which deserves a celebration! A lot of couples come away from their register service on such an emotional high, so it’s always nice to book a meal or drink out to commemorate the special occasion.
But how much does it all cost?
Giving notice costs £35 per person and the ceremony itself will cost anywhere between £50-£80, depending on your region. So you are looking at anywhere between £120- £150 for the whole process.
When you combine this with a celebrant’s fee (roughly around £600-800), the overall cost is very similar to that of booking a registrar to come directly to your venue and conduct a ceremony on your wedding day. This is crazy, bearing in mind you wouldn’t be getting a personal ceremony and would have no idea who would be marrying you on the day!
Are celebrant ceremonies real ceremonies?
Oh my golly gosh, yes! Just because a ceremony isn’t legally binding, doesn’t mean it’s not real. Simply signing your name on a dotted line might make things “official” but it doesn’t celebrate anything and I can guarantee it won’t be what you or your guest will remember from the day.
A celebrant ceremony is your opportunity to celebrate your love through personal vows, reading, rituals, exchanging rings, making commitments to one another and so much more! It’s about declaring your love to one another in front of family and friends in a way that really shows off your personalities and tells your love story in a beautifully unique way that will have everyone giggling, whooping and reaching for the tissues all in one moment.
A celebrant ceremony celebrates what marriage really means to you and why you have chosen to make such an exciting and binding commitment to one another. Your ceremony should be an exciting, joyous and captivating moment that you will remember forever…one that I think you can agree, singing a piece of paper most certainly doesn’t compare to!
Still a little unsure?
Hopefully reading this blog post has helped to explain things around whether a celebrant can legally marry you a little better, but if you have any more questions about the legal side of choosing a celebrant then please feel free to pop me a message and I would be delighted to help. Alternatively, if this has got you feeling excited about potentially choosing a celebrant for your big day, then you can always book a free discovery call with me to learn lots more about why celebrant ceremonies are just so wonderful!