Celebrants vs. Registrars

What a celebrant can offer that a registrar can’t. A guide for venue owners by Frances Cave.

Children at a wedding
Photo: Getty Images

Only an independent celebrant can bring uniqueness, personality and real authenticity to a wedding ceremony. The service they provide and the level of professionalism they demonstrate, if given the opportunity, will add value to any wedding venue business.

The days of identical weddings are over. The days of identical ceremonies should be over too. Innovative and forward-thinking wedding venues have to react to change and stay ahead of the curve. Personalised ceremonies are becoming the modern way to marry.

In this article I shall identify the reasons why this is the case and why wedding venues should literally wise up and get personal.

All couples want their wedding to be memorable and unique. Every venue is unique and special in its own way, offering differing levels of service, facilities, accommodation, location and so on. Most of the other elements that go into planning a wedding also showcase individual touches, be it the dress, photographer, florist or entertainment – it all helps make a couple’s wedding their own. The ceremony however is so often overlooked.

Each and every couple that is shown a wedding venue is different. Each and every wedding venue is different. Each and every photographer and florist’s style will be different, in that they reflect the wishes of the couple. There is no reason why each and every ceremony should not be treated in the same way. A ceremony led by a registrar is not unique or bespoke, it will be the same formulaic, generic, templated script that has been churned out time and time again.

A celebrant-led ceremony is unique and bespoke every single time with the content reflecting the couple’s story, their values and beliefs. In the modern world, with a growing number of mixed heritage couples, being able to recognise a person’s heritage and/or please a family member is all the more important.

Celebrant-led ceremonies are still a relatively new concept and the majority of couples are unaware that it is possible to have a truly bespoke wedding ceremony. They assume that if you want a civil ceremony, the registrar route is the only route. Forward thinking venues have an opportunity to actively inform couples of the choice available and the benefits and versatility of using a celebrant.

Husbands getting married Personalised
Couples have choice in all aspects of wedding planning to personalise their big day. Personalised ceremonies are created by wedding celebrants with the couple’s story at the heart, filled with joy, sincerity and laughter. Ceremonies can be drawn from a wealth of traditions and rituals or simply in the style and tone that sits comfortably with the couple’s approach to life.

A celebrant will work closely with a couple in the lead up to their wedding day. This will entail an onslaught of questions to ascertain that simple but vital question – ‘why are you getting married?’ This collaboration is essential to achieve the authenticity of a truly personalised ceremony.

It should not be an unreasonable expectation for modern couples to expect niche experts to officiate their ceremony at venues. They should not have to settle for an officiant allocated to them who is unable, due to legal restrictions, to offer anything as personal, creative or meaningful.

Couples are able to handpick every other supplier so why not the person who plays such a central role in the day?

Venue websites keenly promote licensed ceremony spaces. Personalised ceremonies should be given at the very least the same amount of copy space. In the long run they will add a much needed fresh and modern perspective to a ceremony and enable a venue to stand out from the competition.

A celebrant should be a preferred supplier, similar to other wedding professionals. Why is it that although some venues do have celebrants on their preferred supplier list that they are not more actively promoted by the venues? The answer is because venues are rarely asked by their clients about celebrants. Couples often have never heard of them!

Other suppliers are actively recommended because not only are they are considered the best in their field of expertise, but couples know they need a photographer, florist, cake maker etc. and venues know that a good recommendation and regular supplier will add value to the day as a whole.

Venues should be mindful of the shortfall of knowledge on what celebrants offer and make couples aware of the excellent bespoke service they can provide. How difficult is it to say at a showround: “Have you booked your celebrant or registrar for your ceremony?” (which could prompt the question “what is a celebrant?”) or “have you considered a more personalised wedding ceremony?”

Frances Cave Flexibility
Covid aside, registration services have always been limited when it comes to flexibility on timings. Couples are not only assigned an officiant, who I may add, they have never met, but often a time slot. With, guess what, no choice at all. Yes, possibly an overused word in this article but one that is so relevant and scarce when it comes to wedding ceremonies.

Because of their hefty workload and backlog, which is worse than ever obviously at the moment, registrars are often unavailable on a couple’s chosen day, have limited time as well as being a total stranger. In this day and age, surely you should be able to choose who officiates at one of the most important milestone events in your life?

Wedding celebrants on the other hand normally officiate only one ceremony per day. This means the couple have complete flexibility with their timings – there is no rushing. Their day and schedule is their own, making the entire process more relaxed.

There is also flexibility when it comes to beliefs. And it is relevant here to point out that there is actually a difference between humanist and independent celebrant-led ceremonies.

A humanist ceremony is non-religious so will not feature any religious or spiritual content, but an independent celebrant will completely tailor the ceremony to the couples’ exact requirements, whatever belief, no belief, mixed faith or spirituality as well as cultural traditions. An example would be possibly if the client wanted to sing a hymn or include a religious reading – there can be no religious content either in a registrar-led ceremony.

Time and time again I have been told by wedding planners and wedding venue co-ordinators that celebrant-led ceremonies are the best. Most of them can recite an entire ceremony script as they have heard the registrar-led script so many times.

Venue owners, videographers and photographers all say the same. Even married couples who have attended one of my ceremonies, or who have been made aware of what can be achieved, say that if they were to do it again, they would definitely choose to have a truly personalised ceremony led by a celebrant.

Millennials and the generations that are following are no longer a pleasing or accepting society. They want to express themselves their way.

Venues are missing a trick here. What are you waiting for? Is it because you’ve paid for your licenses? You can still use them but you should be informing, educating and promoting the alternative to your clients. They’ll thank you for it and in turn the inclusion of a remarkable and bespoke ceremony will add value to your offering.

Everyone loves a celebrant-led ceremony. Come on venues, stick your necks out – don’t settle for the ordinary, start making the ceremonies held at your venue the extraordinary!


Frances Cave is the founder of Fanfare Ceremonies. An experienced celebrant, she has presented ceremonies in many of the west country’s most prestigious venues as well as beautiful gardens and farms across the UK. www.fanfareceremonies.co.uk

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