The Trend for Celebrants

Kelly Chandler reveals the increasing demand for non-traditional wedding ceremonies and how venues can cater for them

Trends come and go, and the latest product or offering isn’t always something you can or would want to adopt into your wedding venue. The trend I’m featuring here is a big one and it’s very likely here to stay. It rocks the very foundation of the wedding day itself, and it’s vital you keep up to date and work with it as a host wedding location.

Pic: Walcot Hall/Noel Deasington

We know it’s not a new thing that couples are turning away in greater numbers from religious ceremonies. In the past, it was almost always in favour of a legal ceremony conducted in a licensed venue by a registrar by way of a civil ceremony organised with the local register office. The popularity of this is still high, but a large number of couples are opting to plan a more personal, meaningful and appropriate-to-them ceremony. Rather than being restrained by what a formal legal ceremony allows, they are hiring independent celebrants to work with them to design something very fitting. It should be pointed out that these celebrant-led ceremonies are not legal, but many couples are opting to carry out the legal and paperwork ceremony in a simple way with the basic witnesses and minimal fuss at the local register office. They are reserving the symbolic ceremony for their nearest and dearest, and making this non-legal ceremony the wedding ceremony in their own eyes.

They often like the idea of spending planning time with a celebrant who has the resource and skills to write a truly meaningful, heart-warming and often amusing ceremony, and incorporate their personalities into this. While many registrars do an amazing job at creating a beautiful wedding day atmosphere, the realities of the volume of weddings they have to oversee means they do not have the resources to plan more than a ‘choose A, B or C’ from a pre-designed ceremony order.

I should point out that these kinds of ceremonies are also really popular with couples who are abroad and come ‘home’ to marry, and find the paperwork for a legal ceremony rather onerous to conduct from overseas. They get legally married in their new home (often where they are working) and then plan the symbolic ceremony when and where they like.

So how does the demand for ceremonies overseen by celebrants affect you as a venue, and what can you do to keep up with the trend?

Wedding with flowers
Pic: Walcot Hall/Gemma Williams

Get to know
Build working relationships with a small number of independent celebrants in your area and talk to them about what would work best within your venue in terms of the rituals, symbols and ceremony components they regularly incorporate, and how they could integrate with your spaces.

The guest capacities and licensed numbers for your venue spaces would typically remain in the same way as for a legal ceremony. However, you will find more requests for guests to stand instead of sit, or for seating ‘in the round’ rather than ‘conference style’. A resounding reason that couples want to choose to work with a celebrant is to be more informal, inclusive and intimate. Have a look at what you can offer and promote this in your materials, showing images of less formal ceremonies in place if you can.

Be aware that independent ceremonies tend to be a bit longer than civil ceremonies as there’s more content and work that’s gone into them. Once couples get started (they’ve usually had so much fun designing the content) the ceremony could be a bit longer, particularly if lots of music is included. This obviously varies from couple to couple, but definitely don’t assume that it’ll be the usual 20 to 25 minutes!

Get the word out there
Consider promoting independent celebrants on your preferred supplier list, at your wedding showcases and in your marketing materials. It’s so much better to be proactive and put the word out there showing that you are up with and ahead of trends. Bear in mind that the typical wedding audience will be millennial couples in their twenties and thirties, who are likely to be early adopters of alternative ways of doing things to suit their styles and beliefs. If you can provide options they love as a venue location, they may well love you and name this as a resounding reason for booking with you.

Couple with flowers

Don’t know where to start?
Have a look at these great independent celebrants I’ve worked with via my independent wedding planning company, The Bespoke Wedding Company.

Knight Ceremonies – 07512 993143

UK Celebrant – 02082 421842

Precious Moments – 01442 266760

Kelly Chandler
Kelly Chandler is a long-term preferred service provider for exclusive venues such as Syon Park, Highclere Castle, Spencer House and Stoke Park Club. Kelly’s consulting services to wedding venues draws on prior experience in international conference and event planning, over 13 years of business management, working directly with discerning couples planning their weddings in diverse locations, and forging successful relationships with all components of the wedding industry. A former director of trade body, the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners, Kelly is a well-regarded innovator, mentor, trainer and industry spokesperson on and in the wedding business.

Alternative Weddings and Civil Partnerships

Terri Shanks, from the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants, explains what a ceremony overseen by a celebrant can offer the modern couple

In 1994 The laws in the UK changed, allowing licensed venues other than registry offices to be used for civil marriage ceremonies. More recently, many of these venues have subsequently been licensed for registrars to also perform the legalities of a civil partnership agreement. However, the content of the ceremony remains pretty much unchanged, and this type of marriage or civil partnership service can often be uninspiring and lack the pomp and flair that many couples rightly feel their relationships deserve.

Couple with confetti

What is not so commonly known or understood in this country is that only the ‘declaratory words’ and the ‘contracting words’ have to be said in a registry office or licensed venue in order for a marriage to be recognised in law and a marriage certificate to be issued.

Declaratory Words
“I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I (name) may not be joined in matrimony to (partner’s name)”.

Contracting Words
“I call up these persons here present to witness that I (name) do take thee (partner’s name) to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)” (this wording will vary slightly for couples forming a civil partnership).

These words are the only legal requirements for marriage, as well as formally identifying yourselves to the registrar and signing the marriage/civil partnership register in front of two independent witnesses and a registrar. The rest of the service, including the exchanging of rings and saying of vows to one another, is purely ceremonial and can therefore take place literally anywhere and at any time of the day or night.

It may be a simple ceremony in a home or garden, or at sunset on the beach with the waves crashing, a local beauty spot, or in the middle of a bluebell wood. Celebrants offer an open-minded, stress-free alternative to creating perfect ceremonies. This includes working with couples and adapting to whatever feeling or mood they want to create – relaxed, formal, adventurous or a mixture of everything. But it will be a ceremony which captures a couple’s love, life, journey together, and their aspirations for the future. Each ceremony is individually written for each couple and will be totally unique to anyone else’s.

Including children
It is not uncommon these days for people to have children before they marry, or to be taking on their partner’s children from a previous marriage or relationship. Couples may like to include their children within the ceremony, either by them contributing some form of spoken or musical tribute if they are old enough, or by adding commitments to them as they become part of a new family.

Couples may want their ceremony to be totally non-religious, or may want to include some form of religious content such as a hymn, prayer or blessing. There are no restrictions, so the choice is totally theirs. Some ceremonies are between couples of mixed faiths and therefore the ceremony can be a blending of more than one religion

Marrying abroad
Many couples these days choose to marry abroad, but still like to have a blessing in front of their family and friends on their return to the UK. By choosing a celebrant to conduct this blessing it means that the ceremony can take place in any location, and can either be of a religious or secular nature.

Renewing vows
Many couples like to renew their vows to mark a special anniversary, 25, 40, 50 years for example, but marriage vows can be renewed at any time. It might be after just one year or after 75, or may be to re-affirm love for one another after challenging times or a period of separation.

How often have you been to a wedding where the bridesmaids sit down throughout the entire ceremony and all you get to see is the back of the bride and groom’s heads?

As part of the planning of the perfect day, celebrants will help couples stage their wedding to fit the location and to ensure they are able to get the very best photographs and video of the ceremony.

Couple under tree archThe Fellowship of Professional Celebrants

The Fellowship of Professional Celebrants (FPC) is a professional networking and support organisation for independent celebrants who have completed one or more structured training programmes. The FPC is a self-regulated professional body which sets the standards for best-practice and fosters professionalism in celebrancy. It has a directory of accredited family and funeral celebrants online at

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