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What is a celebrant?

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Many people are still unsure about the role of a Celebrant, and how this differs to the role of a registrar. View our online guide 'What is a Celebrant?' For more information do take a look through our FAQs to find some answers to your more specific questions…

A registrar is a governement official, responsible for keeping legal records. A wedding ceremony performed by a registrar must take place in a venue licensed for marriage, using specified contractual wording to legalise the union. Religious / spiritual content is not allowed in a registrar wedding ceremony.

A celebrant is an independent individual who is trained in providing you with a custom made ceremony designed to celebrate any ‘right of passage’ in a way which is personal to you, without legal obligation or government restriction. There are very few limitations as to what can be included in a celebrant wedding ceremony.

Gem Watson celebrant with couple exchanging vows

How does a Wedding Celebrant differ from other officiants?

Simply put, a Wedding Celebrant is a person who performs and officiates formal ceremonies. Although they are commonly seen in weddings, they can also conduct other ceremonies like vow renewals, baby naming, and funeral rites.

What’s the difference between a Wedding Celebrant and a Priest or Vicar?

There are a few key differences between celebrants and priests, the biggest difference being that the former is not a member of the clergy. While the priest receives formal training to perform ceremonies, a celebrant participates in seminars and conferences as dictated by his or her country’s celebrant organisation. A more important difference for your wedding however, is that whereas a priest is bound by the religious conventions and rites of their faith, a celebrant can tailor the wedding to your own specifications, pulling in a number of themes, ceremonies and concepts as you’d like.

There are, also, similarities between the two. Just like a priest, a celebrant can be as involved, if not more so, with the entire planning process of the ceremony. From planning the structure of the ceremony, double checking the vows – even offering informal counselling.

What’s the difference between a Wedding Celebrant and a registrar?

Registrars are allowed by law to officiate a wedding via civil ceremony, meaning that the ceremony is purely secular, with no religious tones whatsoever. The registrar is then in charge of processing and approving the couple’s marriage license, with the wedding ceremony acting as a formality after the legalities are taken cared of.

A wedding celebrant can assist and guide the couple in completing the necessary requirements for the marriage license, although they do not have the authority to approve it. Celebrants can however offer more guidance in planning, and officiate a far more bespoke ceremony.

Are Celebrant led Wedding ceremonies legal?

Because the role, certification and job description of a wedding celebrant can be vague, there is a little confusion as to whether the ceremonies they perform are legally binding.

However, that shouldn’t be something to stop you from considering a celebrant to officiate your wedding ceremony. As, actually, it’s not the ceremony that makes the wedding legal – some couples are already even legally married before the ceremony begins, and use the wedding rites as more of a celebratory event, than anything else.

After all, there’s no rule that the wedding certificate can only be signed after the ceremony, it can even be signed even before you slip into your gown or suit.

In this sense, it doesn’t matter if the person officiating your wedding is not a member of the clergy or the civil office. Your wedding will still be valid and legal as long as you have a marriage license and a signed marriage certificate.

What does matter, is that your ceremony is everything that you and your partner wanted it to be. With a celebrant, you can specify and tailor your wedding ceremony until it is the perfect representation of your love as a couple.

Why should you use wedding celebrants?

Now that you know what a wedding celebrant is, here’s why a wedding celebrant may be a better fit for you and your wedding ceremony.

  • Wedding celebrants do more than just preside over the ceremony. While priests just perform the mass and the registrar is more interested in the legal side of things, wedding celebrants give you the works. If you want them to, they can stay by your side from the moment the engagement is announced, to after the reception before you go off to your honeymoon. Wedding celebrants have been known to assist even wedding planning.

  • Wedding celebrants are the best option for couples who think traditional wedding structures are not for them. While priests and registrars have to follow specific religious and legal structures, wedding celebrants can deviate when it comes to running the ceremony from start to finish, meaning you have more of a say over what you want to include and exclude in the ceremony.

  • Celebrants are more versatile. Do you want a fantasy-themed wedding with costumes? Celebrants are always happy to join in, dress the part and even act a certain way if you want them to. Other officials are more likely to say no to an outrageous concept, a remote location or unique wardrobe; however, celebrants make sure that the big day is exactly as what the couple imagined it to be.

  • With celebrants, the event is all about the two of you. Just like your partnership, your wedding should be unique to you as a couple. With a celebrant, the only parameters your wedding sticks to is are the ones that you decide.

Gone are the days when weddings are done by the book and each ceremony looks similar to the next one. A wedding celebrant will not only ensure that your wedding runs smoothly from the paperwork to the actual ceremony, they will guarantee that the experience and memories that the event will impart upon you and your guests will surely be one of a kind.


We hope that this has answered some of your FAQs, but please contact Gem should you have any further queries.

For more information visit our Contact Page. Phone: 07901 192196 Email: Instagram: Facebook:

Gemma Watson is a professional marriage and family celebrant, and certified member of The Fellowship of Professional Celebrants and Green Fuse.

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