So, let’s talk about the legal stuff ! Lot’s of people ask, “can a Celebrant perform a legally binding wedding service in the UK”?
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, a Humanist Celebrant can perform a legally binding wedding ceremony. In Wales and England, a Celebrant led ceremony in the UK is not legally binding and may not be in other countries.
But this should not be a barrier in choosing a Celebrant ceremony and I’m going to explain why.
There is a belief in the UK that a “proper” wedding is one where the couple sign the official marriage register during the wedding ceremony either by a priest or a registrar and the traditional wedding ceremony contains the vows, which are almost like contracted words without any spiritual or religious content. The traditional wedding ceremony must take place in a church or the registry office, or a licensed venue. So, there are limitations regarding your choice of venue.
If you choose a Celebrant to conduct your wedding ceremony, there are no restrictions in the contents of your vows to each other. They can include religious beliefs of any faith; they can include rituals like Sand Unity Ceremony. You can choose where you want your ceremony to be. Perhaps outdoors, on a beautiful beach, in your garden, anywhere you like.
Your vows to each other are sacred and they bind you together on your journey through life. So, why can’t they be meaningful, memorable vows that tell your love story and are completely written for you both without restrictions?
So, let’s look at your options on how you get the legal bits done:
- The easiest and cheapest way for you to do the legal marriage part is in a statutory marriage registration, sometimes known as a 2+2. You will need two witnesses, and this will take place in the main register office in your area. It’s very short and simple and cheap. These ceremonies are often in very short supply and are only available on certain days so you will need to really plan ahead.
- You will also need to give “notice of intent to marry” at least 29 days before your legal marriage ceremony. This is with your local registry office.
In Europe and further overseas it is totally the norm for a couple to go and do their legal wedding paperwork a few days before their wedding ceremony, whether that’s in a church or celebrant led. In short it’s just like arranging an appointment with the registry office to record a birth or a death.
Hints & Tips
- Do your research before making any decisions.
- Talk to other couples who have had a Celebrant led wedding.
- Be persistent with your local authority registry office as they may not give you the option of the 2+2 ceremony. But by law, they must.
- Think about your dream setting where you would really want to exchange your vows to each other.
- Discuss all your options together and remember, don’t be led by others. It’s your day.
So, go on, be brave, times are changing, let’s create your memorable day.