This is the question that I kept being asked at my first wedding fayre I attended.
Having been a celebrant for over 15 months now, I decided to see what Wedding Fayres were all about and if they were a good way of letting people know what I do and how I do it.
I started at a local one, set up my stall with an array of elements that can be incorporated into a wedding ceremony, designed to be enticing and interactive.
Footfall at the Fayre was good, over 500 during the day, with at least 300 would be brides, grooms, parents and children. It was lovely to meet excited couples and their families and talk with them about their hopes, plans and dreams.
After general introductions my first question was usually “Have you chosen a celebrant?”.
Responses were usually either that they were getting married in church or the registry office. I then ask if they know they have other options than a Registrar. Overwhelmingly couples did not and do not know that there is an alternative to a Registrar or Religious led ceremony.
So this leads me to explain that in England and Wales marriage must normally take place in a register office; approved premises; a building of the Church of England or the Church in Wales; a building that has been registered for the purposes of religious marriage other than in the Church of England or Church in Wales; or a naval, military or air force chapel.
There are usually 2 steps to getting married or forming a civil partnership in England and Wales outside of a religious setting. The first is giving notice at your local register office. And the second is having a civil ceremony at least 28 days after giving notice. You can follow this link to see more on the legalities:
Now most people believe that you have to have a ceremony conducted by a Registrar either at the local Registry Office or in an official venue licenced to hold weddings. However, that is definitely not the case. Yes, the formal legal “bit”, with a short standard wedding ceremony just involving the couple plus two witnesses, held in a small private office at the Registrar’s offices is required. This costs around £57 (check with your local Registry Office for their fees (https://www.gov.uk/register-offices).
Often at this stage (the Registry Office “bit”) couples do not exchange rings or their own vows/commitments until the independent ceremony. Also, some couples choose to do the legal bit after their bespoke wedding ceremony if that works better for them.
So really in terms of ceremonies – with an Independent Celebrant then the world is your oyster.
You can then have the ceremony of your dreams.
Couples can choose the location of their dreams and any special elements to make their day unique to them. There is no need to be restricted to registered venues like religious buildings, registry offices or council licensed venues. A unique ceremony can be outside in nature (here in Somerset where I am they could be on Glastonbury Tor, in the middle of Exmoor under the stars, or on the North Somerset Coast cliff top or beach or on a beautiful Devon or Dorset beach), can be in couple’s own gardens or homes, or at a hotel or venue that is special to them. It can also be abroad (many Independent Celebrants, like me, are delighted to travel to special places of couples’ choices).
What is a ceremony like with an Independent Celebrant?
The beauty of having an Independent Celebrant for a wedding or civil partnership is that there is no need to conform to a uniform script and can include any elements such as ring warmings, flower eternity rings, jumping the broom, handfasting, wine or rose ceremonies, or unity candle, unity sand or unity canvas ceremonies, or other elements that are bespoke to you. Family and friends and children and pets can all be involved in ceremonies if that is important. The key is that an Independent Celebrant, like me, will truly listen and help couples design their perfect ceremony. The only limits are our imaginations!
An Independent Celebrant will meet with you in person, listen to a couple’s hopes and wishes and get to know them. Then they will suggest ideas for ceremony elements and advise how to ensure the ceremony flows beautifully. They will see if you have any spiritual aspects you would like to include (Humanist celebrants do not include any religion or spiritual elements to their ceremonies). They write the ceremony, ensure any selected elements are bespoke to the couple, and support the couple (if they wish) to write their own vows/commitment words. Then they share drafts of the ceremony have a run through before the event. On the day they will deliver a truly memorable, personal, unique ceremony. See more here: https://ceremoniesoflifeandlove.com/
I had the privilege of taking the ceremony for some friend’s hand-fasting recently. They went to their local Registry Office with 2 friends some months before their actual ceremony and did the legal bit. They did not share this with anyone as to them the “real ceremony” was the one to be shared with family and friends. Then they hired a holiday cottage complex, invited friends and family to join them for a very special weekend of fun and sharing with a very special handfasting ceremony. The ceremony took place in a beautiful clearing on the site, the bride and friends made a beautiful wedding arch of greenery and flowers, other friends welcomed guests into the circle with a sage smudging ceremony and then the bride and groom entered the stone circle space and the handfasting took place. Another friend sang for them as they were joined in this ancient tradition of love and blessing.
The Government has recently asked (in the 2018 Budget (29 October)) the Law Commission to propose options for reform: England and Wales have outdated laws about how and where couples can marry. The government has asked the Law Commission to propose options for a simpler and fairer system to give modern couples meaningful choice. This will include looking at reducing unnecessary red tape and lowering the cost of wedding venues for couples. The Law Commission have said that the ‘next step’ for the project is to settle its ‘terms of reference’ with the Government. https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/government-asks-law-commission-to-conduct-a-full-review-of-weddings-law/
So watch this space as there may be less red tape and the ability to forgo the short wedding ceremony at the registry office when couples want a civil ceremony in a venue and with a celebrant of their choice.
But meantime, go search out the right independent celebrant for you. Certainly at the wedding fayre, once options were opened for the couples I spoke to, for many they went away thinking about what they really wanted rather than just what they thought they had to have.