2 September 2014
Since the law in the United Kingdom changed in 1994, licensed venues other than a register office can be used for civil marriage services. This has led to many places that used to hold wedding receptions, such as hotels, becoming licensed to hold the marriage ceremony, with a registrar officiating.
However, you might decide that you would like to hold your marriage ceremony in a place of your choice, and not be restricted only to licensed venues. You would like a ceremony that expresses your love and commitment to each other in a totally unique, personalised and meaningful way. This is where the wedding celebrant comes in.
The content of the standard wedding ceremony hasn't changed much, and this type of Marriage or Civil Partnership Service can often be uninspiring and not reflect the personalities of the happy couple. What is not so commonly known or understood is that only the Declaratory Words, and the Contracting words have to be said in a Registry Office or licenced venue, in order for your marriage to be recognised in law and for a marriage certificate to be issued.
The Declaratory Words are - "I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I (your name) may not be joined in matrimony to (partners name)".
The Contracting Words are - "I call up these persons here present to witness that I (your name) do take thee (partners 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. This means that you can get the formalities out of the way, and then have a ceremony that is special to you at a place of your choice.
A Celebrant will work with you as a couple and will help to create the mood you want for your ceremony, whatever it may be. They will help in writing your vows, choosing appropriate music, and introducing symbolic elements which are special to you both, and will then officiate on the big day. Above all it will be your personal ceremony.
You may want your ceremony to be totally non-religious, or you may want to include some form of religious content such as a Hymn, Prayer or Blessing in your ceremony, or you may prefer no religious element. This isn't a problem either way. Where the marriage is between a couple of mixed faiths, the ceremony can be a blending of more than one religion.
Once you have decided that this type of wedding is what you want, you will need to find a celebrant that you are happy with, and that you are confident will help to give you the wedding you desire. Arrange an initial face-to-face meeting, and ask all the questions you want. They should be able to advise on things you are unsure of, and make appropriate suggestions. Don't leave this until the last minute as your celebrant may already be booked-up.
Please remember that in the UK the legal signing of the Marriage Register or Civil Partnership Schedule has to be undertaken by a Registrar. Prior to this, formal Notice of Marriage / Civil Partnership must be given, at the appropriate Registration Office, at least 15 days beforehand.