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What's the Difference Between an Independent Celebrant and a Celebrant Registrar?

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Planning a wedding means making a million choices at every stage - am I right?

Choosing your wedding ceremony might be something you hadn’t really thought about before, but it is THE most important part of your day, so why not make sure you choose a ceremony that really suits you best.

Are you planning your wedding and have heard about Celebrants, but are not sure what they are? Has your venue advised you to just contact the Registrars, so you didn’t know you had another option? Or has your local Register Office or venue mentioned that you can now use a Celebrant Registrar to create a personal ceremony so there is no need to book an Independent Celebrant?

If this all sounds baffling, then let me help explain the difference between an Independent Celebrant and a Celebrant Registrar, so that you can decide for yourself which is right for you!

Having worked as a Celebrant Registrar/Registrar of Marriage for 7 years, and now as an Independent Celebrant for almost 6 years, I am perfectly placed to give you an insight into both options.

Celebrant Registrar

When you book “a Registrar” for your wedding, it will actually be two Registrars who attend: one to complete the registration of the marriage, and the other - the Celebrant Registrar - to conduct the ceremony.

The Registrars themselves have no say over which role they will perform at a ceremony, they just do whichever one appears next to their name on the rota. As you might expect, some prefer one role over the other, but they must be prepared to do either one.

The civil ceremony will include the statutory words which must be said as part of a legally-binding marriage ceremony, and there are restrictions around other elements which may, and may not, be included.

The Celebrant Registrar will usually use a standard script, and just add your names into the relevant sections.

You will not usually meet your Celebrant Registrar until the day of your ceremony, though you would get the chance to have a brief telephone conversation during the week leading up to your wedding. You will then have a brief chat with both Registrars in the 30 minutes or so before your wedding, which is when they will check that the information they’ll be recording in the register is correct, and very quickly run you through the ceremony itself.

And that’s it for a ceremony led by a Celebrant Registrar.

However, more and more local authorities are now realising that couples would like more than the standard “enter name here” type of ceremony, and are now offering to create a personal ceremony. However, the nature of their workload means that it is extremely unlikely that they will be able to offer the same level of contact as an Independent Celebrant, and the same collaborative approach to your ceremony.

Some local authorities now even mention that your personal ceremony doesn’t have to be on the same day as the legal part, or even in a venue licensed for marriage: just the same as for an Independent Celebrant.

So, why choose an Independent Celebrant?

Independent Celebrant

Once you have chosen your Independent Celebrant, we will work with you to create a bespoke ceremony that is absolutely right for both of you, and one which your guests will enjoy and remember.

We will meet with you, chat on the phone, exchange emails and text messages over the months, or even years, leading up to your big day. We will get to know your favourite film, book, song etc. to understand your style and what is important to you in your ceremony, and will be available to answer any queries, or adapt to any changes that may crop up along the way.

We will discuss anyone else included in the ceremony - children, family, friends, pets - and how we can make sure that they are able to enjoy their involvement without the anxiety and pressure that people can sometimes feel when asked to stand up in front of a crowd!

We will listen to all your hopes, dreams (and fears), and work with you to make sure that your wedding ceremony is all you had hoped for - and more.

On the day, we will be a familiar face who is there to help you both enjoy your wedding ceremony just as much as every other part of your special day - with no nerves, just happy butterflies!

The Legalities

As the law currently stands in England (February 2022), a Celebrant-led ceremony is not legally-binding, so you will still need to go to a Register Office to complete the legal part of your marriage and, as mentioned above, this can be either before or after your bespoke wedding ceremony - though most couples choose to do the legal bit first.

This is a very simple process - and see my blog post How to Do the Legal Stuff for more details.

It is simply a separation of the legal part from the ceremonial part. I often compare it with registering a birth or death: both of which must be done in a Register Office, but the celebration/commemoration which follows doesn’t need a Registrar to be present to conduct the ceremony.

Having been on both sides of the fence, I can truly say that there really is no comparison between the two ceremonies!

Make the Right Choice for You

You may decide that you really prefer the idea of doing the legal part during the ceremony, and don’t mind that the ceremony itself is a standard script, which the Registrar has spoken hundreds of times before.

The important thing is that you have made an active choice, and have not just gone along with something because you thought you had to, or your venue didn’t know that there was another option.

But, if you really would like to have a completely personal ceremony, written just for you and full of all your hopes and dreams for your future together, and don’t mind the idea of popping along to the Register Office on a different day to do the legal bit, then an Independent Celebrant is definitely the right choice for you.

If you’d like to know more, or have any burning questions - get in touch and ask away!

You can either drop me an email: or book a time for a no-obligation chat by clicking here.


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