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  • Writer's pictureHardingstone Ceremonies

What’s the Difference Between a Celebrant and a Registrar?

Wedding rings
Photo by Sandy Millar

In simple terms the difference is that a registrar wedding is legally recognised; a celebrant wedding is not.  However, life is never that simple is it?!

Before I explain further, please be assured that I am a great believer in choice.  If a couple chooses to have a registrar led wedding, I am happy for them.  What I am not happy about is that many couples don’t realise there are any other options - they might know a religious wedding is not for them and therefore assume a registrar is the only way to go.

Thankfully this is not the case.  It is increasingly popular (up by 49% in 2023 according to Hitched) for couples to search for a celebrant as they prepare to wed.  Of course we are all used to the registration of births and deaths as a separate event to any marking of those occasions - in the UK all births must be formally and legally registered by a registrar within 42 days of the birth.  Likewise a death must be registered within five days.  With both events, the marking of this moment, the Christening, Naming, Funeral or Celebration of Life happens separately.  It can be days, weeks or months after the event according to the family’s preferences.  Why then is it that we all think a wedding has to be the legal bit and the celebration combined?

Whilst registrars do offer a range of ceremonies and some personalisation is possible there are obviously far greater restrictions placed on them than there are for celebrants due to the legal nature of their ceremonies. Civil ceremonies were introduced to provide a non religious alternative to church / synagogue weddings and as such they must be non religious - no music, no readings, not even a poem that might be considered spiritual can be included.  Whilst couples can personalise their ceremony around the legal contractual elements, the registrars attending will have never met the Bride or Groom beforehand - they will know little of the particular circumstances that have brought them to this momentous day.

Catrina Young, Leicestershire Celebrant
Photo by Sarah Solotti

By contrast celebrant led weddings allow you to create exactly the right event to acknowledge your love and your relationship to each other.  There are no rules - anything you want that your chosen celebrant can provide, is possible.  Your wedding can be inside or out, formal or completely relaxed.  You are free to create whatever rituals suit you - personally I have created rituals around the ancient traditions of Handtying,  Jumping the Broom, warming of the rings and more in ceremonies, but have also written unique rituals using coffee, gin, pinecones and more. The beauty of a celebrant-led wedding is that you have complete freedom to create exactly the ceremony that is right for you.

Photo by Sandie Photos
Mr & Mrs coffee mugs
Mr & Mrs coffee mugs

I appreciate I’m biased, but I for one am quite sure the recent trend for more couples to complete the legal registration of their union quickly, cheaply and without fuss, usually earlier on the same day or a few days before, is set to continue.  In Leicestershire a simple ceremony at the registry office can cost as little as £57 ('23/'24) although ask a registrar to attend your chosen venue on a Saturday and prices rise considerably - in the region of £600 - not to mention the challenge of coordinating their availability with your wedding plans.

By Catrina Young, Leicestershire Heart-led celebrant, Marking Life’s Moments.

©Hardingstone Ceremonies, Feb 2024

65 views3 comments



My civil ceremony included music, poems, personal vows, readings and a live singer. It was incredibly individual and the Leicestershire Registration Service were lovely. I think if its about choice it really needs to be about giving a true reflection of what the registration service provides. I had an appointment weeks before my ceremony where we went through all my choices and needs. I understand your bias but its unfair to paint such a picture.



A lot of useful information - I had no idea about the strict formalities surrounding a registry marriage. I hope folks will flock in your direction!


Thanks very much! Civil weddings were created to offer a non- religious option; that's why no religion is allowed. Some couples however want an element of faith in their ceremonies.

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