Back to all blogs

Celebrant or Registrar? How to make the right decision for your wedding day.

The age-old wedding question: registrar or celebrant? I’ll take you through the pros and cons of picking a registrar or a celebrant for your big bash. Spoilers: I’m biased as hell. Sorry in advance.

So: you’ve found yourself a good egg, you’ve got engaged (woohoo!), and now you’re cracking on with planning your wedding day. You’re thinking back to the weddings of your mates and cousins and that weird one you went to with an ex eight years ago and you vaguely remember there was (probably) a woman up at the front with them, facilitating their “I do”s and vows and exchanging the rings etc. Who was that woman, where did they find her, and do I need to book her too?

All valid questions, my friend. That woman was either a celebrant or a registrar – but what’s the difference?

From costs to legalities to personalisation, let me break it down: here are the key differences between a registrar and a celebrant, so you can make a shout on what’s right for you.

At a glance, what’s the difference between a registrar and a celebrant?

A registrar is someone employed by a local council. They work at a register office where they legally marry people, and you can ask them to attend your wedding in a licensed venue (e.g your posh pubs, hotels, barns etc). A registrar can legally marry you.

A celebrant is a m̶a̶s̶s̶i̶v̶e̶ ̶l̶e̶g̶e̶n̶d̶ self-employed person who delivers ceremonies for a living. They travel all over the shop, writing, planning and performing ceremonies in licensed or unlicensed venues (e.g. your posh pubs, hotels, barns etc, but also back gardens, parks, not-so-posh pubs…). A celebrant cannot legally marry you.

If a celebrant can’t legally marry you, why would you choose one?

Another great question from you. There are a bunch of reasons why you’d choose a celebrant over a registrar, despite the fact that they don’t have the powers vested in them to sign that bit of paper to make the whole thing offish in the eyes of the state. Here are just a few…

Celebrants create totally personalised ceremonies – registrars use a template

A registrar has to use a template script which you cannot amend or personalise. On the day, they’ll plug your two names into the script, and it’ll be precisely the same ceremony as approximately one bajillion other people have had. It’s a smidge old-fashioned and pretty dull, if we’re being honest.

A celebrant will get to know you as a couple, intimately – how you met, what you first thought of each other, how you decided to get engaged, your in-jokes, your quirks, what you want life to look like in 20 years’ time… All the stuff that makes your love irrevocably yours.

Not only will your script be 100% bespoke to you, bringing you and your guests untold amounts of joy, delight and amusement, your ceremony can feature literally anything you’d like. Poetry? A big singsong? Drag bingo? There are no rules so it’s all up for grabs.

Celebrants can deliver ceremonies anywhere – registrars need licensed venues

Because registrars are carrying out a legal proceeding, it has to be done in a venue that’s licensed. That limits your options, plus licensed wedding venues tend to be more expensive than unlicensed ones (because they have to pay for the license).

With a celebrant, you can host your wedding wherever you like – within reason. Your mum’s back garden, a village hall, a beach, a forest, the 73 to Stoke Newington…

You choose a celebrant you trust and click with – you can’t choose your registrar

You book a registrar via the local council’s register office and you’ll meet them for the first time on your wedding day. You’ll get a hot second before the ceremony to shake hands and have some slightly nervous small talk.

Registrars do their jobs brilliantly well, so no shade intended, but it’s not uncommon for them to mispronounce names during the ceremony. They only just met you, it makes sense! More worryingly, one of my queer couples had a homophobic registrar when they did their legal bit, separate to the ceremony we’re planning.

You could land a total babe, or you could be lumped with an arsehole (or worse, someone incredibly dull). A registrar is total luck of the draw – which feels risky for one of the most important moments of your life, right?

Additionally, if you’re trans, non-binary or genderqueer, registrars have to use gendered language and legal/birth names. So it can be a pretty othering experience.

Celebrants don’t necessarily cost more than registrars, either…

When you choose a celebrant-led wedding and you’d like to be legally married to your partner, you’ll have to do the legal bit with a registrar at some point – so why pay for both? Isn’t that going to be mega spenny?

Well, not necessarily. Let’s break it down…

The price for a 100% original ceremony by me is £1,000. The price to get married in a register office, in a “two by two” ceremony where you have two witnesses is around £60.

So the total cost of a celebrant ceremony + legal bit = approximately £1,060

Alternatively, the price of having a registrar attend your venue on a weekend can be almost as much. Lambeth Council charges up to £900, Richmond charges up to £850, and Westminster charges (wait for it) £1,200 for a Sunday. Ouch.

The cost difference is teeny – but with a celebrant you get a hilarious, joyous, utterly authentic ceremony led by someone you completely trust AND you can create another lovely moment for your legal bit (wear another nice outfit, eat another nice meal amiright?).

So when it comes to creating a wedding day that feels totally authentic to you, delightfully fun and engaging, with absolutely zero stifled yawns or clock-watching from your guests – the choice is clear. Choose a celebrant! (ahem, me, ahem)

Fancy a natter to see if we’re a good match? Send me a message and let’s see how we can make your wedding utterly unforgettable.

Fancy a chat?

If you're convinced a celebrant is the right way to go, let's have a natter!

Contact me