The difference between Registrars and Celebrants and why you currently need both in the UK

by | Aug 10, 2020 | Celebrant, Weddings

Registrars and Celebrants both have a part to play in making a wedding event special. But they also have their restrictions. It’s important to understand the difference between Registrars and Celebrants so you know what each one offers.

In this article, I’m looking at these differences and what they mean to your wedding.

There are 2 parts to this. The legal part, the registrar and the wedding ceremony, your celebrant.

What’s the difference between Registrars and Celebrants?

What do Registrars do

Registrars are responsible for registering births, deaths and marriages. Employed by the local authority, the ceremonies they conduct are legally binding. By law, a ceremony conducted by a registrar must take place in a registry office or licensed premises. There are to be no bespoke vows as registrars are not permitted to deviate from the official script. Religious and spiritual references are also prohibited and no live music is allowed.

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What do Celebrants do

Celebrants are not employed by an authority.  Their ceremonies are not legally binding.  Which means currently, if you choose to have a Celebrant Wedding Ceremony then you must still need to be married by a registrar.

When working with a celebrant, you have free reign to choose the ceremony you would like, right down to the last detail.  Whether it’s writing your own vows, or adding in traditions and rituals which include family, friends or pets.  Venue-wise, it can take place anywhere.  Even in a licensed wedding venue if that’s what you’d prefer.  This allows for limitless possibilities.  From home weddings to picturesque locations in the great outdoors.

What does this mean for me?

If you plan on getting married in a registry office then it will be in front of a registrar.  Which is a legally binding marriage. However, if you chose to have a bespoke ceremony in front of a celebrant, you must also be married in front of a registrar.  Most couples choose to do the registry before their chosen ceremony.  Although you could do it afterwards in agreement with your Celebrant.

How do we get married by a registrar?

You and your partner must be 16 or over.  If you are under 18 you must have your parents consent.  The first step is to choose a registry office or licensed venue.  Then give notice at your local registry office that you are to be married.  You must do this whether you plan to marry there or at another registered venue, even if it is another registry office.

You will be asked to prove your identity and you must sign a legal statement at your local registry office to say you intend to get married. This is known as ‘giving notice’. You must give notice at least 29 days before your ceremony.

Then you have 12 months from the date you gave the notice to marry.  The legal marriage will take 10 to 15 minutes.  It is worth bearing in mind, you will need 2 witnesses to make the marriage official.

the difference between registrars and celebrants - getting married in the uk

What happens next?

Once this process is complete then you will be officially married and then you can choose to say your own vows at a wedding ceremony with a celebrant.  Having a Celebrant create and conduct your wedding ceremony is becoming more and more popular.  It allows couples to get the legal marriage done, then enjoy their big day exactly how they want it.  This is perfect if you are planning a multi-faith wedding,  are more spiritual, would like to include rituals or symbolic ceremonies,  have your heart set on a location which isn’t registered or want a personalised ceremony.

The difference between Registrars and Celebrants in a Nutshell

Registrars have the power to marry you in the eyes of the law. Celebrants will help you to create a personalised bespoke ceremony, taking place wherever you would like.  You can include personalised vows, live music and family. It’s important to understand the difference between Registrars and Celebrants, now that you do, you’ll be able to make the right choices for your special day.

Remember – you can have a ceremony with a wedding celebrant and still make your marriage official by a registrar

If you would like further guidance then contact me at

Learn more at and watch a couple of videos at



I look forward to hearing from you.

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Sonal Dave is a Ceremonies Celebrant, Lady Toastmaster and Professional Public Speaking Expert. Speaking English, Gujarati and basic Hindi, Sonal’s services include symbolic Asian rituals, the sand ceremony and many other symbolic Indian or Western elements.

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