The 5 types of Wedding Celebrants in the UK explained

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    If you’re thinking about becoming a wedding Celebrant, you might be confused by the choice on offer. In the UK, there are five different types of Wedding Celebrants, and they all perform slightly different roles:

    • Independent celebrants
    • Humanists
    • Interfaith Ministers
    • Civil Registrars
    • Clergy

    We’ll explore each here to give you a better sense of what role they each play as a wedding celebrant:

    Independent Celebrants defined

    An independent wedding celebrant creates personalised ceremonies tailored to individual preferences and beliefs. Because they are independent, they’re not tied to a single faith or belief system. They can deliver ceremonies that combine elements from different faiths, beliefs, and cultures or deliver completely religious-free ceremonies.

    Wedding celebrants usually meet with couples to get to know them before their big day and help them plan and personalise their ceremony with meaningful scripts, readings, poems and other suggestions to make it unique and memorable.

    Independent wedding celebrants lead the ceremony on the day and can include union rituals like handfasting, candle lighting, or sand ceremonies.

    Independent Celebrants are able to perform ceremonies anywhere, but under UK and Scottish law, their ceremonies are not currently legally binding (although this is currently under review).

    Want to become a celebrant? Check out our Celebrant guide

    Types of Celebrant: independent Celebrant officiating a forest wedding ceremony

    Humanist Ministers Defined

    Humanist Celebrants are part of the Humanist Organisation; they provide an alternative to religious ceremonies for people wishing to celebrate or commemorate key life events in a tailored non-religious or spiritual service.

    Humanist Celebrants can perform ceremonies anywhere. Like Independent Celebrants, their ceremonies are not currently legally binding under English and Welsh law, but in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Humanist Celebrants can legally marry you.

    Interfaith Ministers Defined

    Interfaith Ministers don’t subscribe to a single religion. They offer religious and spiritually focused wedding ceremonies to those who want to celebrate their faith but may not be able to get married in their chosen house of prayer, e.g., Catholics who have been divorced or couples who are marrying between religions.

    Interfaith is not a religion. It walks among the religions. Interfaith begins when we create a bridge between one set of beliefs and traditions and another… An Interfaith Minister ideally is one who turns towards all, regardless of their beliefs or practices, with an open heart and mind, offering them a mirror to their own wholeness and their own divinity.”

    OneSpirit Minister, Susanna Stefanachi Macomb

    Interfaith Celebrants can perform ceremonies anywhere. Like Humanist Celebrants, their ceremonies are not currently legally binding in England and Wales, but they can legally marry you in Scotland.

    Clergy

    Clergy are celebrants linked to a specific religion i.e. Church of England, Catholic Church, Judaism (Jewish Faith), Islam (Muslim Faith). Clergy celebrants offer religious ceremonies that follow the strict guidelines defined by the religion and Church. Clergy must be ordained by their individual religion and Religious weddings can only take place in licensed religious house or churches.

    Most clergy-led weddings are legally binding in the UK, however under current laws in England, Wales and Northern Ireland Islamic weddings are not considered legally binding and couples will need to legally formalise their marriage at a registry office or with a civil registrar.

    Civil Registrars

    Civil registrars are employed by local authorities and councils to provide legally binding weddings in the UK. They can marry you at a registry office or a licensed building in the UK.

    Civil registrars don’t meet with the couple before the wedding and must follow a legal framework for the wedding ceremony, so personalisation is limited. Civil Registrars cannot include religious references in their ceremonies, such as poems, readings, or religious songs.

    In general, when someone refers to a Celebrant in the UK, they are normally referring to an Independent Celebrant.

    Celebrant vs Registrar – what’s the difference?

    Registrars are employed by the local government and are not independent or self-employed. They offer ceremonies within designated rooms at the council buildings and come out to venues that have wedding licenses.

    Ceremonies carried out by registrars are very brief (usually under 15 minutes), and most significantly, the wording of the ceremony is non-personalised. So, every couple has the same standard script that is performed again and again.

    Independent Celebrants create personalised ceremonies for couples looking to express their unique personalities and have a ceremony that expresses their love in a way that isn’t prescribed by a religious or legal template.

    Sometimes, celebrants may attend ceremonies with registrars. The Registrar will complete the legal aspect and the celebrant will officiate the ceremony itself. This way the ceremony can be personalised to the couple.

    Humanist Celebrant vs Independent Celebrant? what’s the difference

    Humanist Celebrants are part of the Humanist Organisation; they provide an alternative to religious ceremonies for people wishing to celebrate or commemorate key life events in a tailored non-religious or spiritual service.

    Humanist Celebrants can perform ceremonies anywhere. Like Independent Celebrants, their ceremonies are not currently legally binding under English and Welsh law, but in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Humanist Celebrants can legally marry you.

    Like Humanists, Independent Celebrants can offer non-religious ceremonies, but unlike Humanists, they can also include religious and spiritual references in their ceremonies where requested.

    Independent Celebrants are popular with people of faith who cannot, for other reasons, marry in their chosen religion. Independent Celebrants provide a way to include faith references and rituals in their ceremonies for interfaith couples, LBGTQI+, divorcees and others.

    Want to be a celebrant?

    There are many options available to become a celebrant. But we believe that professional training through distance learning is the way forward!

    At the Academy of Modern Celebrancy, we offer online training courses but with a difference. We support you with online 1-2-1 coaching and group sessions, and give you access to your own hub of video and workbook tutorials. You learn at your own pace from the comfort of your own home.

    When you enrol with AMC, you become part of a team of celebrants that will help you learn how to be a celebrant and how to be successful too. We won’t just teach you how to be a celebrant, we will teach you how to run a successful business too. Your success is our success – so we are with you all the way!

    Related: How to become a Celebrant

    Let’s see if Celebrancy is the right career for you: TAKE OUR CELEBRANT QUIZ NOW

    Jennifer Claire

    Jennifer is the Director of the leading celebrant training company, The Academy of Modern Celebrancy as well as the Founder of The Celebrant Directory, supporting over 600 celebrants globally.

    Jennifer run a 2.5k community of celebrants who she dedicates her time to helping them grow their businesses and taking celebrancy from a hobby to a lifestyle.

    Jennifer heads up the global Celebrant Industry Awards and the global celebrant summit, Celebrantopia each year!

    A celebrant herself since 2010, she knows what it takes to make it in the industry and trains the best celebrants out there across the UK, Europe and the USA.

    Take the Quiz to find out if you have what it takes!

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