Jess the Celebrant


What is the Difference Between a Celebrant and a Registrar?

This is a question I get asked time and time again, and understandably so.  In essence both celebrants and registrars conduct ceremonies, but there are some big differences in how we do that!  Here are the main differences between celebrants and registrars explained…


I would say the biggest difference is the level of choice having a celebrant-led ceremony offers couples.  Currently, registrars are only able to marry people at licensed premises, which means having a ceremony in your garden, your local pub, or up a mountain wouldn’t be allowed.  Having a celebrant offers you the choice of having your ceremony ANYWHERE!

The wording of your ceremony is also pretty much fixed if you have a registrar-led ceremony.  There is a script they must stick to in order to comply with law.  You can of course add your own readings and sometimes select slight variations of vows, but with a celebrant you can include absolutely anything you like.  Writing your wedding script is a huge part of what I do, and it’s so important to me that you love it and feel its personal to you!  You can also write your own vows for each other in a celebrant-led ceremony, which is always super-special.

Having a celebrant-led ceremony means you can add symbolic elements that you may not have even thought of too.  Doing shots to toast your ceremony?  That’s fine!  Jumping the broom?  Cool.  Handfasting?  No problem!


The amount of time a celebrant invests in their couples is huge.  From the first meeting with you, writing your script, offering you friendly advice throughout your planning process and time on your Big Day itself.  It’s not just the preparation time that differs.  On your wedding day your ceremony time will be largely dictated by what time the registrar can conduct your ceremony, so you may have to have a midday ceremony, when you wanted to get married later in the day. 

It’s likely that registrars will have three ceremonies a day booked in during peak wedding season, so if you are running late on your wedding day, you may feel under massive pressure to get to your venue.  As a celebrant I only ever do one ceremony a day, so you have me all day if you need me.  You can dictate exactly what time you want to get married, so if you have always dreamed of a romantic twilight ceremony, no problem!


There is not actually a huge difference in cost when it comes to registrars and celebrants.  It is also dependent on where you live and what your local council charge for ceremonies.  In the North West, where I am based, I checked out the ceremony fees for Cheshire East, Manchester, Stockport and Lancashire councils.  The average cost across these councils for a ceremony at an approved premises on a Saturday in 2023 would be £593, inclusive of a £30 booking fee.  I charge a fee of £695*, which includes meetings before the ceremony, the writing of your personal script, advice on vow writing and symbolic elements, and support throughout the process, a copy of your script as a keepsake, and most importantly, amazing memories of your truly unique ceremony; which I would say is priceless.


I believe this makes a huge difference to your wedding day.  When you book a registrar, you won’t know which registrar will be conducting your ceremony until your wedding day.  Your ceremony will be allocated to whoever is available on that day.  That person, through no fault of their own, won’t have a feel for you as a couple.  They won’t know your personalities and whether you want your ceremony to be full of fun, or short and sweet.  They won’t know if you want to include your dog as the ring bearer, or if you have a child you want to be a part of the ceremony too.  As a celebrant, one of the greatest parts of my job is getting to know couples before their wedding day, finding out all the things that make them ‘them’ as a couple and making sure that I capture that on their wedding day.


Currently, celebrants in England cannot legally marry you.  If you are lucky enough to live in Scotland, you can be legally married by a celebrant wherever you please.  The stance in England is currently under review and the Law Commissions Report on Marriage Reform will hopefully make a decision on whether we will be able to conduct legal ceremonies within the next 6 months.  This is looking very positive at the moment (fingers crossed!)  In the meantime, couples who want to legally marry and then have a ceremony afterwards need to contact their local registry office and ask for a ‘two by two’ ceremony, which should cost around £60.  This is when you will sign your marriage certificate in the presence of two witnesses.  You are then free to have all the fun bits on the day of your wedding ceremony.


This is the biggie!  Any wedding day is full of emotions, but in a registrar-led ceremony the emotions you feel at the start if the ceremony and throughout may differ from those with a celebrant.  As a celebrant it’s my job to calm your nerves on the day. Hopefully you will go into your ceremony feeling relaxed and excited about the day ahead.  Your ceremony script will have been approved by you prior to the wedding day, so you’ll be familiar with what I’m going to say, and whether you want laughter, tears, cheers, or calm during your ceremony, is dictated by you.  I hope by the time your wedding day arrives you will see me as a friend and the ceremony will be feel relaxed and enjoyable, for you and all your guests.

I hope this has been useful in showing the differences between registrars and celebrants.  There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to who you want to conduct your ceremony.  It’s all about you being able to choose what is right for you.  If you have any questions about what I offer as a celebrant get in touch with me!

*Prices quoted are based on 2023 rates. These may differ.