It's only recently, after making new relationships with celebrants that I considered how important it is WHO actually runs your ceremony. I've shot a handful of celebrant weddings without really realising, but looking back, I really remember how beautiful and emotional those ceremonies were. Your ceremony is vastly important, it's the whole reason you're there! It's your actual, real wedding moment. It's where your family and your friends get to witness you getting married, share your love and look back on your story, or if you're eloping, its where you celebrate and share your emotion together as a couple.
What is a celebrant? Essentially, a celebrant is someone who conducts your wedding ceremony. Well, how is that different from a registrar? I hear you saying. There's quite a lot of differences, and the main one being the fact you can tailor your ceremony around you and your needs. Registrars can do 5 weddings on the same day, what they do, say is scripted, with your names input in. You can opt for your own vows with a registrar, and obviously you can also have readings, but the bulk of your ceremony is a cookie cutter one size fits all job. Now I'm not slating registrars here, the job they do is wonderful and I have met some incredible registrars who really put their heart into it - but you don't get to choose your registrar, you get whoever works for your local council, so it is a bit of pot luck. With a celebrant, you choose them. Like your other suppliers, you can build a relationship with them, and choose someone that you genuinely like and get on with, that you WANT to be there on your wedding day. A celebrant ceremony opens up a world of opportunities - As above, you can elope on a beach in the Lake District, just you two in a location significant to you. Or go with the big wedding at a traditional venue still, just with a celebrant instead of registrar! But you have the option with a celebrant to get married YOUR way. Whether that's at a venue, a pub, an adventure elopement, an intimate wedding with 10 guests, at an art gallery... it's everything completely your way.
A celebrants job is to create a ceremony completely based around you and your needs. You can have your ceremony completely traditional, just with some extra words in, or you can have something really emotional and personal. It's their job to guide you through and let you know all your options. There are two types of celebrants - Humanists, and Independents. Humanist celebrants are part of Humanists UK, an accredited body and training programme. So Humanist celebrants will not incorporate religious traditions into their ceremonies. They may allow things like song and semi religious readings, but they wouldn't for example conduct a mass. Humanism is defined on their website here - "Humanists are non-religious people who believe that this life is the only life we have, and who make sense of the world through logic, reason, and evidence. Humanists place human welfare and happiness at the centre of their ethical decision-making".
Independent celebrants are different to Humanists, there is an association of independent celebrants, (here) however unlike Humanism, you don't HAVE to be a part of the body to be recognised as an Independent celebrant. However they can incorporate religious aspects into your ceremony. There isn't a huge difference between Humanists and Independents, personally I'd recommend looking at whichever celebrants you feel you gel best with. You want to get on with them and trust them, as per any supplier at your wedding!
So what's the catch? Why aren't celebrants more widely used? The answer to that is, that celebrant ceremonies aren't legal in England and Wales just yet. Humanist (not independent) celebrant marriages ARE legal in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but England and Wales are lagging behind a little. However, that's no reason to stop you sauntering over to the registry office, making it legal, and having a celebrant at your 'real' wedding. No one would have to know it wasn't your legal marriage, and it would absolutely feel like the real thing over your registry office day. Or you could have a really intimate registry office with your closest family, and a larger celebrant wedding (a few of my couples last year did this!). Or if you're in Scotland and Northern Ireland, do whatever you want!
In a nutshell - Celebrants get to know you and your partner, create a ceremony that is bespoke and just for you, around however you want to tie the knot. It isn't legal everywhere JUST yet, but you can help the fight for Humanist celebrants here. As a wedding photographer, I love both types of celebrant ceremonies. The emotion that celebrants invoke in couples, and their guests, is just second to none when it comes to images. I think celebrants just add that extra bit of special to your ceremony, and why not choose someone you LOVE, either someone that you know, or someone specially trained in giving personal ceremonies!? It seems a no brainer for me, and I think the images speak for themselves.
and to finish off... some of my celebrant friends here!