What is an independent celebrant?
Traditionally, most family events have been marked by a religious service (births, marriages, deaths) but increasingly people have moved away from the church (or mosque, temple or synagogue) and do not want a religious ceremony for their special occasion. For a civil partnership or wedding a registry office ceremony has been an alternative but many have found that these can be boring or constrained by regulations. A humanist celebrant can offer an alternative for all ceremonies but is unable to include any element of religion. An independent celebrant offers something between these two - not religious but able to include elements of religion if these are wanted and able to write and conduct a ceremony that is just what you want.
An independent celebrant is a person who is trained and qualified to plan and lead family ceremonies that reflect the wishes of those involved. Celebrants have been leading ceremonies for over 40 years now and are increasingly becoming the first choice for ceremonies in the UK.
Please note - do ensure that your celebrant is trained, qualified and a member of a professional organisation. I am trained and qualified (NOCN Certificate in Family Celebrancy) and a member of the Fellowship of Independent Celebrants.
What does an independent celebrant do?
Independent celebrants can help you have the ceremony that you want - whether non-religious or semi-religious, it can include any particular words or readings that you want and it can include who you want. This creative freedom is why many people choose to have an independent celebrant plan and lead their exclusive ceremony.
A celebrant will meet with you to find out about you and to discuss the sort of ceremony that you want. This is usually free and with no obligation to continue, I offer a free, no-obligation, initial meeting for you to make sure that you would be happy with me as your celebrant. If you decide to proceed your celebrant will then draft a ceremony for you and check this with you. There may be several versions before you finally agree the wording of the ceremony (but a good celebrant will, hopefully, only need one or two versions).
On the day of the ceremony, the celebrant will lead the service and ensure that it runs smoothly. Following the service you may be offered a copy of the words of the ceremony as a keepsake, I offer this together with a certificate for civil partnerships, weddings and vow renewals.
Why would I choose a celebrant and not a religious leader or registrar for my ceremony?
If you are a regular church attender (or mosque, temple or synagogue) then it is likely that you would prefer your ceremony to be led by a religious person, that's fine. However, many people no longer have a religious faith and prefer a non-religious ceremony, or your backgrounds may be culturally or religiously diverse and you may want to include everyone so not want a ceremony based in one religion or faith.
Registrars can perform non-religious ceremonies but they are governed by regulations about where the ceremony can be held and the words that the ceremony must contain. Some people find that this fits with what they want, and that's fine, but if you want an unusual venue (or an outdoor one, registrars cannot conduct ceremonies outdoors), or you want particular words in your ceremony, then a registrar may not be the best choice.
A celebrant can conduct ceremonies in any venue, indoors or outdoors, often at any time too. A celebrant can plan a ceremony that reflects what you want, including any special words, readings or music; the ceremony can also involve others, for example children can be involved in a civil partnership/wedding. Celebrant-conducted civil partnership/wedding ceremonies can also include extras, such as a rose ceremony, sand ceremony, unity candle or handfasting, to make the ceremony even more exclusive and special.
I hold a neutral stance on religion and am happy to include religious elements (from any faith) into a ceremony or keep it completely non-religious.
Why can't a celebrant legally marry a couple?
This is something decided by the government and applies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, celebrants in Scotland can legally marry couples. A registrar has to include specific words in the ceremony to enforce it as legal and the ceremony can only take place in a licenced venue.
However, you can choose to have a short, and cheap, service in a register office (ask for the 'registration only' service) to meet the legal requirement and then plan with your celebrant the exclusive ceremony you really want.
What's the process for booking a celebrant for a civil partnership/wedding?
The description below outlines the process I follow, other celebrants may differ slightly.
There is usually an initial enquiry (for example, from this website you can email, phone or text me) to make sure that she/he is available on the date and for the venue you want. Or your venue may have a recommended celebrant for you to contact. There will then be an initial meeting for you and your celebrant to get to know each other. It's important that you feel comfortable with your celebrant so you might want to talk to two or three before making your choice. At this meeting, the celebrant will find out about you and about your plans, hopes and expectations for your ceremony. She/he may also be able to help you with ideas or decisions. The celebrant will probably hold the date in the diary for 7-10 days to allow you to decide if you want to proceed. With me, the initial meeting is free and I would hold the date for 10 days.
When you select your celebrant there is usually a booking form to complete and a non-refundable deposit required. I charge a non-refundable deposit of £150 with the balance due four weeks before the ceremony. Once you have confirmed your booking your celebrant will draft your ceremony, drawing on discussions at the initial meeting. This will be sent to you, usually by email, and will go back and forth until you are happy with it. I aim to get this right on the first or second version but it sometimes takes a little longer. At this stage the draft may not be complete, for example you might still be considering which readings or music to include or the wording of your vows, but the outline can be completed and agreed.
Your celebrant will then maintain contact with you in the following months, reminding you of decisions still to be made about the ceremony and providing further ideas if necessary. About four weeks before the ceremony the balance of your payment is made and the ceremony has to be finalised and agreed by you. Your celebrant will ask for copies of the readings (if he/she does not already have them) and check final details with you. If possible, depending on location and availability, your celebrant may have a rehearsal with you prior to the day. However, this is not always possible or necessary. She/he may, instead, have a 'read through' of the ceremony with you.
On the day, your celebrant will arrive early to ensure that everything is in order. She/he will conduct the ceremony and ensure that it all runs smoothly. Following the ceremony you may be offered a copy of the ceremony as a keepsake.
What's the process of booking a celebrant for a funeral?
It is usual for your funeral director to recommend a celebrant if you have indicated that you would like a non-religious service. In this case, the funeral director will contact the celebrant with your details and ask him/her to contact you. Alternatively, you can make contact directly with a celebrant (for example from this website you can email, phone or text me) and pass your celebrant's details to the funeral director.
Following the initial contact the celebrant with meet with you, and other family members if possible, as soon as possible. This is usually at your home or a convenient venue. At this meeting, the celebrant will talk about your loved one and find out what kind of person he/she was. There will also be a discussion about the music and any readings that you want to include in the service and who might want to be involved, for example with a reading or tribute. The order of service will be agreed.
Soon after this meeting, I try to do it within a day, the celebrant will send you (usually by email) a draft of the service for you to check for accuracy and that you are happy with the content. Once you have agreed this, a final version of the service will be sent to you for checking and approval.
On the day of the funeral, the celebrant will lead the service and ensure that it runs smoothly. You may then be offered a copy of the service, this is something that I do offer.
If contact is through the funeral director then payment will also be made via them, i.e they will bill you for your celebrant and pass on the payment. If contact is made directly then payment arrangements will be made at the initial meeting.
If you have any other questions then please contact me:
Email - email@example.com
Phone/Text - 07981 211 002