By Laurence Flood, Independent Civil Celebrant.

Nowadays, more than 60% of couples who marry in a register office then go on to have wedding celebration ceremonies performed by independent civil celebrants.

So, you want to get married. Congratulations! The first step is contacting the local Register Office, paying a small fee and listening to the registrar reading a few official lines. Voila! You’re now married in the eyes of the law. The whole thing took about 20 minutes max.

Let’s face it, it wasn’t the dream wedding ceremony you know that you deserved.

Registrars are tied to the wording they can use and limited in the type venues they can work in.

So, why choose to have a wedding ceremony performed by a celebrant after you’ve taken the formal step of marrying in a Register Office? The main reason is that couples wish to personalise their wedding ceremonies.

A celebrant will interview you to get to know you before writing a wedding ceremony script. You can tell them all about how you first met, why you love each other so much, why you have chosen your venue and how special your family and friends are to you.

The celebrant will then tailor the ceremony script to your specifications and send you a copy for checking and editing as much as you need to. Once you have settled on the script, you can tell the celebrant how you want to make your grand entry and how you wish your guests to be involved.

The choice is yours as to where you want to hold your wedding ceremony. The venue could be as traditional as a local hotel or as intimate as your family home. You could invite all your friends and family to the beach or hold a mystical and atmospheric ceremony in a romantic woodland setting. The celebrant will advise you on how practical your choice is in terms of logistics and accessibility for all guests, but you could ultimately pick anywhere.

Perhaps you have a favourite poem or cherished passage from a novel you’ve read? Well, why not include these in the ceremony. You could read them yourselves, ask a friend or family member to read or get the celebrant to read if everyone else is too shy.

You decide who is going to take part in the ceremony. You could have granny and grandad helping, all your kids, your best friends and even your pet dog. Everyone you love and care about want to gather round and support you on this most special of days. A celebrant will help you get them involved.

AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, a beautiful classical piece or perhaps a hymn, whatever your musical taste you can include music that is special to you in the ceremony. Perhaps you know talented musicians who could play as you enter and leave the ceremony; maybe old uncle Johnny wants to sing Amazing Grace. You are in control of what, if any, musical content is in the ceremony.

The exchange of rings has been a traditional part of almost all weddings for hundreds of years. There are many ways to include rings in the ceremony. Some popular new ways to bring the rings into the ceremony include an owl flying in with the rings or even the family dog carrying the rings attached to their collar.

Symbolic acts can be included in the wedding ceremony to demonstrate the new and lasting relationship. A single candle can be lit by each of the couple to show the warmth and light that they will bring to eachother throughout their lives together. Another popular practice is to mix different colours of sand in the same vessel. Again, this signifies to the guests that the lives of the couple are now joined by love.

Hand-fasting is a beautiful and moving ceremony used traditionally by the pagan community which uses colourful ribbons to gently tie the couple’s hands together.

The celebrant will normally ask all the guests to turn their phones to silent at the start of the ceremony. You may decide that you do not want anyone to take photos and videos during the ceremony. You may also be quite happy for people to take and post photos and videos on social media throughout the ceremony. It’s completely up to you. Just let the celebrant know what to tell your guests beforehand.

A registrar cannot allow any alcohol to be present during a wedding ceremony, but a celebrant would have no objection should a couple wish to have a champagne toast at the end of the ceremony. There is no reason why you couldn’t have a few toasts as the ceremony proceeds. Again, it’s your choice and the celebrant will advise you.

A celebrant isn’t just limited to performing wedding celebration ceremonies. Perhaps a couple are not interested in getting married, then they could opt for a commitment ceremony. A same sex couple could have a civil partnership celebration ceremony, and any couple may wish to show their continued love for each other in a renewal of vows ceremony.

The vows are a central part of any of the above. The only limitation on the wording is that you cannot use the same legal words that a registrar uses. Apart from that, anything goes. You could write your own vows and get the celebrant to read them for you or you could say them simultaneously to each other. Whether you say, “I do” or “I will” or “I promise” is entirely up to you.

Laurence Flood is an independent civil celebrant who lives in St Leonards-on Sea.

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