Bride Hacks

Should I book a wedding celebrant?

When planning your wedding, there are so many decisions to make. The dress, venue, flowers, food, rings.... the list is endless! We think it's important to focus on the elements that are most important to YOU, and make things as personal and relaxed as possible. One way to do this is by hiring a wedding celebrant.

If you want your wedding ceremony to be very personal or you want to get married at an unlicensed or unusual venue you may want to think about hiring a wedding celebrant. We spoke to Hazel Marie, an independent celebrant from Sunkissed Ceremonies to find out what a celebrant does, and the questions you should ask before booking them:

What is an independent wedding celebrant?

Someone who conducts a wedding ceremony but is not a registrar. The good ones are professionally trained and fully insured (make sure yours is). Celebrants have more freedom to create a ceremony that is truly bespoke to you.

Are ceremonies legally binding?

No, you will need to fill in paperwork at your local registry office prior to the wedding – the ‘official registration’ of your marriage, and you’ll need two witnesses to be present. You can do this quickly and at a small cost compared to having a registrar attend a licensed venue or hiring a ceremony room within the registry office.

Can you talk me through what a ceremony might look like?

The beauty of a celebrant led wedding is that they can happen anywhere, so a celebrant should focus more on what you desire rather than what the “average” ceremony might look like. Your venue will have a huge impact on the style and layout of a ceremony but there are many ways to be creative with your seating, position during the wedding and even the entrance you make as a couple.

Photo by Jonathan Stockton Photography

Can we add our own personal touches?

One of the main reasons couples choose a celebrant to perform their wedding is to make it more personal and there are many ways this can be done.  

These include but are not limited to :

  • Tell the story of how you met
  • Tell memories from your time together
  • Say why you love each other
  • Write personal vows
  • Include readings, poems or music that is
    meaningful to you as a couple


Photo by Nick Bryant Photography

Who writes the vows?

Writing your own vows is a great way to make the ceremony more personal to you as a couple but many couples struggle to put their feelings into words. Your celebrant can send you some examples of vows for you to discuss as a couple but if you are not comfortable writing your own vows from scratch your celebrant should work with you, listen to you and then write the words on your behalf.  

Photo by Matt Grainger Photography

Are there any restrictions or things we can’t have within our ceremony?

Celebrants love to be involved in creative weddings that push the boundaries, but always check with your venue as to what they do and do not allow. Many venues allow pets in certain areas, so you could involve the family dog in your ceremony, but remember to think about the logistics of getting the dog home after the ceremony.

Many celebrants have strong feelings towards rituals like balloon and lantern releases as these are proving toxic to the environment, so if you wish to include something like this it’s wise to check with your venue and the celebrant beforehand.

Photo by Jonathan Stockton Photography

This is also a great time to ask about religion. An Independent Celebrant should be happy to include any religious or spiritual material that you would like to include in the ceremony, including readings, hymns or prayers. You may want to include elements of multiple religions to reflect the beliefs of different members of the wedding party, or maybe you
want no religion in the ceremony at all.

Remember the celebrant should produce a ceremony that reflects your beliefs and wishes, not their own.

How many times will we need to meet before the ceremony ?

Your proximity to your celebrant may have an affect on how many face to face meetings you have before the big day, but Skype sessions, emails, and phone calls will be frequent and unlimited as your celebrant ensures they have all the information they need and constantly show you drafts of their script as the ceremony takes shape.

Photo by Carla Guest Photography

how much will it cost?

As celebrants are independent their fees can vary massively. Their fee should reflect their experience, their knowledge and their recognition within the industry. A new celebrant may have a lower fee to reflect their lack of experience, similarly a celebrant who has won many awards may charge a premium for their services.

Try to find a celebrant within your budget who you feel an instant connection with at your initial meeting.

What does their fee include?

As celebrant’s are self employed they are all different when it comes to pricing structure. Some celebrants will have
multiple tiered packages offering different services, or some will have a flat fee, but always check what it includes. Most celebrants will charge extra for a wedding rehearsal and ask for travel costs if you are not within thirty miles
from their base.

For example my flat fee is £500 which

  • The initial meeting with you and your partner to discuss the ceremony plans. This can take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.
  • Skype sessions, emails, phone calls, text messages and as much contact as needed to organise the perfect ceremony for you.
  • Couples quiz to get to know you as a couple.
    Your celebrant will likely use this quiz to find out little anecdotes, happy memories and funny moments they can share during your ceremony.
  • Assistance choosing poems, readings and music
  • Unlimited revisions of your ceremony script
  • Assistance to write your own vows or to write them for you using your input
  • Option to include a symbolic action such as a hand fasting, sand ceremony or candle lighting.
  • Delivery of the ceremony on the day
  • A certificate to sign at the ceremony
  • A hard copy of your ceremony script
Boho wedding in unusual wedding venue
Photo by Mark Wallis Photography

What actually happens on the wedding day?

Your celebrant should arrive around an hour or so before the ceremony is due to start. They will liaise with your photographer about the layout of the ceremony and where to stand to avoid being in your most important shots.

They will put your partner and the rest of the bridal party at ease, and remind speakers or readers of their timings during the ceremony.

Your celebrant will work with the venue wedding planner to ensure the whole ceremony runs smoothly, organising the
music, ensuring the champagne toast is ready as soon as the ceremony is over, and delivering the perfect ceremony for you.

Carreglwyd Estate wedding
Photo by Ally M Photos

What happens after the ceremony?

After the ceremony your celebrant should briefly mingle with the wedding party and congratulate the couple, and then
make a quiet exit so you can enjoy the rest of your wedding day.

If you’re having an evening reception many celebrants will also be able to offer a Master of Ceremonies service. They can
help keep the evenings activities on schedule, announce the first dance, the cutting of the cake, and liaise with all the guests to help the running of the photographs run smoothly.

Photo by Andy Hudson Photography

A few days after your wedding day your celebrant will send you a hard copy of the ceremony script and would appreciate
a little thank you or testimonial they can use.

What happens MY CELEBRANT IS ill on the day of the ceremony?

Most celebrants will work independently, but many belong to a network of fellow professionals and should offer to provide another celebrant to stand in on your wedding day in the case of an emergency. You can also request a copy of the ceremony script beforehand and select a friend who may be willing to stand in if the celebrant cannot attend.

What will they wear ?

Some couples like their celebrant to be very natural and blend into the background and others prefer a more funky celebrant whose own style will stand out on the photos.

Have an honest conversation about what you would like your celebrant to wear, and choose a celebrant whose style fits in with your own vibe.

Remember it’s your wedding day and you want it to run perfectly, so choosing a celebrant is an important decision!

Derelict church wedding London
Photo by Mark Wallis Photography

With thanks to Hazel Marie from Sunkissed Ceremonies.

Hazel is an Independent Celebrant who specialises in creating personal ceremonies that reflect the beliefs of the couple.

She is a member of The Fellowship of Professional Celebrants.

View our recommended celebrants in the REAL Directory


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Gaia Hudson

Written by gaia_bkir

Founder of Brides Keeping it Real and mum of two little ones, Leon & Ada. Passionate about providing a supportive online community for brides and grooms who want an achievable, uncomplicated wedding planning experience.