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  • Cas Holmes

What is a celebrant?  Demystifying the Role of a Celebrant: The Modern-Day Storytellers of Love and Life

Updated: Jun 14

Have you ever been to a celebrant led ceremony?

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When I tell people that I am a celebrant and explain that I create and lead weddings, funerals, baby and child naming ceremonies, it takes a while for some people to understand what that role really means and why someone would choose to have a celebrant rather than the usual choices.

In this blog, I'll explain what a celebrant is, what they do, why you would choose one, and the benefits of having one. It’s best to read this blog along with my other ones and my website, to help you get a full picture of what a celebrant does.

A happy quirky and stylish  couple smiling on their wedding day, standing in front of a bench and many pink and peach flowers
A quirky couple on their wedding day

So, what is the meaning of a celebrant (also known as an officiant)?

A celebrant is defined by the Cambridge online dictionary CELEBRANT | English meaning - Cambridge Dictionary as a 'priest who leads a religious ceremony or a person who leads a ceremony such as a marriage or a funeral'.

In fact, independent celebrants (who are usually not affiliated with any religion) are more than this; they are modern-day storytellers, weaving together words and emotions to create unforgettable moments.

Where did celebrants start?

Independent celebrants have existed for 50 years in Australia; in the 1980s, the UK followed suit. Now, awareness is rising, thanks to programmes such as Married at First Sight. Indeed, the Economist estimated that 10,000 celebrant-led weddings took place in England in 2019.


The role of a celebrant in ceremonies

From weddings to funerals and everything in between, celebrants play a crucial role in bringing people together to celebrate and commemorate life's most important milestones. Unlike traditional religious figures or legal officiants, celebrants have increased flexibility in offering a more personalised approach.

An independent celebrant usually is not affiliated with or trained in any religion. After taking time to talk to and get to know families and couples, a celebrant creates and writes individualised, personal ceremony scripts for funerals, weddings, and naming ceremonies.

So why would someone opt for an independent celebrant if other options are already available?

Independent celebrants add another level of choice and difference for everyone. For example, a family may not want a religious service for their deceased relative, or perhaps at a wedding, the couple may wish to have a mixture of cultures included into the ceremony.  A celebrant can help and include these aspects to suit individual couples and families.

So what is a celebrant at a wedding?

Did you know that according to Hitched and the Metro, a celebrant-led wedding is one of the biggest trends for 2024?

At first glance, having a wedding celebrant may seem unnecessary if you are already going to see a registrar anyway for your marriage to be legalised.

However, if you want the added level of personalisation and unique ceremony to your wedding ceremony, it is becoming a popular choice in the UK to have a brief registrar ceremony at their office (which is cheaper than them coming to your licensed wedding venue), see here Quirky Weddings & Vow Renewals | Rites of Way for more details and then to have a celebrant led wedding ceremony before or after the registrar visit.

You can then have the celebrant at your choice of venue (which, surprisingly, is often cheaper than the registrar attending) If you don't believe me I suggest you investigate!.

Did you know that wedding celebrants can conduct ceremonies in a wider range of places than registrars are legally allowed to? So think back gardens, beaches, hotels, pubs, community halls, barns, etc.- make sure you have permission from the landowner.


I also advise you to consider the flexibility of having a celebrant if you are planning a celebration of life or a naming ceremony. (An independent celebrant, I am not currently licensed to officiate a legal marriage in the UK although we await changes as a result of the Commission on Wedding Law reform)

The process of working with a celebrant

The advantages of asking an independent celebrant who has been trained specifically for this role are that they will take time getting to know you as a couple and as a family to learn your information, stories, and values relevant to the funeral, wedding and/or naming ceremony.

You will need to speak with them on the phone, meet with them face to face or online, communicate via email, text, and WhatsApp, receive questionnaires, check the draft ceremony scripts and complete the necessary contract documents since you will be purchasing a service from them.

Get to know your celebrant and ask how they would help you with your desired ceremony. Remember that when speaking to different celebrants, keep them updated with your decisions since they are small business owners balancing the books.

The benefits of hiring a celebrant

Ultimately, celebrants are MCs, masters of ceremonies. Their primary objective is to create a ceremony that reflects your beliefs, values, and love story and is tailored to your preferences.

They will help you with your questions, give you support,  advise how other people can be involved in the ceremony, liaise with your venues and other suppliers, advise on vows, eulogies, funeral directors, readings, poems, and music, and the general order of the ceremony.

In contrast, a minister of religion or registrar must adhere to a particular approach and form of words by law or according to their belief. That may be more appropriate for you and your family; as I mentioned before, this is about extending choice when often people are unaware that they have one.

Sands holding a beautiful old book which has light coming from the pages of magical stories
A book of magical stories

A celebrant has the flexibility of not keeping to a standard form of words and, as a result, creates a different type of meaningful and unique experience for you and your guests by increasing the level of storytelling about a person’s life shared during the ceremony. For many people, this is a very new and refreshing experience.

They can also add symbolism at the request of families and couples, such as sand, wine, rose and candle ceremonies, jumping the broom, hand tying, blessings, and anything you suggest, within reason! See here for more information.


How to choose the right celebrant for your ceremony

Spoiler alert, everyone in the world is different! Celebrants too come in all shapes and sizes, which is helpful since one size does not fit all.

Some celebrants specialise in different spiritual approaches, LGBQTIA+ focus, paganism or humanism, cultural understandings, life experience or in my case including the love of dogs!. Use a web search to find local or specific celebrants. Use word of mouth, social media, and website directories to find the ideal celebrant who is right for you.


Conclusion: The importance of a celebrant in creating meaningful and memorable ceremonies


Celebrants create an emotional connection between you and your guests, making the experience meaningful and unforgettable. Let them create a ceremony that celebrates your love, journey, and legacy. These can become unforgettable experiences and memories.

So, if you want to add a touch of magic to your special occasion, consider hiring a celebrant. That’s because a hidden hero exists in a world filled with endless love stories and unique life journeys - the celebrant. But then I would say that wouldn’t I ?!

 Don't hesitate to contact me on 07305002858 or to discuss your ideas, tell your story and how I can help you make your dreams come true.

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Carolyn the Celebrant at Rites of Way