Advice on choosing a celebrant or minister for your wedding, plus a light-hearted guide to eight types of wedding celebrant.
When you get married you have lots of options around who to choose to marry you – an interfaith minister, a church minister or other religious leader, a registrar, or a celebrant who could be pagan, interfaith, humanist or independent.
Within each category or belief of celebrant you might find different organizations, and certainly you’ll find many different individuals. With so much choice, the perfect person is out there, and you can have the exact ceremony you choose, whatever that is, depending on who you choose to officiate.
You can also choose to marry in a church or registry office and in some countries, like Scotland, you can marry anywhere you choose – a castle, hotel, in the woods, or by a Scottish loch.
It can be somewhat overwhelming with so many choices and your minister and celebrant can be many things, so choose wisely. If you have interests in common, perhaps your wedding preparations will become the basis of a lifelong friendship, and whilst your minister or celebrant could be a bit long in the tooth by then, they could end up holding your children’s christenings or even weddings?!
When investigating the many officiant options out there, you might book the first person you come across who’s free on your date, or you might meet half a dozen different celebrants and audition them, then feel overwhelmed and bewildered about whom to choose.
Venues and wedding planners sometimes have the names of celebrants or ministers or registrars on their lists of suppliers, and these could be based on several factors. They could be people they know, maybe their friends or family; they could be the only person for miles around offering a particular option; or they could be people offering a really excellent service who are on the suppliers’ list because they do such great work for their clients – they could be all three! The Alternative Ceremony site provides details of celebrants covering the whole of the United Kingdom. They offer personalised, open minded, religious and non-religious, officiant services to those of all faiths or none.
Many officiants have an online presence so it pays to look around and consider all your options, and if you get a referral from a venue or planner, have a look at your officiant’s website to get a good first impression of them. Then it’s good to contact them directly to ask questions and have a spoken conversation and/or Skype or face-to-face meeting before putting down a deposit. Pay attention to small things like how and when they respond to your enquiry.
Do you spend several days wondering if they got your email or message, or do you hear back from them quickly? Do they answer your questions or do they just send you some kind of generic information sheet? If you speak or meet, do they listen well to what you would like or are they only interested in telling you about what they can offer, to fit you into a particular box to suit them? Think about what qualities would be important to you to have in your officiant – humour? dignity? efficiency? warmth? flexibility?
To help you consider your perfect blend of qualities, here’s a very light-hearted and comedic look at celebrancy and the potential different flavours of officiants.
This celebrant favours a humorous approach to everything, so much so that it can be hard to get them to take anything seriously. Every other sentence features a wise crack, and jokes can be used ad hoc throughout your ceremony. Many comedian-like celebrants ad lib so if knowing what your celebrant is going to say in advance is important to you, this may not be the best choice for you. If having your guests rolling in the aisles is part of your vision, maybe they’re perfect. If invited to stay on at your reception they may well try to muscle in on your speeches – certainly they have larger than life personalities and there’s never a dull moment with them around!
The actor type celebrant will deliver an elegant word-perfect ceremony for you. Their timing will be impeccable, their choreographic direction will be as if directing a performance, which of course to a degree they are. They will be as able to move off script if anything happens spontaneously in the moment, as to stick to your pre-agreed wording. They will take their role very seriously, and a good actor type celebrant will take the role of supporting actor, rather than lead actor, so that you and your intended are the stars of the show. Having said that, I know some ‘brides and grooms to be’ feel a bit shy and self-conscious about being the centre of attention, so your actor type celebrant could be happy to shine a bit more and share centre stage with you.
This type of celebrant can be a bit ‘by the book’ and a stickler for things being done a certain way – sometimes their way – so if this kind of rigid direction doesn’t suit your personalities then beware. It’s a very good thing to be guided to ensure that your legal application is in on time, and that you have all your paperwork in order, and that your ‘I’s are dotted, and your ‘T’s are crossed, and they are masters in this regard. However, if you’re looking to include anything a little bit alternative or ‘off the wall’ they may struggle with your choices. You would be well advised to check what if any restrictions will be imposed on you by choosing a lawyer type celebrant.
The School Teacher
Bossy can often be a very good trait to have in a celebrant. Someone who will take charge and organize everyone means that things actually get done and get done efficiently. The school teacher type celebrant will respond fully and efficiently from your first phone call or email to them, right up to ensuring your legal paperwork is put into safe hands at the end of your ceremony.
They will want to know every little detail of your ceremony so they can guide and direct on the day. They will want a rehearsal which might be a bit like a Sunday School nativity play – herding cats who are all excited – but they take you in hand, and take note who of your wedding party is likely to be naughty or cheeky on the day! They will cope well if you giggle or cry during the ceremony, and take any rowdiness from your guests all in their stride.
The Sergeant Major
With a deadpan face and upright stature, the Sergeant Major type celebrant will look very smart in uniform. They will have a ‘plan of attack’ for the day and enjoy giving orders to your guests, to your wedding planner and to the wedding party. They will have no problem lining up your seven bridesmaids and three flowergirls! They will ensure your piper comes in at the right moment, and that your bestman and chief bridesmaid stand in the right position. They will abide by the rules and expect you to do so too – so no heckling from your rowdy aunties and cousins, and no grizzling or running around by toddler guests.
The Fairy Godperson
The celebrant in the role of Fairy Godperson ensures that you feel relaxed and happy along the way. They will have thought of all the things you should think about before you do, and offer you tips and help that you didn’t know you needed. They will think of everything and on the day hold your ceremony with such grace and love and good humour that you’ll want to take them home with you.
They will give you their full attention from your initial enquiry to introducing you as married at the end of your ceremony – nothing will be too much trouble and they’ll endeavour to calm and reassure you whilst preparing and on the day. Their creative ideas will ensure that your ceremony can be engaging and fun for your guests, and the ceremony will be moving and uplifting for everyone.
Whilst warm and fuzzy thoughts of peace and love are all very admirable, you don’t want your hippy type celebrant to have his or her head too much up in the clouds. A grounded and organized foundation to any event ensures that things run approximately to time and as planned.
The hippy celebrant will no doubt have very beautiful and spiritual and heartfelt words, but in their very easy going way, not worry so much about keeping to your pre-agreed script, which might then include a moment of forgetfulness – maybe the rings or the final blessing – maybe getting your names mixed up?! Your ceremony will likely be a very moving event, perhaps including a wedding address with some kind of thought provoking message. Beware inviting you hippy type celebrant to your reception – who knows what wild and exotic moves they might enchant or embarrass you with on the dance floor!
The Badge Collector
This type of celebrant will be keen to let you know how many hundreds of weddings they have held, and they will have anecdotes to entertain you with. They will certainly have a lot of experience, but this may be at the cost of being able to provide a really personal and unique service to you as a unique couple. An over-busy celebrant may be offering a ceremony which follows a very standard format, or they may be holding several weddings on the same day as yours, and rush to and from your wedding with no time to spare if anything causes a delay. They will have lots of stories to tell about other people’s weddings so beware, because your own wedding may well become their next tale to tell!
The Ideal Wedding Celebrant
So the choice is yours! Each and every celebrant you come across will be different in personality, delivery style and articulation. Probably your ideal celebrant will be a combination of all eight caricatures so good luck in finding the perfect person for you and your special day!