Is a celebrant wedding ceremony worth the extra cost?
Some of the questions I hear around celebrant-led wedding ceremonies have recently included – surely booking a legal ceremony and a celebrant ceremony costs a lot more than just having a legal ceremony? Why would I book a celebrant when I could have a registrar at my venue? And - is the cost of a celebrant really worth it?
Of course, as a celebrant who has officiated both legal ceremonies and celebrant-led ceremonies, and seen first-hand how the latter offers the couple so much more value (and in so many ways), I am going to say yes, they are absolutely worth it. Whether they cost more and why you might choose a celebrant is a slightly more complex answer, which I plan to answer in this blog. But I do know that if a couple really wants the ceremony to be the best it can be, they will always book a celebrant. And I thought it would be interesting to see exactly what the cost difference is between the celebrant ceremony route (and adding a legal paperwork ceremony on top) or just booking a standard registrar led ceremony at a venue … and the outcome really surprised me! So here goes!
Firstly, as I’m sure lots of readers will know, you can spend as little as £46 (plus notice fees and certificate fee) on a simple legal ceremony – or, you could spend between £700 and £1000 for the same legal process at a licensed venue, but with just a few more bells and whistles as part of the ceremony.
(And as an added FYI – for the £46 option you simply say a legal declaration and contracting vows, with two witnesses, sign the schedule – boom, you’re legally married! Ten minutes tops. The £700+ option pays for two registrars from the local authority to visit your ceremony venue – which MUST be licensed - to deliver a scripted ceremony which will have more content than the legal paperwork ceremony, but is essentially, the same old ceremony we’ve all heard before. Oh, and often you don’t have much choice on timings, you need to fit with the registrars’ schedule, which is fine if you don't mind an 11am or 5pm ceremony….)
If you choose to go down the £46 route, then you could add a fully personalised celebrant led ceremony and the fee would still come in way under the £700 - 1000 mark of the boring scripted alternative! But that’s really not the point I want to make. When you book an independent celebrant to write and deliver your ceremony, you’re getting something totally bespoke and fully personalised, created and delivered by someone who is fully invested in your big day, You will have chosen them yourself (no chance of doing that with a registrar) and you’ll have met and chatted with them on numerous occasions, and they will completely bring their A game to your ceremony. An independent celebrant is professionally trained, is likely to be highly experienced and will invest in their own personal development on a regular basis (and if you book Lisa, you’ll even get someone who also works as a mentor supporting other celebrants in being the best they can be…)
So you can compare price, but essentially you’re comparing chalk and cheese… two government officials paid to deliver a statutory service with very limited heart and soul, to an independent business owner paid to create and perform absolutely whatever you desire!
But hey – let’s get down to it, and talk more about money!
If you are considering a celebrant-led ceremony, and you want to be legally married, at this moment in time you will still need to complete the legalities at the Register Office, in what is known as a statutory appointment – the £46 ceremony I referred to earlier. (Some of our couples might even decide to do this in church, but the vast majority go down the Register Office route.) Your local authority might call this a simple ceremony, a 2 plus 2 ceremony, a no frills ceremony but more often than not, you’ll need to dig about on their website to find it. This type of ceremony will usually take place in a Registrar's office, and cost around £46 (plus your notice fees – currently £35 each and a certificate fee of £11). So that’s around £127 to do the bare minimum to register your legal marriage. Be aware that appointments for these ceremonies can be limited – they don’t make it easy for you! – and you usually need to ‘phone to ask for availability. And remember you will need two witnesses.
Then you add your celebrant fee – and let’s use our own 2023 fee for argument's sake, which is £700 (but bear in mind you will find cheaper celebrants, and you will find more expensive celebrants) – and you’ll have a total fee of around £827 for two ceremonies - your legal paperwork ceremony at the Register Office and your completely personalised, tailor-made, unique celebrant-led ceremony delivered by someone you will hopefully consider a friend and personal cheerleader!
For those of you still thinking, “hmm, I think I’d still rather save some money by having the registrars come out to our venue” – sure, we get that, you’re on a budget. But I’ve worked out the difference in what you pay (between a registrar-led ceremony at a licensed venue V a legal paperwork ceremony plus a celebrant ceremony) – and using my local authority and my business as an example, it’s currently £92.
By spending an extra £92, an independent celebrant-led ceremony gives you the total flexibility and personality that the Register Office cannot. Firstly, you’ll meet and get to know your celebrant. You will get along, you'll laugh together, you’ll might cry together, you will reminisce, you’ll look ahead – you will feel totally supported and in an incredibly safe pair of hands.
Your celebrant will listen and prepare a ceremony completely bespoke to your story. No templates, no formats - you can incorporate any readings, poems, music, rituals or traditions you want – no restrictions whatsoever. And if you want to include singalongs, a handtying, ring blessings, tree planting, champagne toasts, tequila shots, a game of Mr and Mrs, witness bingo – we can do all that and more... You can hold your ceremony anywhere you like (no licence needed, but if on private land, get the owner’s permission, obvs) – which is great if you have access to a fabulous garden, or a holiday home by the sea, or a favourite outdoor space...And you can hold your ceremony at any time you like – sunrise and sunset included (no expensive out of hours payments to add to your bill…)
Your ceremony will be completely unlike any other ceremony that your guests will have heard – no scripts, no standard cheesy lines – just a completely authentic and personal ceremony delivered by someone with a genuine interest in your partnership and journey through life. A ceremony which is all about you, rather than some vague general words about marriage, and which really sets the whole vibe for your wedding celebration.
There will be a lot of love and laughter, your ceremony will be packed with character, personality and sincerity, it will be fun, romantic, highly personal, entertaining and even tear-jerking - and it WILL BE the heart of your day, not the bit you have to get through before you get your party on. And I think that’s worth more than £92.
So in my humble opinion booking a celebrant ceremony offers you far more value than the registrar-led option… and if you hop over to our testimonials, you’ll see that our couples agree! But do let me know what you think!