County Council to enter celebrant wedding market

  |  Published: Oct 10th 2016

Couples looking for something a bit different on their big day will soon benefit from the County Council’s ‘celebrant wedding’ service - and while registrars have ruled out conducting ceremonies in shark tanks or 5,000 feet above ground, pretty much everything else is on the table.
 
Celebrant wedding ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and give couples complete control over what they say to each other or include in their ceremony.
 
However, for a civil marriage to be legally recognised, it must be conducted and registered by a Registrar in a licenced venue or register office and legal marriage vows must be spoken.
 
Wendy Morgan-Brown, head of culture and leisure at Buckinghamshire County Council, said couples were often confused about the legal status of celebrant weddings.
 
“We had a couple come in who had been told they just needed some paperwork signed by the council,” she said. “When we explained that they wouldn’t be legally married through a celebrant wedding and needed to take the statutory vows at a register office, they were heartbroken as there wasn’t time to do this before their big day.”
 
The Council is now drawing up a business case to launch its own celebrant wedding packages from January, making it one of the first authorities in the country to tap into this growing market. The service will include the legal ceremony by the registrar followed by a bespoke ceremony designed by the couple and presided over by the same registrar. It means couples are able to enjoy their own unique ceremony with content and words of their choice, at a location which is special to them.
 
Wendy added: “For example a couple can be formally married on a Friday in a ‘2x2’ at the registry office – literally the two of them, two witnesses and the registrars. Then on Saturday, they can have their big day, with the same registrars who they’re familiar with conducting a ceremony which is unique to them. We can guide them through the whole process and ensure everything is legally compliant, while also advising them on how to make their wedding as special and personalised as they wish.”
 
Unlike the formal ceremonies, celebrant weddings can take place in the great outdoors, opening up a huge range of possibilities in beautiful Buckinghamshire.
 
“We’re lucky to have the Chilterns on our doorsteps,” said Wendy, “and our countryside would certainly make a spectacular backdrop for ceremonies. I read about one celebrant wedding in a shark tank, which I’m not sure we’d get past health and safety, and the same goes for ceremonies in hot air balloons – but apart from that, we’re open to any suggestions!”
 
Martin Phillips, cabinet member for community engagement, said: “This is a brilliant idea and will allow couples to design their dream wedding in a hassle-free way that ensures weddings comply with marriage laws. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing about some of the more unusual ceremonies our registrars will be presiding over.
 
“There is also a serious point to all this. Weddings already bring in around £1.2m a year to the council through the competitive fees we charge for registrars and venue licences. This helps offset the cost of other parts of the registration service which are heavily subsidised, such as the issuing of birth and death certificates. Entering the celebrant marriage market will help grow our revenue further at a time that budgets are being squeezed by increased demand and government cutbacks.”

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