Civil Ceremonies Explained

The Difference Between A Celebrant + A Civil Registrar Explained By More Than Vows

There are so many choices when it comes to choosing the type of ceremony to reflect your beliefs and personality. If you choose the church route, things generally tend to be pretty straight forward as the structure doesn’t tend to go off script. If on the other hand, you choose to explore a civil ceremony option, you will have a variety of choices from celebrants and humanists to spiritualists, solemnisers and registrars.

Such a massive decision can seem daunting for many couples, especially with so many new wedding terms to get your head around. With that in mind, we caught up with the lovely Anne Marie Mc Auley of More Than Vows to ask her to explain the difference between a registrar and celebrant. With over 20 years’ experience designing and facilitating events, Anne Marie is all about the love when acting as a celebrant for her many past and present couples.

What is the difference between a Celebrant and a Civil Registrar performing your marriage or civil partnership?


  • A Celebrant will work with you to craft a personal ceremony, make your vision a reality and create meaningful memories.
  • A Registrar delivers a standardized recycled ceremony which can be over in as little as 10 minutes.


  • A Celebrant can deliver a service which is as short or as long as you would like.
  • Registrars may have a number of weddings scheduled on the same day. This could mean that if you are too late, your ceremony is unlikely to proceed.


  • For the time being, celebrants cannot complete the legal documentation. However, due to the personalisation of the ceremony, most guests at weddings wouldn’t even realise the legal aspect hasn’t been included. For example, as a celebrant I include a wedding certificate signing in my ceremonies so no one at the wedding is any-the-wiser. Most couples want to keep it a secret that they may have popped into the registry office a day or a week before the wedding to complete five minutes of paperwork.
  • Registrars can legally complete the paperwork for the marriage documents.


  • A Celebrant can deliver a ceremony anywhere you choose. This can be in your garden marquee, under the stars, on a beach, during a street party, on a rustic farm, sailing down the river or flying through the sky. Your venue is only limited by your imagination!
  • Registrars can only perform services in a registered venue which must be a permanent structure with four walls and a roof. They usually stand with the couple in front of them so that your guests only see your backs.

You Choose

  • Your Celebrant is chosen by you and will have on-going contact leading up to the ceremony, so you will feel at ease with their approach.
  • A registrar is allocated to your ceremony by your registry office with no input or choice from you.

Incorporated Elements

  • A Celebrant brings your ideas together and works with you to make it as personalised as you like. You can have readings, songs and rituals such as a warming of the wedding rings by your guests and the lighting of a unity candle.
  • Registrars must keep to the script with no embellishments or personalisation allowed. They cannot allow any religious music or readings so there are limitations in your choice of wording, music and content for the ceremony.

The Rehearsal

  • If required, a celebrant will ensure that the couple feels reassured by doing a rehearsal beforehand. On the day, your celebrant will arrive early to ensure that all participants are in place and aware of their roles.
  • Registrars tend not to do a rehearsal, although some may for an additional fee. A Registrar arrives just before your ceremony starts and does not require you to be there more than 10 minutes beforehand.

Choosing the right person for you is so important and vital to your special day. For me, the ceremony is all about the love you have and the commitment you are making to each other in front of your family and friends. Hearing your personal story and being apart of writing your ceremony is an honour for me. And I love nothing more than incorporating your loved ones into the proceedings, for example, if you have kids it is a lovely idea to ask them to help with the hand-fasting or ring warming element. Choosing to use a celebrant is all about your day, your way, from where to when and how it all happens. It can be as fun, relaxed or quirky as you wish.

For more details on booking Anne Marie of More Than Vows as your wedding celebrant, call +353 866658454 to chat about your ideas or email You can also check her availability on your preferred date by checking out her WeddingDates listing here

Image Credit: via Glen McCallum.

Anne Marie Mc Auley of More Than Vows

Anne Marie is a Wedding Celebrant specializing in designing and developing a ceremony that reflects all that is special and personal about your union.

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