Time for a change? Registrars vs Celebrants


Wedding Photography for Essex and Suffolk
The Bride and Groom on their wedding day.

Time for a change? Registrars vs Celebrants.

What has prompted me to ask that question? Well, I am so amazed at the attitude of the Registrar who conducted yesterday’s wedding ceremony that I have had to interrupt my scheduled blogs and “share the experience” with you all.

I don’t want to use the word “story” because that may imply that the facts have been exaggerated in some way. No, what I am about to write is 100% factual and exactly as it happened without embellishment. You can then form your own opinion as to whether it is “Time for a change”.

First some background. The happy couple have lived together for several years and are in the process of modernising their home. The Bride’s Mum falls seriously ill with cancer, so they decide to put the house renovations on hold and arrange for their wedding to take place earlier than originally planned so that Mum can be there.

Their big day arrives and the weather, that one thing that none of us can control, decides to do it’s worst. The heaviest snowfall for several years leading to blocked roads and traffic chaos.  I live 15 minutes from the venue and it took me 1 hour 20 minutes to get there!

The Groom was due to arrive at 11.00am, the ceremony due to start at 2.00pm. The Groom arrives just before 2.00pm. The usual 40 minute journey had taken him 4 hours. The Bride was still on her way and whilst her make up and hair were done at home, she still has to get into her dress and do all the “finishing touches” when she arrives.

I speak to the venue planner who assures me he has spoken to the Registrar and there is no need to worry about the time. Apparently this ceremony was the only one that day.

A few minutes later the Registrar approaches me. I am “instructed” to not take any photos of the Bride whilst her Mum helps her get ready as to do so would cause further delay. ( I ignored her request. Why? Because those few moments when Mum helps Daughter put on her wedding dress are simply too special to miss out. Especially when Mum is so ill. Besides, I knew it wouldn’t cause any additional delay, I just photographed it “as it happened” ).

The Registrar then “instructed” me to be “as quick as possible” and only take a couple of photos of the Bride and Groom signing the “mock register”.

Anyway, the Bride arrives and starts to get ready. The Registrar comes to make sure I’m not delaying proceedings by taking “unnecessary” photos. I kid you not. She actually came into the Bridal Suit to make sure I wasn’t delaying things!

Finally we’re ready to go and the ceremony gets underway some 2 hours late. I can see from my EXIF data that it started at 1602hours and was finished by 1614hours. Talk about rushed, I’ve never seen anything like it. “Professional” in that the correct legal words were said it may have been. “Relaxed and fun” it most certainly was not and was completely devoid of any “warmth” towards the couple. No entrance music, guests were not allowed to photograph the “mock signing” and even the usual “Presentation” of the marriage certificate to the Bride did not happen. And this is their once in a lifetime ‘Special Day”!

When it came to the wedding breakfast I was made aware that there would be two readings in addition to the usual speeches. This was because the Registrar had told the couple just before their ceremony that she was taking the readings out of the ceremony as there wasn’t time for them!

Surely in these modern times there is no place for this “officious” attitude towards a couple on their wedding day. My wife has conducted many ceremonies in the past where they have started late. She makes light of it and always manages to turn it into a funny story that makes the guests and the couples laugh and puts the couple at ease. She never”rushes” the ceremony and she wouldn’t dream of “cutting out the readings” to save a few minutes!

In fairness to Registrars, I have worked with many over the years and this is only the fourth one I have come across with such an appalling attitude. The vast majority of them are very good at what they do and make the ceremony a joyous occasion, as it should be.

But I do wonder whether the small number of “not so good” Registrars are ever “held to account” for their work. As a celebrant, if my wife wasn’t good at her job and didn’t have the correct attitude, she would find herself out of work. Her clients interview her and if she isn’t exactly what they are looking for, they go elsewhere.

If you decide to use a Registrar, which incidentally costs £125 MORE than a Celebrant in this area, you don’t seem to have any say in which individual Registrar will conduct your ceremony. If you get one who doesn’t appear to like her job or is “having a bad day” and just wants to “gallop” through the ceremony as quickly as possible, that’s just tough luck. Once the ceremony has been held, you can’t go back and change it.

Personally, I think it’s time for a change. I believe people need to be made aware that they have a choice.


And I believe that, when couples choose to use a Registrar, they should be allowed to choose which Registrar conducts their ceremony.

Perhaps then the small minority of Registrars who obviously don’t enjoy their work would find themselves having to look for an occupation more suited to their own personalities.

Wedding Photography for Essex and Suffolk.
The Bride and Groom go for a stroll on their wedding day.

My wife has asked suggested I mention the following. Should you choose to use a Celebrant to conduct your wedding ceremony then you must go to the Registry Office to have your marriage “Registered” to make it legally binding, similar to the way the law requires you”Register” a birth or a death.