what is a civil celebrant?
If you've happened upon my website with the burning question...yes this all sounds great, but exactly what is a civil celebrant?! Then I hope I can explain.
Firstly, whether a life ceremony such as a wedding or baby naming, or a death ceremony such as a funeral or memorial, a celebrant is the person who officiates it. That is, they lead the ceremony - conducting it according to an order of service, or ceremonial plan. It is likely they wrote the script (or at least, they will pull it together from what the client has produced), made suggestions for poetry or readings, and then will read them or will act as a 'master of ceremonies' to oversee the ceremony, and indicate the times at where the client or their friends or family will read.
There are several types of celebrants in the UK. You've probably heard of humanist celebrants, who are trained by Humanists UK and are very specific in that the ceremonies they offer must be entirely non-religious, which represents the atheist humanist belief system. There are interfaith celebrants, or ministers, who are religious but will represent many faith systems. And there are civil celebrants, like myself, who are generally completely independent.
What civil celebrants are:
A civil celebrant offers ceremonies which reflect only the belief system of the client - whether that is an atheist or humanist belief, or whether that is Pagan, Buddhist, Christian, or anything else. Civil celebrants will offer what a client wants - if they prefer a mostly non-religious or secular service, but with a prayer or religious reading thrown in, that is what they can have. If they want a completely secular/humanist service, this is what they will get. Or, if they want a fairly religious service, but prefer it to be done by someone independent and not a member of the church or faith, then that is fine too. Some clients might even be mixed faiths, and so want a service that can represent both or all.
So really, the focus of a civil celebrant such as myself, is on you, the client. What I believe in, whether I am humanist or religious, has nothing to do with the service I offer you, and your ceremony will reflect your own values and beliefs.
What civil celebrants are not:
Civil celebrants in England and Wales, despite the name, are not part of the civil service or employed by the local authority, and do not provide any kind of legal ceremony. We are not registrars, and so the ceremony you have is symbolic, and completely aside from any legal binding. Neither does it tie you into a faith, even if a religious ritual was to be practiced. I cannot marry you legally, nor convert you to a faith.
But what choosing a civil celebrant can do, is offer you oodles of freedom for your ceremony - which is the symbolic part of any wedding, funeral, or naming. You can basically have whatever you like, wherever you like, with whatever readings and poetry you like, only excepting constraints that may come from something like the venue you have chosen, for example (or the weather!).
A note on weddings and civil celebrants:
Regarding weddings in particular, the 'wedding' is the symbolic part of a commitment of love (the 'marriage' is the legal binding). With a civil celebrant, you can have your wedding exactly how you want it. It doesn't have to be in a registrar office unless you also want to be legally married - in which case, you can do that part first, just having the basic service and paying the approximate £50 fee, and then have your full ceremony and your wedding day, later. This also means you are not confined to having your wedding ceremony only on premises licensed for marriage, if the registry office doesn't take your fancy.
There is more information on the legalities on the AOIC website.
So if you wanted to gather your loved ones and have your wedding ceremony on the top of Mam Tor near Edale, or in your grandmother's beautiful rose garden, or on a barge while sailing down the Peak Forest Canal, or...well, you're only limited by your imagination - but you can do any of that wth a civil celebrant. Sounds fun, hey?
Of course, any reputable civil celebrant will also be a member of a professional or trade body, and have full insurance cover. I am a member of the Association of Independent Celebrants.