A civil wedding ceremony or civil partnership would only have legal status if a Registrar from the Civil Register Office is present. It’s the Registrar who would formally register your ceremony of union and issue you with your certificate.
At a civil ceremony you are required to have the Celebrant provided by the Register Office, who works in partnership with the Registrar. You are not able to appoint an Independent Celebrant of your own at this legal ceremony.
This arrangement means you will not be able to achieve a civil ceremony which is as personalised as you would probably want it to be because the content will have to conform to strict guidelines (nothing even remotely religious, for example) and duration (usually only about 20 minutes or so), and choices for the wording made available to you are very few. It would also mean you being tied to a limited choice of venues as it would still need to be in a place especially licensed for civil weddings.
So, there's no getting away from the fact that a civil ceremony alone would limit the options for your wedding to be truly personalised.
If the limitations described feel like a compromise too far, you could do what many couples prefer which is to first do the ‘legal bit’ as part of a small, civil ceremony at the Register Office, (known as a "Basic Registration") and then have the main event in follow up, either on the same day or on a day of its own. This approach means you can style the feel and content of the main ceremony exactly as you want it to be, including the option of exchanging vows and rings for it to still look and feel like a wedding. It also has the benefit of giving you complete freedom to pick the venue you want, including one in the open air if that appeals, (though a wet weather back up plan would be sensible!).
This 'both / and' approach will not only ensure a completely customised 'main event,' it can also help you save on costs: a Basic Registration in Kent can be as little as £46 (for up to four guests) and after adding my fee for a totally bespoke event afterwards, the total you would pay for a ceremony is often less than the Register Office will charge you for an 'off the peg' civil ceremony.
Perhaps you're planning a legal ceremony overseas, but looking to mark your commitment to each other in a later event closer to home for a bigger gathering of family and friends to share in your joy?
Or maybe you are wanting to renew your vows to each other, either as part of a special anniversary celebration with family and friends, or because you've reached another stage in your relationship where a re-commitment to one another feels timely?
Wherever possible, we would start with a completely clean page on which to create together a ceremony which is exactly to your specification, and one which is in keeping with your personalities and life story so far, taking as much time over it as we need to ensure that it’s not ‘off the peg’ like most civil ceremonies, but instead is truly unique to you.
As part of my service to you, should you decide to appoint me as your Independent Celebrant, I will research your chosen venue in advance to make sure the ceremony we have planned can be accommodated and delivered exactly as intended, liaising with key venue staff as necessary.
A rehearsal, in my experience, is not strictly necessary – I always think that whatever happens at your wedding ceremony, even the unexpected, is part of what makes it unique and special! But, I know that for some couples and their attendants, a run through in advance can help reduce stress on the day, as well as help answer any last minute questions, so a rehearsal can certainly be arranged if you feel that would be helpful to you.
On the day of your ceremony, I will always arrive in good time beforehand, both to set up as necessary, and to make sure everything is under control by checking in with whoever has duties of their own, before I then lead the ceremony in the way you have asked.
My aim is to ensure that you feel confident in my ability to coordinate all aspects of your ceremony so that it's not something you need have concerns about. I want you instead to be able to relax and enjoy the occasion as an experience, making it all the more memorable a celebration for you to look back upon with joy.
We asked Graham to be the celebrant for our son George’s naming ceremony. He made the whole experience a very special occasion for which we are truly grateful. Even friends were coming up to us afterwards asking if they could make a booking too! The whole ceremony was enjoyable and ran smoothly, just as we hoped. Graham has such a calming and reassuring presence that quickly helped dissipate any of the nerves we had to begin with! I would not hesitate to recommend Graham and his services to anyone.