The day of their dreams: celebrant-led wedding celebration ceremonies

Pywell, Stephanie (2020). The day of their dreams: celebrant-led wedding celebration ceremonies. Child and Family Law Quarterly, 32(2) pp. 177–199.



There is anecdotal evidence that ever-increasing numbers of couples in England and Wales are engaging the services of ‘wedding celebrants’ who conduct ceremonies to celebrate their relationships, but no systematic research into celebrants’ work had ever been conducted. As the Law Commission is currently undertaking a review of the law governing marriage ceremonies, I conducted a large-scale survey of celebrants early in 2020, and my findings confirmed that the number of celebrants has increased very significantly since 2017. The demand for their services appears to be not because couples are rejecting marriage, but because they are dissatisfied with the stark choice of ceremonies offered by the law: a religious ceremony, or one that is entirely secular and conducted in a register office or on approved premises. I compared the features of respondent-led ceremonies with the constraints imposed on weddings by the law and registration officers. My findings lead me to propose that a more liberal regime for weddings should be introduced, but that certain minimal elements should be standardised and specified by law, so that couples can be confident that they are legally married after having a ceremony that meets their wishes.

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