Stephanie Pywell, The Open University
Keywords: Celebrants - Ceremonies - Civil weddings - Marriage
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. My comparison of features of respondent-led ceremonies with the constraints imposed by the law and registration officers suggests 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.
This article has been accepted for publication in Child and Family Law Quarterly in Issue 2, Vol 32, Year 2020. The final published version of this article will be published and made publicly available here 24 months after its publication date, under a CC-BY-NC licence.