We’re guessing that you’ve been thinking about becoming a wedding celebrant for some time. Maybe your friends and family have suggested you’d be a good fit for the job, maybe you attended a celebrant-led wedding and were inspired, maybe you’re looking for a fresh start or an extension to your career portfolio… whichever it is, now you’re wanting to take the next step in discovering how to become a celebrant – the process involved, the time it will take, the qualifications you need and so on.
You’ve come to the right place! Read on to find the answers to all of these questions – and places to find the answers to the next ones that will be sure to bubble up as we go along.
But let’s start at the very beginning. What exactly is a wedding or marriage celebrant, and what does the job entail?
What is a wedding celebrant: the definition
“a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
Firstly, let’s just clear something up: a marriage celebrant and a wedding celebrant is essentially the same thing by a different name and we will use the names interchangeably in this article.
Whilst we’re on the subject of names, depending on where you are in the world, you may know us by a different name. In the US and Australia, for example, we are wedding officiants, whereas in the UK and most of Europe we are called wedding celebrants. Again, it’s the same thing, different label!
But what IS a wedding/marriage celebrant/officiant??
Simply put, a wedding celebrant creates and conducts your wedding ceremony.
You may have attended a wedding where you saw a celebrant at work. Hopefully, that wedding celebrant created a warm and safe space for everyone present to enjoy a ceremony that was engaging, personal and meaningful. It might also have been funny, emotional, or filled with references to the couple’s favourite hobby perhaps. The important part is that it would have been all about them and their story, and tailored to fit their needs and wants.
What you might not have seen (unless it was you getting married) is the communication between the celebrant and the couple. The getting to know each other process. The meetings and the laughter, the emails back and forth, the little messages on WhatsApp, the reassurance when the wedding nerves kick in…
And even if it was you getting married, you would not have seen the hours that the marriage celebrant put into writing your bespoke wedding ceremony, creating it around everything you’d discussed together and making sure that every little piece of it was relevant to you and your story. And then tweaking it until it fits perfectly.
The wedding celebrant’s job is to weave all that they know of their couple into a beautiful ceremony to celebrate their union, which they then deliver on the big day in a way that draws in everyone present and makes their public commitment a moment to remember for all the right reasons.
Want to know what it’s like to be a wedding celebrant? Step this way.
Is the role of a marriage celebrant different in different countries?
Yes. In the main, it’s to do with whether or not a wedding celebrant can ‘do the legal bit’, i.e. legally solemnise a marriage as well as create a ceremony to celebrate it.
Good wedding officiants will work as described above worldwide, but legalities differ across countries and states.
In France, Spain and most European countries, wedding celebrants do not include any legal processes in their ceremonies. Couples register their marriage separately according to the laws of their area and their wedding is a celebration of their union.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, some wedding celebrants can legally marry couples as well as conduct their ceremonies, but they need to be registered with specific belief bodies. Independent celebrants (i.e. those not registered with an approved belief body) cannot legally marry couples in these countries, but proceed as for the rest of Europe.
Celebrants in England and Wales also currently operate as the rest of Europe, but this is currently under review with the Law Commission. It is hoped that soon, celebrants will be able to legally marry couples within their still highly personalised wedding ceremonies.
In the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the rules vary from region to region, but marriage officiants are generally able to do the legalities of the marriage as well as the wedding ceremony.
How to become a wedding celebrant
Technically, if you want to become a wedding celebrant who doesn’t do the legal marriage part, you can just set up in business today without any training. Obviously though, we’re not going to recommend that you do it this way!
A good wedding celebrant training course will take you through all the steps to create an unforgettable bespoke ceremony, to make your couples’ experience the best it can be, to hone your voice and presentation skills as well as your writing skills, to run your business smoothly and to market yourself to potential couples and other wedding suppliers.
It’s worth doing research into your country or state’s rules about becoming a marriage officiant. In many US states, for example, it’s simple to register to be able to conduct legal marriages. However, this doesn’t give you the ability to create a beautiful ceremony, so it might be worth doing a course as well. Whereas in Australia and Canada, there are specific courses that will enable you to be a legally recognised officiant and also give training on the business and craft of being a celebrant.
If you are in the UK or the rest of Europe, there are a number of different wedding celebrant training bodies to choose from. It’s worth checking out the various courses on offer as, just like with choosing the right wedding celebrant, it’s all down to the importance of feeling they’re a good fit for you.
You might have a preference for online or in person training, or maybe you’d like a hybrid of both. You might have a block of time to dedicate to training, or you might need to weave it around your existing obligations. Make a list of what’s important to you before you start your research, and notice how you feel when you look at each of the websites – if you’re going to be training with this company, you will want to choose them because they feel like a good match for your needs, not because the special offer expires in 60 minutes, 59, 58…
One other thing – as mentioned above, you do not need any qualifications or certificates in order to become a wedding celebrant in the UK or Europe. Some training bodies offer external certification such as NOCN, but these are not an obligation, and neither will they ensure you are ahead in the queue if and when English and Welsh celebrants get the ability to conduct legalities. If having this sort of certification is important to you, that’s fine of course. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the course is any better (or worse) than others that don’t offer it.
How to become a marriage celebrant online
There are all sorts of different ways to train to become a wedding celebrant, and the celebrant training course that you choose will largely depend on your own needs and preferences, as mentioned above. But let’s look at online celebrant training for now.
Some online celebrant training courses have fixed timings, where you are with your cohort on Zoom or a similar platform on certain days at certain times. Other online courses (like ours) offer a more flexible approach to timing, where you can learn at your own pace but still have regular access to both your tutors and your fellow trainees. This is really helpful if you have to juggle a job, childcare or other responsibilities and can’t easily dedicate a chunk of time to your training. It also helps you to consolidate your learning as you go, so you’re not overwhelmed by too much information in a short space of time.
You might be worried about becoming a marriage celebrant online, wondering whether it would lack the personal touch that easily comes with training together in the same physical room. If so, look for a course that combines the flexibility of online self-study with regular access to a tutor who you can speak to live. Even better if the course provider has a chat function, a dedicated Facebook group and regular times when you can meet up with other people on the course. And find out if this support continues for as long as you want it after you have completed the course too, ensuring that you are supported on your celebrant journey.
Another thing to look out for with an online celebrant training course is that you can keep your access to the training materials, so you can refer back or keep asking questions. Whilst you might work through an online course quite quickly, to really embed the knowledge and adopt best practices like a true professional, expect to revisit course notes, explainer videos, checklists and example ceremonies more than once.
Plus of course, training to become a celebrant online means that you don’t have to spend a fortune on accommodation and travel. Our tutorials are attended by people around the globe! If we held in-person tutorials, we surely wouldn’t get people coming from Canada, Ireland, the US, Switzerland, France, Spain and all over the UK as we do regularly in our online tutorials!
Face to face wedding celebrant training courses
If you still prefer the idea of learning to be a marriage celebrant in an in-person training environment, then there are plenty of choices out there for you too.
There are plenty of benefits of studying this way of course, not least that you have an intensive few days of learning and leave with your certificate at the end, which is ideal if you want to get started quickly or you have a few days off work and you’d like to use them for training.
However, it’s important to make sure that you will have ongoing access to the training material, as it’s well established that the faster we learn something, the faster we forget!
Make sure you also have ongoing access to support from your tutor(s) and your fellow trainees too, as you don’t want to be left high and dry with nobody to turn to when you have a worry about your first ceremony.
How to apply to become a marriage celebrant
When you are researching different wedding celebrant training options, do look to see whether there is some sort of application system in place. Some wedding celebrant training courses will just take your money and let you enrol without checking that you are equipped for the job and a good fit for their training.
An application process, whilst it might seem like an extra step when you’re excited to get started, is a really good way of making sure that this is the right course for you and vice versa.
How long does it take to become a wedding celebrant?
The length of time it takes to train as a marriage celebrant depends on the training course you opt for. You might choose a very quick weekend course which will hammer through the basics and give you a certificate very quickly. Others may space out your learning over a longer period to give you the time to reflect, get creative, do a little research, meet and chat to others participants and ground your knowledge more thoroughly.
Whichever route you take to becoming a professional celebrant, it's great to adopt the mindset that you're always going to be learning. 90% of what it takes to be a truly professional marriage celebrant is the way you develop your own unique style and abilities to support and work with different couples beyond your initial qualification.
For that, you're going to need patience, a curious mind, a real love of what you do, and a willingness to be better and better every time.
Still got a question? Get in touch!
Find out more about the Celebrants Collective wedding celebrant training course
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Main Image Photo by Steve Fuller Photography