There are basically five types of wedding celebrant: Clergy, Registrars, Interfaith Ministers, Humanists, and Independent Celebrants.
They all offer something different and the range of fees that they might charge can be quite variable.
Yet when it comes down to comparing like with like, they tend to be not all that different in cost– so it is rather important to know what you want, and why you want it, and to choose the celebrant that is right for you.
Interfaith Ministers are the most flexible of all the celebrant options available because their purpose is to offer service to people of all faiths or of no faith. They are ordained ministers who have studied all the great traditions, but who do not necessarily belong to any church or organised religion.
As individuals, they will follow some kind of spiritual path, and they may belong to a particular faith, but expressing that is not a part of their work. They have been trained for two years by a professional body, especially in the design and delivery of ceremony, as well as in other aspects of ministry.
An Interfaith Minister will be happy to offer a purely secular, non religious ceremony in a humanistic style that can still be very meaningful. Or they can design a ceremony that is spiritual without being religious. Or they can offer a religious ceremony in the style of any particular tradition, or a mixed faith wedding. Most Interfaith Ministers will offer a bespoke, individually designed ceremony that is very personal and which reflects the beliefs and values of you as individuals and as a couple, whatever these may be.
They will also do their very best to accommodate the beliefs and values of your close family members if this is important to you. Their services can be very are eclectic! They will advise and guide you about the many resources available for a wedding ceremony, and allow you input into the script. They are also happy to conduct LGBT marriages and civil partnerships and, unlike the clergy at the present time, they can, if it is wished, marry or bless a same sex couple ‘in the sight of God’.
Interfaith Ministers are all self employed and are not salaried. They receive no financial support from the organisation of which they are members, though they may have professional costs such as indemnity insurance and have to do their own marketing. They may make their living from the services they offer, or may simply support other paid work in which they are also involved.
As professionals, they can be expected to charge professional fees, which will be agreed in advance of designing the ceremony. Their fees are individual and variable, but as a rule of thumb, you might expect to pay a fee starting around £450 for a bespoke ceremony lasting around 45mins, a little more if it is quite elaborate and longer (such as a handfasting).
The ceremony fee may not include travel costs. Some ministers will also offer a very simple budget ceremony, not tailor made, but nonetheless a ceremony, into which you can insert some personal choices (music, poetry, readings etc). It may last 25 minutes or so, but is still commensurate with the fees charged by Registrars.
If you, or one of you, is a member of a particular church, you are likely to choose to be married there. Or you might ask the Church Minister to come out to another venue, which he or she may or may not be willing to do.
The content of a church wedding will be set out formally by that church. You will be able to choose music, hymns and readings, but there is little or no flexibility in the wording of the service, including the vows. It is not a personal service, ie it is not about your particular relationship. Rather, it is about the meaning of marriage in the context of the doctrines of that particular church.
A wedding in church will probably cost in the region of £450, much of which goes to the church, and the Minister is allowed a small portion of the fee. Church ministers are, of course, salaried and do not make their income from offering services.
Likewise, Registrars are employed and salaried. The fees that they charge are set by the Council they work for and they can vary quite a bit from region to region. If you decide to go down this route, you will have to accept what is on offer by the Council whose jurisdiction you are marrying in.
Many will levy a number of different fees which include a fee for giving notice, a fee for solemnising the marriage, a fee for use of the Council Room, or a fee for attending an external venue, a Saturday fee, or a Sunday/bank holiday fee. The cheapest option available will be a ten minute legal wedding on a week day, with virtually no ceremony, in the Council Office, and will cost in the region of £125.
Most weddings by Registrars will cost between £250 and £350. Marriage with a Registrar, in any venue, is a purely civil ceremony, and does not usually exceed fifteen minutes. In the Council offices you will be able to include rings, poetry, music and a flower arrangement if you wish. In a venue of your choosing there may be a few more embellishments, but the rules are the same.
The wording is not personal and you will not, in anything that is said or sung, be allowed to mention the word God, or anything that is overtly spiritual. You can, by arrangement, appoint a minister to attend the venue after the Registrar has left (including Council Offices) to confer a spiritual blessing on your union.
Humanist Ministers seem to have become identified in the public mind as the body you go to if you want a personalised and alternative wedding. That is simply because they are a large organisation and they have been very active in publicising ceremonies.
Their mission in Scotland is to live ethical lives based on reason, but also to promote a more secular Scottish Society, for they are in fact atheists. It is usual to exclude all mention of matters spiritual from a humanist ceremony, and up until quite recently it was also required of a couple wanting a marriage ceremony that they join the Humanist Society.
But a group of their ministers have broken away from the mainstream and it is now possible to find an independent humanist celebrant who might not make these stipulations. Humanist ministers are trained by their organisation and their fees are similar to other professional ministers, starting at around £400 and going up to considerably more than that.
Finally, there are completely independent celebrants who have been authorised to solemnise marriages and civil partnerships. Their services and fees are entirely individual. Since they are not regulated by any professional body, it is as well to choose one on the personal recommendation of someone you feel you can trust.
Think long and hard about what you want your ceremony to be. And choose a celebrant that can provide you with a lovely ceremony that is flexible, will contain all that you want, will allow you maximum input, will advise you on what is possible, and will deliver a service reflecting your deeply held personal values and beliefs. Most importantly, choose someone you feel comfortable with, who can project their voice and who has a sense of humour!