WEDDING PLANNING: How to have an Independent Wedding Ceremony with Free Range Ceremonies

19th October 2016

Photo: Horseshoe Photography

Today I'm handing you over to the lovely Kim Murray of Free Range Ceremonies who has recently joined my fantastic line up of handpicked wedding suppliers.  With masses of experience as a wedding celebrant both with the official registrars and free ranging, Kim has some great advice for you if you're just embarking on your wedding journey and want to find out what you can actually dream about doing for your big day.  Over to you Kim ...

Choices, choices, choices … and how you can make them happen

Photo: Becky Joiner PhotographyUsually, after the congratulations, people will ask “Where are you getting married?”  After reading this, you know your answer can be “Wherever we want”!  Because now, it really is possible to create your very own unique and dreamy wedding ceremony anywhere you’d really like it to be.

How can this work? You ask …  

Well, it helps to think of your wedding in two parts:

•    The legal requirement
•    The actual wedding ceremony

Photo: Emma Stoner

The legal requirement

Couples in England, Wales and Ireland until recently, have had only two choices of marriage ceremony - religious or civil; in both cases the legal requirement and the ceremony take place at the same time.  Because of the legal status of these ceremonies there are necessarily certain restrictions on the words used and, because of the number of marriages held on one day, limits on flexibility of timing.

In many other countries this is not the case.  The legal requirement is dealt with quite separately from the ceremony, even when that ceremony is held in a church.  In France, for example, the couple go alone to the town hall and sign a legal document, and then go elsewhere for their actual wedding ceremony, be it religious or non-religious.

Photo: Peach and Jo Photography

The actual ceremony

This idea of separating the legal bit from the marriage ceremony has now become really popular.  This way, you can opt for a simple, fifteen minute legal marriage at a Registration Office, with a minimum of two witnesses, held in the weeks/days before the “main event” and then have a full personal wedding ceremony just about anywhere you want, witnessed by all your loved ones and written just for you, conducted by an independent celebrant, or even a friend.  

Of course, having so much choice may make it harder to know where to start, so here are some tips to help you navigate through the maze …

First things, first - decide where, and how, you wish to marry

Photo: Weddings by Esther

There are some fantastic wedding venues, that don’t hold a marriage licence, providing amazing indoor/outdoor/tented options for magical personalised ceremonies and venue owners will give you lots of support and advice.   And it is, of course, possible to use a licensed venue and still have your own personal ceremony with an independent celebrant.

But you don’t actually have to choose an established venue because, with a bit of careful planning, it is possible to have your ceremony on a beach, in a field, on the moor.  You might choose a great view, or want to get wed at sunset.  (If you are going for the wild and free option remember to check with the landowner or local bye-laws.)

Village halls are brilliant blank spaces that you can dress up.  One of my favourite things, is those amazing arches people make to give a sense of place for the ceremony.  Your childhood home and garden, or your own home, may be where you feel most comfortable.  Sometimes, if you are opting for the DIY wedding you may find a wedding planner is a useful asset!

Photo: Jo Hansford

Who conducts the ceremony?

The great joy of an independent wedding is that you can actually choose the person who will not only conduct your ceremony but also write it for you. Someone you can establish a personal bond with.

It is really important that you get to meet this person before you hand over any money.  If a celebrant doesn’t offer you a free no-obligation chat before you decide, my best advice is - run for it! There are lots of us about now and you have more choice than you think.

People who conduct ceremonies

For the legal bit, it has to be a Registrar - but once this is done, you can have your ceremony exactly as you’d like it.

AND ... there are still more choices!

Photo: Claudia Rose Carter

INDEPENDENCE - You can write your own ceremony and get a confident mate or someone from your family to read it for you. This is about as independent as it gets and nothing is going to be more personal than that.

Photo: Free Range Ceremonies

WEDDING CELEBRANT - A blank page can be really really daunting and unless you want to cut and paste from the internet (and doesn’t that defeat the object of being personal?) you can find an Independent Celebrant who will get to know you and include your own love story in your wedding ceremony.

A celebrant can suggest many types of unity elements to include in your ceremony, you can choose. You may have no religious content, or some prayers or hymns, or spiritual themes or elements from other cultures.  What makes the difference is that these ceremonies are totally independent and the celebrant is not bound by any conventions or rules. 

Photo: Nikos Wedding Photography

ALTERNATIVES - Humanist celebrants - perhaps the type of celebrant most people will have heard of - also conduct lovely ceremonies and are very similar to independent celebrants. Humanists are committed to providing secular and non-religious ceremonies.  Pagan/Wiccan celebrants create amazing alternative wedding ceremonies - you can find a pagan celebrant in Green Union’s wedding directory.

How to find a Wedding Celebrant

If you have booked a wedding venue, ask them, they usually have a supplier list, or a preferred celebrant that they can recommend.

Check with your wedding planner if you have one.

Some celebrants are affiliated to celebrant organisations.

But the best way to find a celebrant to suit you and your idea of the perfect wedding ceremony is to surf the net.  Google is your friend ...

And finally, my 8 step guide to choosing how to have a beautifully independent wedding!

Photo: Peach and Jo Photography

1. Choose the place, date and time of your fabulous independent wedding ceremony (doing this right at the beginning of your planning journey helps to sort out a timeline for everything else to happen)

2. Find a wedding celebrant

3. Decide when and where to complete the legal niceties

4. When you are at “under twelve months and counting” away from the legal marriage, book your slot at the relevant Registration office to give your Notice of Marriage. A detailed guide to this process is available at most registration services. Search

5. Keep planning, chatting / emailing  with your chosen wedding celebrant and enjoying the anticipation of your own wedding day

6. Do the legal deed

7. Have the most incredibly loving, romantic, funny, emotional, joyful wedding ceremony

8. Love each other for ever!

Photo: Peach and Jo Photography

Thanks SO much to Kim for this fantastic insight into the complexities of having a beautiful wedding ceremony of one's own choice.  Kim is an independent wedding celebrant working in Devon and South Somerset (occasionally further afield).  She says wedding ceremonies can be relaxed, fun, meaningful, romantic, solemn, or any combination: expect both laughter and tears!  She loves working with independently minded, creative couples seeking a special ceremony to publicly affirm their love and commitment to one another.Your ceremony can be held at any time of day or night at a venue of your choice. 

Kim Murray your friendly wedding celebrant

If you're looking for a ceremony which is perfect for you check out Kim's website or, for a no-obligation informal chat, you can email Kim or phone her on 07773 579590

You can also find lots of ideas and advice over in our Advice and Planning pages.


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