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Are Celebrant-led Ceremonies Legal?


What is a 2+2 Ceremony?

This is probably the question I get asked most so, here is the current situation at the time of writing:

Unlike in Scotland and Northern Ireland, celebrant-led weddings are not yet recognised in law in England and Wales on their own. However, it is likely this will change as the Law Commission recently announced their wedding law reform recommendations in 2022. The  Law Commission is recommending that the officiant become licensed to perform ceremonies, rather than the location as the law currently requires.

So, couples of the future (likely around 2024 / 2025) will hopefully be able to have a legally binding wedding ceremony performed by a celebrant.

For now though, the ceremonies will remain symbolic.

Couples often go to the registry office to be legally wed before or after but there is no reason that you can't combine a celebrant-led ceremony with a church or civil ceremony or partnership. There’s no rule that the certificate can only be signed after the ceremony. It can be signed beforehand so you’re technically married before the ceremony even begins. So, as long as you have a signed wedding certificate your wedding will be legal and valid.

***** Remember****

 It's the paperwork that makes it legal, not the ceremony!! 

A “2+2” ceremony or “basic” ceremony is short and only includes the legal elements needed to perform a marriage. The only people to attend will be you both and your  two witnesses and the registrars. It is the cheapest and shortest option available.

It only includes a declaration, contracting words and an optional ring vow, chosen from a short standard selection and is available only at selected registry offices. 

It will take place in a small private office.

If you are planning a Celebrant-led Ceremony to share with your nearest and dearest the 2+2 ceremony can take place either before or after that. 

The cost varies from authority to authority but is in the region of between £45 and £70 

There are all only so many Saturdays in a year and only so many ceremonies that Registrars can actually fit in to one day.

Key benefits of considering a '2+2' Ceremony

If you were to scale back your legal ceremony to the simple 2+2 which can be held midweek at any mutually convenient time;  it would undoubtedly alleviate the pressures on the Registrars.  It will also lessen the pressure on yourselves to find availability of a Registrar and a venue for the same date.

If the Registrar is unavailable but the venue is and you have fulfilled the legalities already, a celebrant led ceremony could be the answer.  Celebrants rarely do more than one ceremony a day and are therefore completely flexible with timings.  It may be that the venue will be free and a celebrant can present your ceremony.

It may also be worth considering a mid week wedding at your chosen venue or a winter wedding.  

By having the 2+2 ceremony you will also open up your options further. 

You won’t have to think about a licensed or approved venue where the demand for weddings will be highest and often the costliest!.  You can have your ceremony anywhere you wish.

A celebrant led ceremony really can be held anywhere.  In your garden, in a field, in an unlicensed part of an approved venue, in a wood on a beach. 


There may be somewhere you have always thought would be the most perfect place for a wedding or a place with a special meaning to you.

Be imaginative, as within reason, anything is possible and allow your creative juices to flow and create a new vision for your day.

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