• Patricia Bentley

Bonza weddings with a UK celebrant.

Australian celebrants work in a different way to UK celebrants but what a pleasure it was for me to meet several of them last winter.

They say that travel broadens the mind, don't they? I am a celebrant thirsty for knowledge and wanted to find out how different things might be in Australia.  I met celebrants in Melbourne and Brisbane and discovered that weddings are handled very differently.   In UK, I spent seven years as a registrar, registering births and deaths and conducting marriage and funeral ceremonies, so I could see similarities in the way the legalities are handled.  The big difference is that in UK only a registrar can do the legal bit in a wedding, whereas celebrants, as well as registrars, in Australia hold a licence, and their ceremonies include all of the essential legalities, as well as offering ceremonies in wonderful venues, indoors or outdoors.

In the UK couples nowadays can arrange their legal part, giving notice at the local register office - which everybody has to do, regardless of their ceremony plans - and then attend a few weeks later at the register office of their choice to say the legal vows, sign the register and receive the certificate.  Just two witnesses are needed.

Now, this is where a UK celebrant's role comes in.  Once the legal ceremony has been taken care of at the register office, the bride and groom can arrange with a celebrant to have their own personal and meaningful ceremony just about anywhere they want, licensed or not, at the same place as the reception.  it can be their favourite pub, forest clearing, beach, hotel, at home - just about anywhere and a licence isn't necessary.

That defines the difference.  In Australia the celebrant holds a licence.  In UK the premises - hotel, civic hall - holds the licence and, with the legalities taken care of, this is what gives couples in UK the absolute choice about where their ceremony will be - a celebrant can conduct your ceremony just about anywhere.

I had so much fun down under.  Not fond of our UK winter, in recent years I have gone pet-sitting in California where I took care of two cats.  My devotion and sense of responsibility were total so, on this trip, the cats had all of my attention.  I did live in a family home, though, and felt part of the unfamiliar community.  The following year it was New Zealand, north Island, with a sweet dog called Evie.  These experiences, so far, were enriching but nothing at all to do with my role at home as a celebrant.  So, the winter of 2018-19 saw me looking after animals in three different homes in Australia during a 10 week trip staying in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.  I learnt so much from the Ozzie celebrants, and I’m sure they learnt a lot from me too, about all of our ceremonies, weddings, funerals, renewals, commitments, baby namings, but I'm saving that for another blog, another time.

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