The brief answer to this is no – a celebrant holds a ceremony that has no legal entity. Of course that is one of the reasons that a growing number of people are choosing a celebrant led service!
There may be a number of reasons that you do not want to get legally married – maybe you don’t feel a ‘marriage’ is necessary to make a lifetime commitment to each other, or perhaps you simply aren’t in the right space and time to do so. Some people prefer to retain their legal independence and others see the institution of marriage to be deeply rooted in patriarchy even in todays modern age.
If however you DO want to be legally married in England you will need to ‘register’ your marriage if you want it to be legally binding. You will need to book a date at the registry office to say your declaratory and contracting words to each other. They are:
“I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I may not be joined in matrimony to (partners name)”
“I call upon these persons here present to witness that I take (partners name) to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband)”
You will then be asked to sign the register in front of two witnesses.
If you wish to you can exchange vows and rings as well.
This declaration takes only around 10 minutes and costs approximately £130 (inc. wedding certificate). You do not need to exchange vows or rings if you prefer not too. These couples then exchange their vows in a more deep and meaningful way shortly after at their personalised ‘wedding’ ceremony.
However if you are concerned that it would feel strange to first get married ‘quietly’ then you can simply swap the order! Many of our couples choose to have their ‘wedding’ first – and then visit the registry in the following days to make their commitment legally binding. This often allows the couple a quiet opportunity to reflect upon the contract they are signing – making it more meaningful for all those present.