Thrilled to have Modern Celebrant’s very own Celebrant Janis Horne on the blog today, speaking to an important subject. Options for couples when choosing the person to marry them! Here, Janis elaborates on the differences between a professional Wedding Celebrant and a Marriage Commissioner. Thanks Janis!
What is a Wedding Celebrant?
Either a Marriage Commissioner or a Marriage Celebrant has the legal ability to solemnize a marriage in the province of BC. Beyond that, there are many key differences between these two roles.
Certified Celebrants are trained in the art of ceremony. We spend several months on fundamental training that provides a solid background in the history and meaning of ritual and ceremony, and the traditions of many cultures, beliefs and religions. In addition, Wedding Celebrants specifically study the design and structure of ceremonies and become experts at managing rehearsals and performing weddings. We are also experienced in the art of ceremonial public speaking. The core requirement for a Celebrant is a belief in creating personalized ceremonies for people of all beliefs and value systems. Wedding Celebrants have no preconceived notion of what the ceremony must look like; our job is to elicit the values and beliefs of the couple, so that the ceremony created is unique and truly reflective of them. As a result, no two wedding ceremonies are alike.
Wedding Celebrants hold dual certification: professionally certification as a Celebrant AND legal certification as a Religious Officiant through the Province of British Columbia. To receive the latter authorization through Vital Statistics, Wedding Celebrants are required to have a background and training in a spiritual tradition that is personal to them. Whatever the background of the couple, their Wedding Celebrant brings a huge degree of training and ‘groundedness’. Ours is not a path casually embarked upon.
Wedding Celebrants work very closely with the couple to create their ceremony. After an initial consultation at which the vision for the ceremony is discussed, the Celebrant interviews the couple and provides them with a questionnaire that provides the opportunity to reflect on their love for each other. Using this information, the ceremony is crafted. Following the initial draft, the Celebrant consults with the couple until the ceremony is exactly how they want it to be. The couple ‘owns’ the ceremony… They see it and edit it. And this is how it is performed – there are no surprises on the wedding day. Unless of course the couples wants there to be!
What is a Marriage Commissioner?
The BC government recruits Marriage Commissioners from candidates who reside in the communities where the services are required. The criteria for eligibility include being retired or semi-retired from steady employment; being known and active in the community; and maturity, self-reliance and good grooming. They must have their own transportation, and know how to use the Internet. Beyond that, interested applicants are short listed, interviewed and then appointed by the government.
Marriage Commissioners are flexible as to location and time, and in some cases allow the couples write their own vows. Beyond that, there is an approved wedding ceremony written by the government, with some text that is mandatory for all civil ceremonies in BC. Click here to view the standardized approved ceremony for Marriage Commissioners. For a basic civil ceremony that is organized and performed within one hour, a Marriage Commissioner charges $75.00 plus GST and expenses.
Number of Ceremonies per day
In most circumstances, I, like most certified Celebrants, only perform one ceremony per day. I wake up in the morning thinking about the couple that I am about to join for life; my focus is on them. If the wedding is running a bit late (as they almost always do!) I do not need to add further stress to the situation by needing to run off to the next ceremony. I am, well and truly, “at your service.” By contrast, in the busy wedding season, some Marriage Commissioners may perform as many as six ceremonies a day.
As you can imagine the fees that a Celebrant charges for this intensely personal work are higher than those of a Wedding Commissioner. My typical fee, for example, is about $1000 for a wedding ceremony. When one considers that the average cost of a wedding in Canada in 2013 is $32,358 (Huffington Post 04/05/2013), this is less than 3%. And surely, the ceremony that unites a couple for life is well worth this investment.
In conclusion, there are many lovely people who are Wedding Commissioners and Wedding Celebrants. The difference is the degree of personalization and the involvement you seek to have. As I said at the beginning, either way, you end up legally married!