My venue isn’t licensed

With your heart set on the wedding venue of your dreams, what do you do when that venue isn't licensed for weddings? We discuss wedding celebrants and the options that are available.

About 18 months ago we were at a wedding fair when a lady in her 80s, who was wandering around with her granddaughter, came over and had a look at the tents. She told me she wished she was getting married in these times, rather than 60+ years ago, when she had. When I asked her why, she simply explained that when she had married, the done thing was to go to the local church, have a traditional service, and go next door to the church hall for the reception. These days there is so much choice.

And she’s right.

I simultaneously adore and hate weddings (don’t judge me – there’s a darned good reason!). I am not married. I would very much like to be, but there’s one of us in our house who agrees with it. And one who doesn’t see the point. And the trouble is it’s not the sort of thing you can reach a compromise on, 6 months on, 6 months off….

So, I’ve planned my wedding. About 200 times over.

As a hopeless romantic, I love them. I love the personal touches, I love the corny speeches, and I really love the really clever speeches, I love the music, I love the food. Canapés are genuinely the best thing EVER invented. I LOVE the love in the room. I love the happiness, I love the flowers, the hope, the dreams, and the future.

(I did say hopeless romantic at the start…. )

I also hate them! In the event I ever get married I’m not sure I’m would be able to choose how or what to have at my wedding. Why? Because there hasn’t been one wedding (where we have supplied the bell tents) where I haven’t walked away thinking I loved that bit or I would love that for our day’.

And that’s before we talk wedding blogs on Facebook or the lost hours on Pinterest….

Also I’m not religious. I do think faith must offer a lot of people comfort and support, and they should be free to enjoy and embrace it. It’s just not for me. So I’m unlikely to get married in a church. That is unless the church in Portsmouth with no roof is happy to marry a not too religious person on Christmas Eve in the snow (wedding idea no. 67 for anybody who is interested).

Wedding idea no. 1 being a lush green meadow. With trees and wildflowers, guests relaxing on picnic blankets in the shade.  Music and sunshine while happy staff in shorts and flip flops wander around serving drinks and lots of canapés. 🙂 Which of course raises all sorts of questions about how you do things when you have a dream venue in mind, but you can’t get married there. So this is going to sound a bit stupid as we’ve done umpteen weddings over the last three years, at a lot of venues where you can’t do the legal bit.

I knew these couples were getting legally married elsewhere first. I knew they were then having a ‘fake wedding’ at their chosen venue but I didn’t really think about who was doing it. Who was marrying them.

So those words….. A fake wedding.

No. It’s. Not.

A wedding is about standing up in front of all the people who love you, and who you love.

It’s about saying this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. This is the person I may raise a family with.  I’ll share a home with them. I may own a property with that person. I may even share my goldfish with them. I will argue with this person. They’ll see me when I’m ill and haven’t washed in three days. In fact, they have seen me like this already, and they’ve still turned up today. We will go through shit together. There may well be days where we’re not even sure we like each other. But we will try. And knowing that it won’t always be rosy, and that some days it will suck is ok. We’re ok with that.

It’s not about legal stuff. It’s a declaration. A promise. It’s a leap of faith. Faith in your relationship and each other.

So here’s the deal. Every now and then we go to business networking. Often it’s where a load of people who work in the wedding industry go to meet up. There’s normally a glass of something alcoholic, and always plenty of chatting. Firstly we see how we can help each other as small businesses. And also, we learn about what other people do.

Enter Claire stage right….

I liked Claire the minute she started talking. She has a smiley face. And she’s chatty. She also has awesome red hair.

Claire gave a talk about celebrants and what they do. What she does.

Now, (and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying) back when she was at school and did the career test thing they offer to try and give you some sort of direction when you are bumbling around filled with hormones and not much direction at all, they told her to be a vicar. Or a politician. Except she wasn’t much into religion. Or politics.

Move forward a few years, children, a career elsewhere and all of a sudden the celebrant career came up. I’m not going to tell you the whole story, as I’m already on page 2 and I haven’t covered off anything useful yet. But suffice to say the world showed her a ‘sign’ and she took it. And if you contact her to marry you then do ask her to tell you how it happened.

So, here she is.

A person whose profession is to marry you in front of your family and friends at an unlicensed venue. 

And this is how it works….

In Claire’s words, ‘If you go to a funeral and you don’t see the death certificate signed, is it not a real funeral?’ Of course it is. 

And weddings are no different.

The signing of your marriage certificate is just the legal bit. It’s just paperwork to make it all official as that is what the law of our land says you must do.

You can actually run off and do the legal bit in your lunch break from work if you want. It costs about £50 at the local registry office. Say a few words, sign some legal paperwork, and then get the hell out of there to get ready for your real wedding.
And you don’t need to do this before. You could do it the week after if you wanted. It doesn’t matter!

Claire only does one wedding a day. So you won’t be rushed to get through things if the bride turns up late (yes my friend did this! She made him wait a good half an hour for good measure. The registrars were stressing out as they needed to go to their next wedding). You can make your vows as long or short as you want. If it rains at the wrong moment, you could grab another drink, and wait for the blue skies to appear.

And if the bride is late there is no rushing.

You can have traditional words, or pick your own, have a poem, songs lyrics, or whatever it is you want to make up your wedding. Even if that happens to be a division of the housework – spoken in front of witnesses. Pull out the pinky promise if you like.

Everybody should have a choice. And in these times you do.

Claire is also going to meet with you so she gets to know you as people. So on the day that you have built-up, looked forward to (spent a lot of money on…), you have somebody with you who knows your names, knows how you met, knows your story, and has helped you write your vows.

For a hopeless romantic it ticks every box.

Lush green fields, beautiful barn, hot air balloon, mountain ridge, shark cage, whatever, it’s your pick, you still get to be wed.

YOUR way and with CHOICE.

Big love!

Katrina x

Claire Bradford is an independent celebrant and can be contacted on: 07929764162


For some positively gorgeous wedding venues head over to see the venue’s we love – that we know you will too!


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