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Do you need to have a celebrant or officiant for your elopement in Europe? That’s the question we asked bi-lingual celebrant in the UK and Germany, Yvonne Beck, to get her perspective on why couples should consider a celebrant for their elopement, even if they are eloping with just the two of them.
Meet Your Expert
Website: Yvonne Beck Celebrant
“I’m Yvonne, an award-winning bilingual celebrant creating modern, heart-centered ceremonies filled with charm, humor and romance, across England and Europe. With over 450 ceremonies since 2011, I have the experience, passion, creativity and expertise to make sure your ceremony is just as fabulous as you are, capturing the essence, feelings and spirit of adventure that have brought you to this moment.”
What is an Elopement?
Elopements in the past symbolized the act of running away to get married: historically associated with a secret often dangerous overnight journey across England to the borders of Scotland where English Law was not recognized, to the Blacksmith’s Shop at Gretna Green, where a couple could legally wed without parental permission which was needed up to the age of 21.
Marriage since the mid 1800’s traditionally meant a ceremony in a Church, or a civil service at the Register Office, and significantly there has been little change in the law or traditions (at least in the UK, and much of Europe) over the past Century!
However, in the last 15 or so years, with couples choosing the independence of paying for their wedding themselves, and very interested in personalizing their ceremony with their own style and ideas, many have adopted the term “Elopement” and created more of an “Adventure Wedding” and in this way, their elopement gives them the opportunity to hold a meaningful celebration either simply between the two of them, or with a handful of guests
Choosing an elopement becomes a conscious choice for the couple, and it’s often discussed with family, and more often than not, everyone is totally supportive of their decision, excited for them, and understands their reasoning. Some of the reasons might be:
- They are not enjoying the stress and overwhelm of planning a huge wedding
- They are intimidated by the large numbers and the size of the event
- They feel pressured to include traditions that are not meaningful to them
- The costs are not compatible with their budget
- They are not trying to impress with a huge lavish occasion
- They want to simply be together and begin the adventure with a truly intimate ritual
- They prefer to hold a more relaxed after-party than a huge wedding event
> Read our guide – How To Elope
Celebrant Or Officiant – What’s the Difference?
The terms “celebrant” and “officiant” are often used interchangeably, but they can have slightly different meanings depending on the context and location of where an elopement is taking place. Here’s a breakdown of the main differences between the two:
An officiant is a person who is legally authorized to perform marriage ceremonies, whether it’s a religious or civil marriage. Officiants can include ordained ministers, priests, rabbis, judges, justices of the peace, or other individuals authorized by the state or local government to solemnize marriages. In the context of an elopement ceremony, an officiant would be the person who leads the ceremony and legally binds the couple in marriage.
A celebrant, on the other hand, is a person who may conduct various types of ceremonies, including weddings, funerals, and other significant life events. Celebrants are usually not authorized to perform legal marriages in most countries. Instead, they focus on creating personalized and meaningful ceremonies that reflect the beliefs, values, and preferences of the couple. Celebrants often work closely with the couple to design a unique and customized ceremony experience.
Differences in Practice:
In some regions, celebrants might also be legally recognized as officiants and can solemnize marriages, such as Humanist celebrants in Scotland. However, in places where celebrants do not have legal authority, couples may choose to have a separate legal marriage ceremony conducted by an authorized officiant, such as a judge or a justice of the peace, before or after their celebrant-led ceremony.
When planning an elopement, it’s crucial to understand the legal requirements of the location where you intend to get married. Ensure that the person you choose to lead your ceremony has the necessary legal authority to solemnize your marriage if legal recognition is essential to you. If you’re looking for a personalized and unique ceremony that goes beyond legal formalities, a celebrant can help you create a memorable and meaningful experience tailored to your relationship.
Why Should You Consider a Celebrant for Your Elopement?
In many countries in Europe, a legally recognized ceremony can feel a formality, with little to no opportunity to make the ceremony personal to you. Many couples therefore choose to do their legal marriage in their home country, (this also eases the cost and stress of submitting paperwork in another country), and have a symbolic elopement ceremony during their destination elopement in Europe. For some couples, their symbolic ceremony is simply a private exchange of vows, however, there are an increasing number of couples who are choosing to include a celebrant in their plans. So why might you choose a celebrant for your elopement?
- Celebrant-led ceremonies allow total freedom for couples to hold a ceremony anywhere they wish, as there are no restrictions in terms of location, date, time of day, length of ceremony or content, giving choice, and flexibility that simply cannot be offered via the traditional route of Church or State ceremonies.
- Celebrants are storytellers, trained, experienced, and able to craft unique and authentic symbolic ceremonies, which reflect the couple in terms of their personalities, qualities, beliefs, values, and dreams.
- You want to exchange your vows in private and that is wonderful, but no one is there to bear witness or to stand for those who you love, but who are not with you. Your Celebrant can hold space for you both, and you begin your marriage with a ceremony that encompasses your hopes and dreams, includes modern personalized rituals that have significance and meaning and become your special counterpoint and memory.
- Your Elopement is thrilling, romantic, adventurous, and exciting, but there may be moments when you realize that there are many people you love who are not sharing these precious moments with you. Your Celebrant could contact your closest family and friends and share their thoughts, messages, and blessings in the script, which will not have been shared before the day. Everyone is brought into the circle of love giving you a wonderful feeling of connection as a couple and as each other’s family.
Alternatives to considering a Celebrant for your Elopement
Not sure whether you want to have a celebrant ceremony for your elopement, but you aren’t sure what the options are? Here are some alternative options for your ceremony:
Exchange Vows Privately
This is perhaps the most common option for many couples who elope with just the two of them. This means that your elopement is really just about the two of you. You might plan where and when you want to exchange your vows in advance, or you might decide to leave it up to spontaneity and when you feel like it’s the perfect place or time on the day.
Ask a family member or friend
If you’re not eloping alone, but instead choosing to bring your closest family and/or friends with you, you could invite them to create a ceremony for you. You might choose to ask one single person to oversee the ceremony, or you could ask everyone to contribute something, such as sharing their favorite memories, readings, or wishes for the couple.
Top Tips When Considering a Celebrant for Your Elopement
Discuss the idea of an elopement with your partner with the same level of depth and commitment as if you were planning your big wedding to ensure you are both on the same page and are both able to give your reasons for choosing to elope rather than hold a traditional wedding ceremony and reception.
Talk about the pros and cons of having a Celebrant at your Elopement! What would it mean to you both to include a meaningful custom ceremony to your vow exchange? Celebrants can add more magic – through ritual, language, and creating moments that allow you to be fully relaxed and present with each other.
Research Celebrants in the area you are choosing to elope to, ensuring that they have the style and experience that both excites you and reassures you that you are in safe hands.
Ask your Celebrant lots of questions! Find out about their experience with elopements and how they deal with different terrain, weather, seasons, and don’t make snap decisions. Remember this person will be working closely with you before and on the day of your elopement, and is going to be standing in your Circle of Love and holding space for all those who are not physically present with you.
Step-by-Step Guide to Hiring Your Elopement Celebrant
First of all, decide on where you want to Elope and take time to do your own research! Is it a destination you’ve always wanted to visit, or is it closer to home? Is it a multi-day event or simply a one-day occasion?
Draft a budget for the key professionals you are either taking with you locally, or if you are having a destination Elopement, it is a good idea to hire local vendors who can plan realistically with you in terms of seasonality, costs, recommend a range of activities before and after your elopement, and help you to obtain relevant permissions at the areas you are considering holding your ceremony (should these be necessary)
It really is a case of finding a Celebrant that suits your style and personality and who you feel comfortable with. Most Celebrants will have an online presence and particularly a website and social media and reviews from other couples which can help you to decide whether or not they will be a good choice for your style and personality, and also confirm that they have the right experience and skills and that you will be in safe hands.
When working with me, one of the first things I like to do is have a video call with you so that I can find out exactly what your ideas are, where you are in the planning process, and how best I can help.
Following our video call I will send you my quotation, terms and conditions, and any resources that relate to our conversation, be that ideas about locations, vendors I can recommend, meaningful rituals to include in the ceremony, ceremony script materials, and documentation, resources which I have built up over many elopements, and suggestions on how to make these moments the most beautiful and memorable.
After the quotation is signed off, the fee is fixed for you, so there are no sudden increases that will affect your budget. We will agree on the catch-up frequency and the script writing schedule, staying in touch throughout the process using whatever communication medium you feel works for you.
My Experience with Elopements as a Bilingual Celebrant in Europe
I have to admit that I adore Elopements, especially outdoors in the mountains and glacial lakes and ancient forests of Europe. It is incredibly special to hold space in such intimate moments, and feel the energy of the natural beauty around us, and how it serves as the most amazing “guest” and bears witness silently and majestically to the ritual we are performing.
My Elopement Ceremonies focus on you both, and the rituals that I suggest and customize to your personality and love story, make for the most unique moments filled with emotion, appreciation, gratitude, as well as laughter, and of course, romance. Your love has a past, present, and a future, and my ceremonies celebrate your individuality and your choice to join your lives and hearts in such a beautiful way.
I love creating ceremonies in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland as a Bilingual Celebrant and speaking German, I am able to support my couples in terms of language, customs, and the experience of working in stunning locations, with amazing professionals, as part of a tight team to support you through your Elopement journey.