How to become an SPF Approved Celebrant
We receive many enquiries from people wanting to be Scottish Pagan Federation (SPF) approved celebrants, specifically because people would like to be able to perform legal Pagan weddings in Scotland. This article tries to explain the process.
The SPF currently nominates up to 20 individuals to be an approved celebrant. The licence is with National Records Scotland (the ‘registrars’) and is temporary for 3 years. The next set of licences will cover 1st January 2024 – 31st December 2027 and we expect to nominate celebrants in October / November 2023. Please note that this licence only refers to performing legal same and different sex weddings. Anyone can officiate at namings, relationship blessings, and funerals. Without a licence, couples can still go to the Registrar for a civil wedding followed by a blessing ceremony, but with a licence, the ceremony can include words to constitute a legal Pagan wedding. SPF full council meet once a year, usually in autumn, and if licenses are due to be renewed, we all vote anonymously on existing and potential celebrants. Each SPF celebrant must be a member of SPF and of ‘good standing’ (NRS requires that their character and conduct are considered to be suitable for this responsibility). Many of our celebrants are also SPF officers and do considerable voluntary work for SPF and Paganism in Scotland – this is something we strongly encourage.
SPF has a core of about a dozen celebrants who have been performing legal Pagan weddings in Scotland for about 2 decades. Our priority when renewing and appointing celebrants is always to our existing celebrants, out of mutual loyalty, although we do expect that each existing celebrant will be presenting Paganism positively, representing the SPF, and at all times aware that they are acting as ambassadors for the SPF (and not doing or saying anything that might bring SPF into disrepute or damage SPF – whether deliberately or inadvertently). We are aware that celebrants in remote areas do not perform many weddings and we do not make decisions based on how many weddings a celebrant is performing.
SPF also provides approved celebrant status to those of our officers who are acting in a senior role within SPF. This especially refers to our officers working in interfaith where other faiths have expectations that senior ‘ministers’ would be able to perform legal weddings, even if not many legal weddings are actually performed by that officer. In this case, the awarding of celebrant status is more of a recognition of responsibility within SPF.
Approved SPF celebrants can have their celebrant status withdrawn from them in certain circumstances. If, for example, their behaviour is deemed to be damaging to SPF’s reputation or if they withdraw from a senior role within SPF (if their celebrant status comes as part of their officer role). It is a condition of continuing to be an approved SPF celebrant that all celebrants keep in contact and communication with SPF, update personal contact details, and respond to any requests from the Celebrant Co-ordinators. It is also a condition that all SPF approved celebrants are openly willing to perform both same and different sex weddings – SPF does not consider same sex weddings to be an issue of ‘individual conscience’ – likewise anyone from the wider LGBTQIA+ community seeking the services of one of our celebrants should expect to be treated with dignity and respect.
Places become available only as existing celebrants leave (‘one out, one in’) as the number of celebrants that SPF can nominate is limited by NRS. We prefer to prioritise potential celebrants who are based in areas where there are few SPF celebrants – at present Scotland’s ‘central belt’ is already at capacity.
To become an SPF approved celebrant we ask:
- That you are a practicing Pagan. We welcome lots of different Pagan paths but it is vital that you are a practicing Pagan because the legal wedding ceremonies you will perform will need to be religious rituals – as ‘priest’ you will need to be able to conduct ceremonies with integrity.
- That you are a member of SPF – please don’t join just for this reason, membership of SPF is not adequate grounds on its own to be nominated as an approved SPF celebrant.
- That you are resident in Scotland.
- You are of ‘good standing’ because the Celebrant Co-ordinators will need to sign to confirm to NRS that your character and conduct are considered to be suitable for this responsibility
- We would like to know something about you, who you are, what you believe, what your Pagan path is… and the easiest way for you to do this is to volunteer in some capacity for SPF – we always need people to do some admin, or write articles for eSPIN, help out at conference, there are plenty of things that you can do to help SPF and it gives us a chance to get to know you and your suitability to be a celebrant.
- The SPF does not provide training in celebrancy, so we need you to show us some evidence of your suitability to be a SPF celebrant – have you perhaps shadowed a SPF celebrant, worked as a non-legal celebrant, taken relevant courses, show aptitude, have work or public ritual experience …
- That you confirm an enthusiastic willingness to perform both same and different sex weddings.
- That you confirm you will fully comply with the legal requirements. SPF will provide information regarding this to our approved celebrants but you are expected to read it, seek clarification for anything you do not understand, and keep up to date in relevant legislation / law changes / NRS guidance.
- That you provide two (2) anonymised wedding ceremonies which you have created (you do not need to have performed them), this demonstrates to us that you know what you are doing.
- Confirm that you will always aim to conduct ritual in a responsible and respectful manner: you will obtain permission to use the site from landowners etc, you will have appropriate insurance in place (this is your individual responsibility), you will leave the site as you find it (if not better) with no litter (including confetti), you will not endorse animal cruelty (release of butterflies or doves). NB SPF are aware that sometimes such issues are beyond the control of the individual celebrant, but we would expect each celebrant to take as much action as possible to ensure that couples and guests keep to these guidelines, all of which are wholly in keeping with a Pagan path.
In closing, please note that SPF’s approved celebrants only perform a few legal Pagan weddings each year each (and at most about a dozen). The NRS does allow celebrants to charge a fee ‘where the charges simply serve as a means to enable the celebrant to continue to enact his or her religious or philosophical beliefs in the solemnisation of marriages.’ However, the NRS does not allow celebrants approved to perform religious marriage to operate as a business. Celebrant status through the NRS is primarily a method by which SPF celebrants can support the people in our community through offering legal Pagan weddings.
Therefore, if you are an existing celebrant, already running a celebrancy business and seeking to add the provision of legal marriages to your offer and repertoire, SPF may not be the right fit for you. In practice, several of our approved Celebrants have found that the demand for their celebrancy services have not increased significantly on receiving approved status: many couples are fine to do the legal side with the Registrar and celebrate in a religious ceremony afterwards.
If, after all this, you would still like to apply to be a SPF approved celebrant, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the information requested in this article.
Ceci and Helen
Celebrants Co-ordinator &
Deputy Celebrants Co-ordinator