Supporting deaf couples and guests with a BSL Interpreter
British Sign Language is Britain’s fourth indigenous language, used by Deaf and hearing members of the Deaf community.
Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) often go to their local Chaplain, or specialist minister for Deaf people to conduct their marriage in BSL. However, sometimes they choose to be married in their parish church, or a church where they have strong connections and may need to use an interpreter for the ceremony.
The couple may have Deaf friends who wish to attend and they may also need to see an interpreter to enable them to properly witness the marriage.
There is no legal requirement to use a Sign Language interpreter at a wedding where the bride and/or groom is Deaf, but obviously it is important that the couple understand the minister and that the minister understands the responses of the couple. It is very important to talk to the couple about what they need to feel confident at their marriage.
If an interpreter is used then consideration needs to be given to the positioning of the interpreter to enable people to see and understand. Sometimes, two interpreters may be needed if Bride/Groom and congregation members are Deaf.
Sign Language interpreters are highly trained professionals who will need to be paid for their services just like anyone else taking a professional role in the wedding. If the Bride and/or Groom are Deaf and request an interpreter for their wedding, they should not be expected to pay for the interpreter. If the Bride and/or Groom are not Deaf but have chosen to invite Deaf friends who require an interpreter, then it could be reasonable to ask for a contribution towards the cost of an interpreter.
Rev Canon Gill Behenna