This month I wanted to approach a personal wedding choice that my husband and myself made, and is becoming more popular. Gone are the days when you had either a church, or a registry office. Then came Civil Ceremonies where you could find a gorgeous manor house or quirky abode that was registered for marriages. But what if you want something even more personal? A civil ceremony must be performed under a fixed, permanent structure to be legal. You want to get married on a beach or a mountaintop? Here is your solution. I spoke to lovely Pippa about what it is like to be a Celebrant.
What is a celebrant?
So what’s a ‘celebrant’? A Wedding Celebrant is someone who is trained in providing a custom made wedding ceremony.
A celebrant will help to develop the couple’s ideas, create and choreograph all the aspects of the ceremony and be there to support them on the day itself. They will then conduct the ceremony in front of the guests.
A celebrant is not a registrar. For a marriage to be legally recognised it will need a separate service within a registry office or approved venue and although the legal part almost becomes secondary, it is necessary. Once completed the couple have the opportunity to make their own commitment vows to each other in a venue of their choosing and with the people they love as witnesses.
The venue does not have to be ‘approved’ and is usually an outdoor ceremony or in a place that is personal to them. Marquees in the back garden, the grounds of a manor house or in a barn or the local pub are all popular choices.
Legally marrying in England involves a very short civil ceremony at a Registry Office, where you make a Declaration and Marriage Contract, in front of two witnesses. Fees vary but are often between £50 and £60 for a Standard Ceremony. In Gloucestershire the fee is £50. You don’t have to dress up or even have to exchange rings at this stage saving that for the privately conducted celebratory ceremony led by the Celebrant.
Think of it in the same way as a christening or funeral. You register the birth or death and then the baby-naming or funeral is purely symbolic but the most significant part of the process.
Many couples believe that marriage is more than signing a piece of paper, and are looking for a more meaningful, intimate and personal ceremony, hence choose a celebrant to help them create the occasion just the way they want.
Hiring a wedding celebrant gives couples the freedom to be creative and include lots of additional touches; perhaps lighting Unity Candles, holding a Sand, Handfasting or Rose Ceremony.
What made you choose this occupation?
My husband and I were married in 2012 in Yosemite National Park in California. It was an ‘elopement’ wedding as it was just the two of us, the minister and his next door neighbour as our witness!
We were living in New Zealand at the time and one of my friends was a celebrant who helped us create our ceremony to be conducted by the minister in the States. The whole process was such fun that when we returned to the UK in 2014 I trained with The Fellowship of Professional Celebrants and became a celebrant myself. With my PE teaching background public speaking and voice projection are a bonus!
How many variations are there in a service?
This is what is so fabulous about having a celebrant work with you on your wedding ceremony …. the only limitation is your imagination and creativity. Because the ceremony itself is a symbolic celebration you aren’t restricted by the legalities. Each wedding is tailor-made to suit the individual couple and no wedding is the same.
Your wedding day should be the best day of your life, and I love helping couples create a ceremony that is memorable, unique and very special. I always consider it a great honour to be asked to be part of such a significant day in someone’s life.
What is your favourite type of service?
I love a small intimate wedding with just a few guests. It feels more romantic and personal. One option I always offer to my couples is the opportunity to exchange their vows in private away from the guests.
Weddings can sometimes lose their sense of purpose amongst the flowers, the dress, the guest list, the bar tab and speeches….. that is, to pledge your love to your soulmate. Saying intimate words in front of a hundred people can undermine their value and sincerity. On the other hand it can also highlight how important marital vows are to the gathered group of people.
Any humorous stories?
One ceremony I am looking forward to this month is going to take place in a dementia care home as the bride’s father is a resident!! She wants her dad to be part of the ceremony but I am told that some of the other residents may make an impromptu appearance! It should be interesting!
Marmite. Love or hate.
Love, love, love…. especially with peanut butter!!