There’s no ignoring it. We’ve had Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Christmas is looming and a new year is beckoning.
It’s been difficult to plan weddings or celebratory events, never knowing when the next lockdown might be imposed. In fact, it’s turned out to have been plain sailing since July, but who was to know?
So, can we look forward to the future with any confidence? Dare we be positive about 2022?
Obviously, my guess is as good as yours. I suspect that, although there may be renewed restrictions in the coming few months, Spring and Summer may shine a green light for unrestricted ceremonies. But don’t hold me to account, if I’m wrong!
With alll the uncertainty, should we put plans on the back burner?
Definitely not, in my opinion. We can’t – and mustn’t – go on indefinitely with life on hold. We’re social animals and need to escape isolation.
So don’t put off planning for happy, life-cycle events. As humans, we do have to mark such occasions. Don’t ignore big birthdays, weddings, vow renewals, anniversaries ending -5 or -0, namings, or other such events.
It doesn’t have to be a traditional, large-scale ceremony. You may opt for a micro-event. You may well check terms and conditions and cancellation clauses more carefully than usual with your suppliers. But still go for it.
Of course, it is still a gamble. So it may be wise to arrange something that can be adapted at fairly short notice. That probably entails liaising with your venue (if you’re booking one at all) and/or suppliers, and checking how flexible they are.
Take precautions, by all means, but you certainly don’t want to regret missing out due to fear.
If you are thinking of organising something a bit special, then please have a chat with me.
You’re getting married? Congratulations! Have you decided who will be the officiant? Will it be a priest (or equivalent), a registrar or a civil celebrant? Did you even realise that you have a choice?!
[This post is designed for English or Welsh couples, although laws are set to change in the not-too-distant future. Separate rules apply to Scotland and Ireland.]
If you are marrying in an Anglican church, this is as simple as it gets. You will be able to combine religious and legal in one ceremony. The same applies for Jewish and Quaker weddings.
Otherwise, you will have to arrange a trip to the register office and to the (non-C of E) church before you can be declared married.
The registrars come at the other end of the spectrum to priests, although both services are pretty much standardised. The registrars are not permitted even to mention God or religion. What they do, however, is to pronounce the legal words. Without these being uttered and witnessed, no marriage is currently valid.
You need to make an appointment with the registrars and go to their office with two witnesses. Or the registrars may come to the venue of your choice (currently, there are restrictions, such as a minimum requirement of four solid walls, although this is changing). Be aware that this will cost you substantially more.
The registrars will offer you a minimum of choice as to the service structure. And their presentation skills can vary profoundly!
Until the law changes, possibly in late 2022, civil celebrants cannot marry people legally. They can bless them, conduct a part-religious (or even wholly-religious) service, hand-fast them, get them to sign a marriage certificate afterwards, but none of these make the marriage legal.
So what normally happens in these cases is that the couple marries first. The venue is the register office, unless the registrars come out (which is hardly happening under current restrictions). The ceremony takes place in a private room or in front of guests.
When the registrars have left, the civil celebrant can stand up and publicly conduct the personalised ceremony the couple have been dreaming of. It may be religious, or partly so; it may be (partly) humorous; it may contain ritual; active participation may be invited; favourite readings or music may be chosen; it is going to be unique to the couple.
At the end, the celebrant may declare the couple legally married (as long as the registrar service has been completed!).
The point is that, by using a celebrant, you have free choice as to the tone and content of your ceremony on your big day.
It’s all a bit confusing, I know! But if you want any further clarification on this issue, please feel free to contact me.
People can’t understand why I am passionate about funerals.
Weddings, OK, but funerals …???
The key reason is that I get a lot of satisfaction helping people when they are (often) at their lowest ebb. I come in, usually as an outsider, and give them information they will need, answer questions they may have and offer them a listening ear.
I give them reassurance.
I show that putting together a funeral service is not so hard, and the results can be very satisfying to all concerned.
I am privileged to hear things some of the rest of the family may not have heard before. For the week or so between being given the contact details and the funeral, I build up a bond between the next-of-kin and myself.
When I conduct the ceremony, I often receive heartfelt thanks afterwards, which is very rewarding. You can’t beat things like, “Uncle Dave would have loved that” or “I really enjoyed the service”.
Less significant perhaps, but I appreciate the variety of the work. No two families’ stories are the same. I meet some lovely people. I get a kick out of being there for folk who are often confused, angry, grieving or bewildered. The personal touch is very important – even if more of it is done remotely these days.
On a trivial note, I guess, I also enjoy relationships I have made with funeral directors and their teams, and with crematorium staff. And I do get the chance to visit some lovely cemeteries that I would never otherwise see.
I conclude, as I began, with an autumnal scene from Gunnersbury Cemetery.
Perhaps now you’ll get some sort of an idea why I love my job!
One of the questions I am often asked is “how do I deal with a wedding supplier?”.
For many people, this is a new experience. What do you need to ask them? How do you decide between two (or more)? How do you know you’ll get what you want, once you’ve chosen?
A reliable step is to ask around for personal recommendations. If someone you trust can recommend a supplier, that is a great start. However, what suits one person may not suit another, so more homework is advisable.
A glance or two at the supplier’s website may be useful, especially the testimonials. Those will give you an idea of the supplier’s strengths and you can match those up to your requirements.
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, phone or meet with the supplier. The questions you ask will depend, according to the product or service you are seeking, and according to your personal inclinations.
Things you definitely need to know are:
Are they available on your date?
How much they will charge (you may need to accept an estimate at this stage)
What precisely is included? As a celebrant, I quote for everything, once I know what is required, and my Ts & Cs make clear any extras that might exceptionally be charged
Terms & Conditions (especially, payment terms)
Some questions will be tailored to the particular supplier. For instance, you may ask a florist about a seasonal display or a caterer whether they can offer vegan alternatives. If you’re hiring a dress, when do you need to return it, and what happens if it is dirtied? Will the planner attend in person, or will they send a deputy? Can the celebrant stay for photos, if required? What formal photographs (if any) will the photographer want to line up? Will the venue provide a sound system?
You may well have your vision for the ceremony or, indeed, whole day. Does the supplier listen to you when you explain it, or will they do only what they think fit? Do they inspire you with confidence and trust?
If they are a little pricey, but you like them, go for them. You may be able to cut back a little elsewhere to allow for this. If they seem pleasant and professional, that is a good combination.
So take your time, and do your due diligence. After all, you’re going to want to get your big day just right! If in doubt, go back to or call the supplier and clarify the situation. Make sure they understand what you want, and you should be able to book with confidence.
You can still reconfirm the week of the wedding, of course, but if you choose your suppliers carefully, there’ll be a lot less on your mind on the big day.
If you’re considering a personalised, unique ceremony, let’s have a chat.
I confess that I am approaching this subject tentatively. When I last wrote about it, a year or so ago, micro-weddings were almost the only type of weddings taking place. It made no sense to talk about wedding trains, processions, and the like.
Things have changed somewhat, although I dare not surmise for how long. As I write, weddings are unrestricted and many are back to being big events. So this may be relevant to more people.
The groom has probably the easiest job. He needs to welcome guests arriving for the wedding ceremony. Otherwise, he may only have a few words to say (“I do”, for example?), at least until he gives a speech at the reception.
He also may have the Best Man and ushers (groomsmen) to help him.
The bride does have the easiest job! She needs to look beautiful and negotiate walking in her bridal dress.
She may well do some socialising afterwards (and, nowadays, possibly, give a speech), but, mainly, she has to shine!
Depending on what has been agreed, parents may only have a welcoming job (after their financial contribution, perhaps), but the bride’s father may have to give a short speech. He has to welcome everybody and thank them for coming.
The Best Man (or Woman) is there to support the Groom. One task is to keep him calm; another may be to fetch something for him or, perhaps, liaise with suppliers. The idea is to keep things moving smoothly. He may well have to look after the couple’s rings until called forward to present them.
His speech at the reception should be a highlight. He should avoid making it all groom-centered and being too rude; he should steer clear of politics, religion and crudity too!
Bridesmaids and Groomsmen/Ushers
All participants should be clear about their cue for entry, where they go to and what happens when they’ve got there! A rehearsal isn’t always possible, I know, but is a good idea. It should be stressed that they process in slowly. Their role is decorative, but important.
Ushers may direct guests to their seats and be of general help.
A potentially stroppy child usher can be entrusted with the task of marshalling any gifts that are brought.
The officiant can normally oversee what may be needed, but, if everybody knows their role, then the potential for disaster is significantly minimalized!