Unless your ceremony is taking place at home or in the back garden, you’re going to be looking to hire a venue. That’s something you should take seriously, as the atmosphere and facilities can make all the difference to (probably) the biggest day of your lives.
Starting the Search
You may be lucky, and either know from experience where you want the ceremony to take place or have recommendations from reliable acquaintances.
If not, decide on the area and also on your budget. Then go online and google in local wedding venues. The website will be a good starting point, because if the text and pictures fail to attract you, you’re on to a non-starter straight away! It’s so important that you feel the venue is right and is where you want to be married.
Make a list and arrange to visit the top three or so. Ensure you see the event planner, and be ready to ask questions.
You may want to know any of the following:
What availability do they have?
What exactly does the booking fee include?
Will the event planner be there on the day?
Can you bring in outside suppliers of your choice?
If outdoors, what arrangements are available if the weather is inclement?
Can you have the ceremony in one room and the reception in another?
Do they have tie-ins with registrars (ie will these come out to the venue)? [Not happening currently.]
Do they supply PA systems?
What cancellation processes do they have?
How and when do they expect to be paid?
What is the state of their Risk Assessment (bearing in mind current social distancing)?
Provided that you love the venue and your questions have been answered satisfactorily, then go with it. If it is a little too expensive, you lose nothing by asking for a discount. It may well be cheaper, if you marry out of season, in the afternoon or on a weekday.
I always say, when choosing a celebrant or a venue, book the one you really want, even if it may mean allocating a little less money than you had planned to another service.
As last week’s blog (about outstanding ceremonies) seemingly aroused some curiosity, I thought I’d continue the thread. This time it’s about things that didn’t quite go to plan …
This example takes some beating, I think.
Maybe not the right sort of Conduct
I am aware how busy the month before the wedding is likely to be for the couple. So, I always aim to work with them well ahead of time. Then we can sort out a perfect order of service a good few weeks before the actual ceremony without pressure. That leaves them free to concentrate on other needs.
We may not speak again until the big day, except that I give them a call the week of the wedding, mostly for mutual reassurance.
On this occasion, I rang the bride four days prior to the ceremony. I asked if she was excited, and she said “no”. I was rather taken aback. She asked whether Dennis hadn’t told me? (Dennis – not real name – was the groom.) No, he hadn’t made any contact.
Well, it turns out that the wedding was off, as Dennis had been caught in flagrante!
I couldn’t believe that he was preparing to make his marriage vows in a few days’ time while already unfaithful!
Not even as a joke …
I arrived early – as always – for one of my weddings. It was at the Royal Box, Epsom (no royalty could make it, unfortunately!). It wasn’t long before the groom arrived, extremely nervous. As I normally do, I made small talk with him to try and make him more relaxed.
“I can see you’re nervous – I’ll bet you’ve forgotten the rings,” I said insouciantly.
He turned pale.
“You’re right. I left them in the hotel.”
He managed to fetch them and return before the (tardy) bride arrived; all was well in the end.
One summer wedding in Brixton turned awkward when the bride was late – very late – for her wedding. After 20-30 minutes, the best man tried to contact her, but there was no phone reception. When some wag suggested that the bride might not be going to appear, the groom started having kittens. I offered to get him a glass of water, and he agreed.
I left my spot and went across the hall to the kitchen. Having poured out some water, I found my entry barred because the bride had suddenly arrived and was processing in! How was I to get to the front without detracting from the bride’s entrance?
Luckily, I managed to sneak round the side and arrived at my post just before the rather surprised bride!
It turns out that the driver had got lost and, as we realised, there was no Wifi in the venue!
The vast majority of my ceremonies are well-prepared and go smoothly. If something does go wrong, it’s usually sorted or forgotten quickly enough.
Have a chat with me to see how we can get you hitched without a hitch!
I’m often asked to tell a story or two about my experiences as a civil celebrant. Here are a couple that have stood out for me, among the many.
I suspect there will be no topping the funeral I conducted for a 92-year-old. It turns out that he died in the arms of his mistress on the beach in Tenerife. Now, I know death can be most unwelcome, but that takes some beating!
“Most Unpromising” Funeral
This was for a 93-year-old, who had lived for decades in a home. The other residents were unable to come out to her funeral, and she had no relatives or friends left who might attend. So I had to put together a funeral, based on the scraps of information I was able to glean.
Just three of us were there on the day (imagine that!), but what was nice was I knew that the old lady had been a Freddie Mercury fan. So, for exit music, I chose “Killer Queen”, which is irresistible, and we were able to go out with a smile. I do believe the lady would have appreciated that!
“Most Exotic” Wedding
This may be beginning to sound like Oscar nominations, but I’ll persevere.
A wedding that I conducted in Cyprus for a South African Jew marrying a Russian Orthodox lady was outstanding, But I’m not sure that qualifies as my most exotic.
That moniker probably goes to the couple I married one January Saturday on top of an iron-age fort. She was pagan and he was half-Jewish, and they wanted elements from both cultures included. The handfasting ceremony was a lovely challenge for me, and the explanations I furnished were much appreciated by the guests.
“Most Surprising” Wedding
Another outdoor wedding – we were outside a lovely house, backs to the building, looking down at the guests seated in a garden.
When it came to the Ring Blessing, we had a surprise for the guests! I broke off and put a white leather glove on the arm of the bride. She held her arm up. Unbeknown to the guests, behind them a falconer had arrived with a barn owl. The latter responded to the raised white glove and flew low over the heads of the astonished guests to the bride, carrying the rings with her. (See Matt Penberthy’s photo at the top). These were then removed and the owl coaxed back to the falconer with some raw chicken.
I hope that gives a flavour of some of the ceremonies I have been privileged to be involved with. Maybe, if you like, I’ll continue this another time and talk about some ceremonies that went less successfully! (Of course, that would be a far shorter blog …!)
To discuss making your ceremony memorable for the right reasons, please have a chat with me!
Although micro-weddings can sometimes be the cheapest option, the accumulation of expenses associated with a wedding can seem relentless.
Why the expense?
Some suppliers sense ‘easy pickings’ when a couple approaches them. Prices can be raised just because it’s for a wedding. These vendors may sense an opportunity to exploit excited, bemused, inexperienced people. The couple may not know what is a fair price or what to expect from a supplier. They may simply stop at the first enquiry.
These suppliers can include venues, dressmakers, caterers, florists, make-up artists, celebrants (yes, even some celebrants!), photographers, planners, entertainment arrangers, vehicle hire – anyone and everyone! But don’t be alarmed – the vast majority are honest!
Of course, suppliers with integrity will still be charging for what they do. And some do a very great deal. Bear in mind that much of what wedding suppliers provide happens behind the scenes.
For example, as a celebrant, I don’t just turn up early on the day, deliver the ceremony and then go home. There is a massive amount of liaison and work beforehand to ensure that the ceremony is perfect on the day, and fully reflects the couple’s personalities and beliefs.
Depending on your budget and desires, a wedding may seem expensive. Your expectations matter. If you want specialists, then it’s fair that you will be paying to benefit from their unique training, experience and expertise.
There are ways to reduce costs without sacrificing quality. You can get married Monday to Thursday and/or in the morning or afternoon. That should get you cheaper rates. Avoid peak times (Bank Holidays and summer in particular). Choose flowers that will be in season. Have a cash bar. Only supply a limited amount of alcohol (a surprising amount gets wasted anyway). Be creative!
It’s certainly an important part of the buying process to shop around. The cheapest supplier may well not be the best (although the dearest doesn’t have to be, either!). You need to feel confident that the suppliers you choose will deliver what they claim. Although their testimonials are a useful guide, you probably need to go with your heart. Again, from a celebrant perspective, I would not want to be married by an officiant I didn’t feel comfortable with.
With judicious ‘homework’, you might be surprised at what good value your wedding turns out to be!
Considerations for getting married as an expat abroad
With the (slow!) relaxation of travel restrictions, destination weddings are coming back into consideration. We welcome a guest article from Property Guides for some practical suggestions for the expat.
More than 5.5 million Brits now live overseas. With so much travel disruption over the last year, many have been unable to show off their home abroad to close friends and family. But, as international travel slowly restarts, your wedding day could be the perfect opportunity.
Before you decide on a destination wedding, there are a number of things to consider when planning your big day. The writers at Property Guides explain all…
Choosing where to wed
Often, the biggest consideration for expats living abroad is where to get married. Do you have the wedding in your new country, or will you travel back to the UK for the ceremony?
You’ll likely want as many friends and family at your big day as possible. If most of your guest list live back in the UK, it could be sensible to have the wedding there. Alternatively, if you have a smaller guest list (and guests that are willing to fly out!), getting married abroad can be a wonderful option. You’re almost always guaranteed great weather, whereas in the UK, even a wedding in the height of summer can be a gamble.
It’s important to think about the financial side too. With the average UK wedding costing around £30,000, tying the knot abroad can be the cheaper option, especially if you already live there. Getting married overseas can save you money but remember that it could be costly for your guests. They will be expecting to pay for their own flight tickets and accommodation, so if you do choose a destination wedding, make sure there are affordable options for them.
Marriage laws abroad
If you think you’ll return to the UK in the future, it is important to make sure that your overseas marriage will be recognised and legal there too.
This sounds scary but as long as your marriage follows the laws of the country you marry in, then it should also be recognised in the UK. Don’t worry, your wedding celebrant will explain everything.
Spain is a popular location for destination weddings; however, it is actually quite tricky to get married there. To get wed in Spain, one of you must either be a Spanish citizen or have been a resident for two years. This includes the Spanish islands too. If you’re an expat who has residency, or you’re marrying a Spanish citizen, this shouldn’t be a problem.
If you and your partner don’t meet these criteria but still want to celebrate in the Spanish sun, a great way to get around this is to do the legal part in the UK but have the party in Spain.
Integrating cultures into your big day
As an expat living abroad, you’ll likely want your wedding day to reflect your new country’s culture as well as your British roots. And, if your partner is from your new country, it can be a lovely way to feel even closer to them.
Speak to your local friends or anyone who has grown up or got married in the country to get an idea of the traditions and customs that would be appropriate to adopt.