Why are Weddings Expensive?

Why are Weddings Expensive?

You may accuse me of cynicism, but I am convinced that some suppliers put their prices up as soon as they see an engaged couple on the horizon. They know it’s the couple’s first time (or likely to be), so they assume the pair aren’t very savvy in this area.

On the other hand, a lot of specialist knowledge, experience and ability is required, and they, deservedly come at a price.

Of course, what is “expensive” to one couple may be “reasonable” to another, so I am not going to put figures in this blog. I assume you will do your due diligence and compare suppliers in the various fields.

So what are you paying for?

Different suppliers may need different skills. Your photographer may come singly, or be inexperienced. In such a case, I’d look elsewhere, because the photographer has a lot to do and can’t afford slip-ups. Your caterer must surely be prepared to offer alternative menus (eg vegan or gluten-free). Your wedding planner will have to be available all day and absolutely know what they are doing and talking about.

As I’m a celebrant, I’m aware that a good one needs a lot of skills (some which are not commonly combined). These include being a good questioner-cum-listener, being a good writer and being a good presenter. Naturally, I have committed time and money to training and development, belong to professional associations that insist on high ethics and standards. Most of all, I have experience, as well as the personality that many find highly suitable for the job.

Consequently, I feel that I have a lot to offer my couples (and others too!) and it’s right that I should be remunerated for what I offer.

The same (or similar) applies to other suppliers. They may need other skills, but they are professionals. Many are experts in their field and can guarantee an excellent job.

So, although not all suppliers may be worth it, the vast majority are. Make sure you are clear on what you are expecting from them and read their Ts and Cs to ensure you understand what they will, and will not, offer.

Two mini-tips, if you want to save a bit of money: avoid extravagance (so don’t buy flowers out of season, for example) and think about the date of your wedding. It will cost more, if it’s on a special day like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Day, and if you hold it in the morning, say, you should have some bargaining power.

Come what may, work out your budget first, speak to lots of suppliers and settle on the team you want to have around you. If that costs a bit more (and you can still afford it), then go with them.

Peace of mind will be (almost!) assured, then!

How about a Micro-Wedding?

How about a Micro-Wedding?

Last year micro-weddings were taking the world by storm. OK, there were quite a lot of them – and at the expense of more lavish or traditional events.

Of course, this was because of the peculiar conditions we were living under. Numbers had to be limited and social distancing was very much the thing. Moreover, this went on over a long period of time (and kept being extended unpredictably).

So nobody could commit to a traditional wedding because they couldn’t book a firm date or guarantee suppliers or guests. Let alone know how socially distanced they would have to be on the day.

It made sense, therefore, that smaller occasions were arranged, which didn’t depend so much on forward planning. These events were simpler, for the same reasons.

As I write, things are considerably less restricted and have been for some months now. In my experience, people are again looking at “traditional” weddings (bride in white, formal processions, receptions for large numbers, and the like). Many couples are only too delighted to be able to pursue this lovely course of action once more.

However, there are some advantages to micro-weddings. Outlay can often be reduced, especially if the guest list is pruned. The money saved can go towards a luxury that would otherwise not have been contemplated perhaps. (One example might be better champagne!)

A more modest occasion might suit more retiring couples, as there would be less pomp and fuss. It would be easier for them to feel relaxed, in most cases.

A micro-wedding allows a move away from tradition, and that may suit some people. The occasion can be more personalised. I have been personalising larger ceremonies for several years, but it can work well in these cases too.

Traditions that can be modified or even omitted could include the bride’s father giving the bride away. Clothes can be less formal. The bride might not wear white, and may prefer a short dress – or even separates.

Venues can be less formal too, as cafes or bandstands can be used. Decoration still plays a big part, but quality can stand out at smaller-scale events. There can be personalisation for the guests too – perhaps their name can be inscribed on small gifts, for example.

Whatever the size of the occasion, make the ceremony yours.

Don’t forget that a civil celebrant will add so much to your ceremony, whether it be a larger “traditional-style” event or a micro-wedding. Just contact Michael for a chance to find out how!

What does an Elopement Ceremony look like?

What does an Elopement Ceremony look like?

When I performed my first elopement ceremony recently, a number of people were curious. Did this take place in secret? Were there elements that you wouldn’t have expected in a “normal” ceremony?

The circumstances were as follows: Anita and Bruce (not real names!) simply did not want razzamatazz. They definitely dreaded being the centre of attention. They got married officially in the States, where they live, but booked a photographer and myself to conduct what was to be the “real” wedding in London (where nobody else could follow them!).

They wanted a part-religious (spiritual rather than conventional) ceremony, so a celebrant made sense.

We all dressed up (I was a little more conventional!), as the photo shows.

Unusually for London, the weather played along, and it was a beautiful day. Also, the venue was very atmospheric: the lovely ruins of St Dunstans-in-the-East, near Tower Bridge.

The service had been agreed over the months and consisted of the following:

After a short introduction, I read a poem called “Why marriage?”, which seemed appropriate!

I then gave an address about the significance of marriage (not too heavy, though!) before moving on to the Exchange of Vows. Anita and Bruce chose to recite traditional vows, but also wrote their own. After agreeing the basics, they had composed their vows independently, and this was the first time either of them had heard what the other had prepared.

It was predictably moving and very beautiful.

Anita had written more of an essay (!), but what was clear – if it hadn’t already been – was that they were deeply in love and were absolutely serious about their relationship.

We then heard a poem “The Meaning” by Kellie Spehn before moving on to a Handfasting, preceded by an explanation of the ritual. The couple were bound together for a minute or so in an infinity knot.

Then it was time for the ring exchange before we concluded with the Blessings of Divine Qualities and the pronouncement allowing a kiss! (This was certainly the longest I have witnessed!

A round of applause from some (distant) onlookers followed, and we were done!

After a week in London, our couple returned to the States, to commemorate the event with a couple of (small!) receptions.

Their testimonial was heart-warming (“magnificent!”) and made me proud to have ben part of such a joyous but significant occasion.

How about a Micro-Wedding?

Never a Dull Moment!

When I was a student (a little after Noah’s flood!), I little suspected what knowledge of languages would offer me. I guessed it would come in handy for my travels, but little suspected how useful it might be in my current career.

Indeed, at that time, I had no idea that such a career existed, let alone what a civil celebrant was!

Meanwhile, over the course of 25 years, I passed on my knowledge of languages, as a teacher.

Finally, in 2013, I changed direction and became a civil celebrant. I didn’t see any obvious use any more for my knowledge of tongues, although I still travelled a fair bit.

It became clear, however, that my reading knowledge of Hebrew was valuable. I started being found because I could conduct Jewish (and part-Jewish) ceremonies. One advantage was that I could read one of the most important wedding prayers, the “Seven Blessings”. I also conducted two “shivas” (or funeral services at the family home).

At that point, I saw the value of languages in my field, and made changes to my website accordingly.

Not long afterwards, I was located by a Parisian travel agent, who, rather bizarrely, was fixing up a Vow Renewal ceremony for his clients in London. It turned out they were French Canadian. They claimed to be fluent in English.

E-mails came and went, and I met the couple in a London hotel at the appointed time. They were charming, although Jacques struggled a bit with the conversation. As we started the ceremony, I realised the reason: his English was extremely shaky! He clearly didn’t understand much of what was going on. Luckily, French wasn’t a problem for me, so I improvised a little, could explain what was going on and put him at his ease.

Soon afterwards, having been briefed and having practised hard, I even read a paragraph at another wedding … in Swedish – which is definitely NOT one of my languages!

Interestingly, I was also asked to prepare an Italian ceremony, but that didn’t materialise. However, I am proud that I did conduct a part-Russian wedding.

Thanks to the website, I was invited to be interviewed by the couple, who wanted some Russian in their service. They even recorded me reading aloud, and sent the recording off to parents in Moscow! Luckily, I passed the test.

As a consequence of that wedding, I was asked to do another part-Russian wedding, this time in Portugal,so I blessed my knowledge of languages!

As a fluent German speaker, I am awaiting my first German ceremony (and even Czech, although I am very rusty now). If you know anyone looking for some foreign languages in their ceremony, please think of me!

Photo: Victor Shack

What does a “Mixed-Faith” Wedding involve?

What does a “Mixed-Faith” Wedding involve?

Just as there are many types of weddings, a mixed-faith service can vary ceremony by ceremony. Not just because the couples are different. Or because the religions highlighted might be different.

As with any celebrant-led ceremony, you can tailor the components to fit in with what you believe and want to include.

The ceremony can be 100% religious (or almost). I have conducted a couple of mixed-faith ceremonies, which were, to all intents and purposes, pretty much traditional Jewish wedding services (albeit with less Hebrew). In both cases, there was a Christian reading and/or prayer included. That’s how the couples wanted to play it out, and it worked.

In most cases, the couples want religious elements, despite not being active worshippers. In one case, it was simply to placate parents. Usually, it is because the couple, though not active participants, feel attached to their religion and want to include this as part of their important day.

There’s nothing to stop you mixing religious and pagan elements into one ceremony.

In all cases, the couples need to agree beforehand what they actually want. If they don’t, it’s a recipe for dis-harmony and potentially resentment. Of course, discussing things with the celebrant can clarify how things are going to appear on the day and make it easier to choose.

It may be that the couples want to clear things with their parents too. That’s fine, although you might be walking a tightrope here. Naturally, you want to please everybody (especially if your parents are helping to bankroll the event), but it is ultimately your day. You don’t want to get railroaded into doing what doesn’t sit comfortably with you.

One thing to bear in mind is how “heavy” you want the ceremony to be. For example, when I do a Jewish (or part-Jewish) wedding, I weigh up how much Hebrew should go in. You will need to decide on how many, and which, prayers you include. What sort of rituals will you put in? How about a few spiritual readings? Do you want a balance of religions, or is it OK, if things are a bit lop-sided?

Again, discussing this with your celebrant should illuminate things better for you. You could do worse than to have a word with me!

So, what IS a Civil Celebrant?

So, what IS a Civil Celebrant?

It’s understandable that I get asked what a civil celebrant actually is. I hope this blog will give you answers and paint a clearer picture, so you can see the potential benefits of working with one.

Here are a few questions I get all the time.

Are you a Humanist?

The short answer is “no”, but, in fact, I am much more than that. A Humanist is not supposed to include religious elements (or even the word “God”) in their service. However, if you want a secular service, you don’t need to resort to Humanists.

A civil celebrant can conduct a non-religious ceremony (as well as a part-religious or mixed-faith one). So that’s simple enough.

How much contact time is there between myself and officiant?

You will only meet the registrars for the first time at the marriage ceremony. The same may go for your vicar, if you’re having a church service. That’s not normally the case with a civil celebrant.

Apart from an introductory, discovery call (or visit) after your initial contact, you have access to your celebrant at all reasonable times from the time of booking until the day of the ceremony. So if you have queries or issues, it is easy to resolve them and you will feel more relaxed on the day because you will have established a close relationship with your celebrant.

How much control do I have over what goes into the service?

Only if you are working with a civil celebrant will you get free choice. Of course, you will also get guidance and advice, if wanted. Your ceremony will not be not standard or pre-ordained. You can have your own readings, vows or rituals – anything to make your ceremony personal and unique.

A church service is set in stone and the registrars offer a standard service, although sometimes they offer a modicum of choice.

So the content is basically unrestricted, if you work with a civil celebrant.

What about location and timing?

The church or Register Office ceremony is normally limited to “office hours”. A civil celebrant has no restrictions on when the ceremony can take place.

Likewise, with the location. A civil celebrant will conduct a ceremony for you almost literally anywhere. That’s clearly not the case with church weddings, and there are conditions to be complied with, in the case of Register Office services.

Hopefully, this will have clarified things a lot, but if you have further questions, please feel free to ask me!