How do you judge the value of a celebrant? Yes, you expect a well-presented wedding ceremony, but is that the limit of your expectation? And what price do you put on that, anyway?
To some extent, the same goes with any supplier. They name a price and you decide whether or not to pay it. But it’s harder to evaluate the worth of a service, as opposed to tangible goods.
You may be able to ask around for recommendations. (But bear in mind that another person’s opinion may conflict with yours.) The website may furnish some useful information. Testimonials are useful.
But most civil celebrants’ websites will talk about the same things. They’ll tell you the sort of ceremony on offer. They may talk about their experience and training. They may have some lovely photos.
But no two celebrants can offer an identical service, simply because their personality and characteristics are individual.
I might not be the first choice for someone looking for an Elvis-impersonator; but they could jump at the chance to work with me on a mixed-faith ceremony, for example. Some may prefer my calm, measured approach; others, might go for razzamatazz.
So how do you know what you are getting?
Choosing the Celebrant
Ultimately, you may have to go with your gut. Do you actually want this celebrant to be conducting your marriage? Can you trust them to deliver?
A consultation will help you answer these questions. You may have a vision of your big day. Share this with the celebrant. Do they sympathise? Do they even listen ? Do they insist on doing it their way?
Do they seem professional? Have they a sense of humour? Are they pleasant? Are they passionate? How clear are their explanations? Do their presentation skills look good? Do you think they are dependable?
You may also like to consider the celebrant’s USP. I would have missed out on several wonderful ceremonies without my knowledge of Russian and Hebrew (and I speak French and German as well!).
Before you sign on the dotted line, take the trouble to read the Ts and Cs. They may not be very interesting, but it’s as well to know what the mutual expectations are.
The cost is obviously relevant, but you can sometimes juggle your budget allocations to ensure you get the celebrant you really want. It is so important to get your choice right.
I hope these hints help you judge the value of your celebrant.
Do feel free to approach me for a non-obligation chat!
Most people don’t really know what a civil celebrant can offer or why they should investigate using one.
A fallacy is that a celebrant is the same as a registrar. Although a proposal to change things so a celebrant’s ceremony can be legal too is going through parliament at present, the roles are still separate.
A registrar is a civil servant, who is employed by the government to ensure that all the legal bits are carried out to make each marriage valid. Their ceremony normally takes a quarter of an hour or so, and is standardised. So each couple gets more or less the same as the one before, or the next one. What’s more, the service may not contain a single religious word or even mention God.
Given that the registrar’s ceremony is mandatory, why should you bother with a celebrant ceremony too?
The fact that the celebrant is independent is worth a great deal. It means that, once you have been legally married (by the registrar), you are free to have the ceremony of your dreams in the place of your dreams.
If you want some religious items, you can do so; if you want to write your own vows, you are welcome to; if you want a mention of absent friends, not an issue; if you want to talk about how the two of you met – or what is keeping you together – then that’s great!
You can have a mix of solemnity and humour. You can have a unique ceremony, maybe including a ritual or two (such as the Loving Cup or a handfasting), and you can tailor your ceremony so that others can participate.
In short, the ceremony can reflect your personalities and beliefs, and be everything you want it to be.
But only with a celebrant.
Of course, there are many celebrants out there, and each has their own USP. So you need to speak to, if not meet, one or two (eliminating some, once you’ve looked at their websites).
Online reviews are a good starting point. Then you can see if the celebrant is likely to understand and run with your vision of the ceremony.
Your budget is not as important as feeling the person is right for you. (You can usually tinker a bit and save some money elsewhere, if the celebrant is a bit dearer than you had planned.)
As well as showing professionalism, albeit in a likeable way, the celebrant should have great presentation skills.
They should be able to create a wonderful personalised ceremony that is beautifully delivered on the day. They need to be able to work hand-in-hand with you to achieve this.
Michael would be glad to have a (non-obligation) call with you to discuss how he can help guide you to your dream ceremony.
A wedding is one of the important ceremonies imaginable.
Whether it is formal or informal, traditional or modern, beautifully chosen music can add significantly to the character and atmosphere of any ceremony.
A celebrant can contribute greatly here. Although these are my thoughts, obviously each person will have their own preferences. I don’t expect this to meet everybody’s taste!
Music – when?
Quite often, music is played before the ceremony begins. It can be ambient and isn’t usually overpowering. Then, you can expect to hear the music that marks the arrival of the bride (and train, if any). This may well have significance to the couple.
The same goes for the Recessional (when the couple walk out at the end), although this music may well be louder and more upbeat.
Potentially, there could be music during the ceremony, but this tends to be less usual. However, if there is a signing of the Register (towards the end), that is a potential slot for music. Works by Baroque or Classical composers (eg Bach, Handel, Beethoven) are often played during the signing. These pieces need to last long enough (at least five minutes) to avoid a potentially uncomfortable silence.
Music – which?
Commonly, wedding marches are played at the Processional and Recessional. Classical music is popular for this, but there is no need for it to be classical, of course. You can have any genre, depending on the wishes of the couple. Indeed, there may be good reasons to choose music from other cultures, and this can be fascinating as well as moving for guests.
Music – how?
Live music can make a ceremony very special indeed. It can be quite costly, of course, but, as long as musician(s) and the celebrant agree beforehand when the music is going to be played, this can be a lovely touch.
Modern technology offers far more possibilities and is often cheaper than live music. A lot of reliance may need to be placed on both the audio equipment and the operator.
To ensure smooth running of the ceremony, a rehearsal (with musicians/audio equipment) can be recommended, although responsibility for paying for this would be the couple’s.
Music – why?
Music heightens the emotions and gives meaning to the moment. Of course, it can mask “dead time”. More importantly, it will help bring about a wonderful feel-good sensation and contribute to ensuring that the ceremony is memorable for all the guests and a highlight of the couple’s life together.
There’s nothing wrong with wedding-day nerves. Totally natural, if you ask me.
After all, your wedding should be the biggest day of your life. Together with your loved one, you’ll be centre-stage.
Adrenalin can often enhance performance, although, to be fair, your role is not actually demanding. Your celebrant will guide you through the ceremony, and your Best Man (or equivalent) or Toastmaster can facilitate the celebrations. Mainly, you have to do what you’re told and enjoy yourself!
However, you need to control your jitters so they don’t ruin your day.
Perhaps I can alleviate things for you.
You may well suffer most because you’re uncertain about how things may pan out. There’s always that “what if …?” question lurking.
The most important solution is to ensure you are confident about your suppliers. Of course, nobody can guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong, but you minimise those risks by choosing reliable suppliers. These will be professionals, and will also have experience of dealing with the odd challenge.
However, professional they may seem, it won’t do any harm to reconfirm everything with them a few days before the event. Good for your peace of mind.
On the eve, be prepared. Make sure you have ready whatever is needed – rings, vows, goblet, repair kit, etc.
Allow plenty of time to arrive. You don’t want to get stuck, fuming in a traffic jam.
At the event, relax! Even if things may go wrong, you have two advantages. Firstly, you should be surrounded by professionals, so they can sort out the issue. Secondly, people understand that hitches happen despite the best planning. They’re on your side and will be tolerant and forgiving.
If you have a phobia about the whole thing, it might be wise to employ another professional to help you deal with it. I can recommend Isobel at intherighthands.co.uk
If all else fails, don’t get tanked up on alcohol (certainly, not till after the ceremony!). And if you need to step out and take a few deep breaths, this may calm you down sufficiently.
But if you’re looking for an empathetic professional civil celebrant who can put you at your ease before and during your big day, please have a chat with me!
These specialise in letting their clients choose what they are going to include in their service (and exclude!).
So how can you personalise your ceremony?
You can choose (as long as you can afford it!) the venue that really hits the mark for you. It may be quirky (like a pod on the London Eye, an aquarium, or an old favourite like a castle or a hotel). It can be outdoors (if you gamble on our climate!) or indoors. It can be grand, modest or somewhere in between.
What you choose will reflect your personalities.
You can individualise your wedding décor. This may include invitations, signage and seating plans. You can commission this, or do it yourself (given the time and creativity).
As well as beautifying things, flowers too will reflect your personalities. They may, or may not, be seasonal, exotic, simple, ravishing, or your own themed colour(s).
The flowers can extend beyond the bridal bouquet to table and room decoration (as in the photo) and even arches.
These days, you may not choose to wear the traditional clothes. So a bride might shun white, or even a dress. The groom may prefer to dispense with a tie. You can still look original and fetching, and declare your personality.
There are lots of ways to personalise the ceremony itself. You may go for a ritual (what about a handfasting?) or a recital of how the two of you got together and/or why you stayed together! You may want to write your own vows. And so on.
Your civil celebrant should be able to help you with all this, and positively channel your affection, humour and potential emotion.
So the whole service can reflect your personalities and beliefs and be very, very special.
I’d love to be of help to you constructing this. Just contact me!
In my experience, a couple goes to a lot of trouble and expense to ensure that preparations for their wedding are comprehensive. Eventualities are considered and weighed up, and experienced professionals are usually employed.
From my point of view, I ensure that the couple approve every word of what I am going to say, and this was the case in my latest wedding.
So what could possibly go wrong?
I had worked for a couple of years (delayed because of Lockdowns) with a lovely couple, and we covered all the necessary ground. They were using an event planner at the venue, but I discussed with them well in advance the logistics of an outdoor ceremony.
We had a room in the house booked just in case of intemperate weather, but the first choice was a pergola situated a few hundred metres from the house. Recorded music was to be played, and a professional sound engineer (and assistant) had been employed to ensure all went well. They were also responsible for a microphone for me.
As usual, I arrived in good time and went to check out the pergola. The sound engineer was there and explained that he’d just found out that, for technical reasons, he couldn’t connect to the electricity supply in the house. In short, this meant that I had no microphone. Well, with only 60 guests and a fairly wind-free day, I am able to project my voice sufficiently, so this unpleasant surprise wasn’t an issue at all.
The processional, with music played via Bluetooth, went well, and we were off! We then came to the hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. As per the Order of Service, I invited the guests to rise and join in (they had the words on a sheet).
I waited for the music to start. Silence. I turned to the sound engineer, who just returned my look. I waited and he mouthed “I haven’t got it!”. Not good news!
I had to ad-lib. Importantly, people saw the funny side. With the bride and groom’s go-ahead, I suggested that we could gamble on me leading the singing unaccompanied. Luckily, people joined in. It wasn’t perfect, but we got through it.
The major issue came when we reached the second and final hymn. I wasn’t confident enough to lead that one. We were about to omit it, when one of the guests found a version on his mobile and passed it to the sound engineer. He was able to connect it up to the speaker. The words didn’t exactly maych those on the hymn sheet, but another hurdle was successfully negotiated!
The rest of the service went well (although we had to substitute water for wine, as the couple had left the bottle in their suite!).
What all this confirmed is that, with the best will (and planning) in the world, things can still go wrong. People will do their best to help out – and nobody will grumble, provided that the problem was not caused by negligence. Feedback I got about the service was that it was first-rate. Phew!
The couple – and their guests – may well look back on the day in the future, remember the problem(s) and share a little laugh.
It’s all about unique occasions, and some are more unique than others!