What goes into a Mixed-Faith Ceremony?

What goes into a Mixed-Faith Ceremony?

A mixed-faith ceremony isn’t always straightforward. How many religious elements is your service to contain? Will your two religions be represented equally? How do you judge that? And what do you leave out?

Does your family have issues about you “marrying out”? If they don’t approve, do you want to try to win them over?

You might be able to gain their support by discussing (calmly!) what they would actually like included, always allowing for the circumstances. You can suggest including a prayer or ritual that is important to them, or offer them a chance to participate in the service. The father can still walk the bride down the aisle (even if the aisle isn’t actually in a religious building).

It may seem particularly difficult to reach a compromise when your relatives are footing (much of) the bill. However, the bottom line is that it is actually you who are getting married, and the final decisions should be yours.

Agree what you feel is best – and you can always have a chat with your celebrant, if you’re in need of an impartial opinion.

Sooner or later, the question of the role religion will play in your future lives will come up. Face it early. And if children may eventually be part of the equation, how are you going to bring them up?

Reasons to proceed

If you understand better your partner’s religious customs and traditions, you will be able to create a more meaningful wedding ceremony. And, importantly, this empathy may guide you in your future spiritual life together.

Once you’ve decided what you want to include (and exclude!), you can discuss this with your celebrant. That way, you can incorporate customs and traditional rituals that meet with your beliefs and desires.

As a couple, you can also select readings relevant to you and which underline your mutual love and willingness to make a commitment to each other. These personalised readings can lift the occasion far above the mundane. The sincerity and joy of a personalised ceremony will shine through and contribute to your guests’ delight, as well as to your own.

Overcoming Obstacles

In addition to the suggestions already offered, one useful thought comes to mind for those who have – or intend to have – children. If your parents are being difficult, point out that you undertake to teach their grandchildren about their religious background. You must keep this promise, even if nobody is forcing you to follow the religion actively yourselves.

You may be able to arrange visits at special religious holidays and let your parents know that they will be able to play a part in their grandchildren’s lives.

Obviously, there is only so far you can go, but it’s important to hold out the olive branch. Not only will you feel better, if you’ve done all you can, but think of the rewards if you are successful! Your mixed-faith wedding may actually bring your families together and pave the way to harmony!

I’d say that’s worth a bit of effort!

Michael has conducted many mixed-faith ceremonies, and will be glad to chat to you about how he can help you.

photo: Philippa Gedge


Weddings and Love

Weddings and Love

Love is easy enough when you’re infatuated. That first stage of a relationship is like walking on air. You’ve got no worries and it’s difficult to stop smiling.

At some point after your engagement or even wedding day, that love changes and develops. It may not be so romantic, but it’s different. It can still be great, though. You’ve really got to know your partner (warts and all!). Maybe there’s offspring in the equation too. Now  you’re part of a relationship that requires commitment and responsibility. You’re looking after others, and that’s not always easy. You won’t always see eye-to-eye over everything.

The maudlin nature of this blog surfaced when I realised that my wife and I will have been married 22 years, come Wednesday. I still remember the romantic love section of our relationship. That is a lesser part of our relationship nowadays. However, there are compensations.

We still exchange kisses and hugs. We do things for the other person that we might prefer not to do. We laugh at the same things (usually!). We help each other out and are grateful to each other. We ask each other when unsure of things. I do certain tasks (which I’m better at or prefer doing); Isobel does others. We mostly share the burdens.

I can only speak for myself here, but I believe we have built a close, solid relationship. Yes, over the years we have had disagreements (lots!) and rows (occasionally), but I think we enjoy being in each other’s company and feel we’re generally united.

How have we achieved this?

At the outset, Isobel demanded that I let her know if ever she was upsetting me. She told me this should work both ways. I went along with it. It’s been great at defusing any potentially major crisis before it becomes serious.

We respect each other. If one suggests something that appears dubious to the other, we discuss it. Reasonably and calmly in 99% of cases. We aim at least for compromise. We try and please the other, and try to respond appropriately to the other’s change of mood.

Love takes many forms, and building a relationship demands hard work and persistence. When it works, you can’t beat it!

I remember Weddings!

I remember Weddings!

It must have been so hard for brides and grooms to have to face uncertainty about their wedding arrangements. Over months and even years.

Should they marry, but postpone the celebrations, perhaps till the first anniversary?

Do they just marry, and skip the celebrations altogether?

Do they marry, but celebrate (with no more than thirty guests)?

Do they put off the wedding altogether and wait for certainty? (But what’s “certain”?)

How do you book venues and suppliers and invite guests under such circumstances?

As a celebrant, I have really missed celebratory events. Since I am trained to compile and conduct funerals too, I have been kept reasonably busy over the last 18 months. Funerals are something I love doing, and, although my finances have still taken a hit, I am grateful that I’ve been able to work through lockdown.

However, I love the celebratory events, and I have not done one for almost two years. You will probably therefore get an idea how pleased I was to be back in harness last weekend.

The couple were delightful. They had chosen a golf club, Blacknest, in Surrey, which evidently takes its weddings very seriously. There was a huge marquee for the catering, tepees (including a big bridal one), a gazebo where the ceremony would take place with rows of benches in front, portaloos, and a shaded area. Not to mention, a table-tennis table and croquet equipment.

It was a glorious day (though very warm indeed), and the guests’ mood was bright, encouraging and supportive. The procession had been choreographed perfectly to fit the music, and the bride was uncharacteristically punctual!

Highlights of the ceremony? The bride’s brother read out a lengthy but witty and amusing poem about the couple. The couple had both prepared their vows (which the other had never seen or heard before), which was a very emotional section. The guests were asked to commit to lifetime friendship and support for the couple, which they readily agreed to. The “first kiss” as a married couple – always popular!

Then there were drinks on the grass, followed by eating, and a festival atmosphere.

There’s no doubt about it: the couple loved it, and so did the guests – and it was great for me to get back where I belong!

Is it Freedom at last?

Is it Freedom at last?

I’m very excited! It’s been almost two years since I last conducted a wedding, and my next one is at the weekend! Woo hoo!

Weddings are something I’m passionate about and have really missed through the lockdowns. Not just financially, although that has been a consideration, of course. But it’s being part of the creative process, and all that goes with it, which is something you can’t put a price on.

It’s so rewarding to work with the couple (not necessarily over such a big time span is in this instance!), making suggestions, offering ideas and guidance. Getting to know them and their beliefs and wishes. Talking their plans through and making sense of sometimes vague ideas.

It’s wonderful how the couple’s excitement grows, as they see their vision building towards fulfilment. The reality of it all dawns gradually, and it’s so satisfying to be able to realise and achieve for the couple whatever their dreams for the ceremony may be.

Of course, nothing surpasses the day itself. The warmth and love that surround the couple, starting with the groom welcoming the guests. There is good humour, bonhomie and committed support, and all that helps to dissipate the nerves the groom must be feeling.

The arrival of the bride is typically a moment of high drama. Whether or not there is a procession, or even music, the bride’s arrival is a highlight, and she always looks resplendent centre-stage.

The ceremony is special too, of course, the culmination of much collaboration and work. As celebrant, when I’m up there with them, I do my best to encourage the couple and put them at their ease. I facilitate the event smoothly and calmly and make it personal for the couple and meanignful for all. I try to make the guests feel included. It’s not about me, I well understand, but I am a vital part of the proceedings nonetheless.

Most people will only marry the once, and they will want the day to be unforgettable. My memory is not so reliable these days, but I can vividly recall my wedding back in 1999. For all the right reasons! I always welcome those recollections.

So perhaps you’ll appreciate why I’m so glad to be back marrying people once again. I can’t wait, and I think, on this occasion, I may well end up just as excited as the couple!

Photo: www.elwood photography.co.uk


The Ultimate Guide to Choosing your Celebrant

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing your Celebrant

When you and your partner are standing in front of all your guests, about to be married, you’re going to be nervous. Much depends on the person who is up there with you both. If the celebrant is curt and uncaring, that will make things worse. If they empathise and are also in control, you’ll feel good.

The celebrant has absolutely got to be someone you trust and feel comfortable with. That way, you can relax and actually enjoy the moment.

How do you achieve that?

Step One

The pursuit of the ideal celebrant begins either with a reference from somebody who knows, or has used, them or with a Google search. In the first case, you can move on to Step Two below; in the second, you need to read the website and especially note the testimonials. What do people like about the celebrant? Do they offer what you are looking for? Does working with them appeal?

Step Two

If they are promising, you need to make contact. Face-to-face, if you’re comfortable; otherwise, by phone, zoom or skype. Firstly, check availability. If that’s OK, the next thing you’re looking for is whether you feel an affinity for the celebrant. If you do, do you feel that they will be accommodating to your ideas for the ceremony? Will they bulldoze you, or respect your choices and desires? Do they have a sense of humour? Do they seem professional?

Do they come across as organised? How are their presentation skills? How experienced are they? Will they try to get to know you (and your wishes)? How contactable are they?

Only if you’re satisfied with the answers (and, by all means, speak to a couple of celebrants, so you can compare), move on to the next step.

Step Three

You will need to check Terms & Conditions (especially, these days, the cancellation policy). Not least, you need to know the cost – and exactly what that includes. Is travel extra? What about a rehearsal? When do you have to pay what?

If the fee quoted is within – or close to – your budget, then you’re probably on to a good thing. But it is so important to work with the right celebrant, rather than one that you can easily afford. Remember, much of the celebrant’s crucial work happens before the wedding (although the visible part is on the day, of course).

If you like the celebrant, but they seem a little dear, maybe you can save some money elsewhere – for example, when booking other suppliers, to make sure you can secure the right celebrant.

So, the task is only three steps. It’s relatively simple, but needs to be carried out conscientiously. Then you can secure the celebrant who will make your ceremony truly special. Surely that’s worth a bit of effort?!

Have a chat with me to see how I can help you!

Photo: lyndseygoddard.com

Out of the Ordinary

Out of the Ordinary

People choose to work with a celebrant because they want their ceremony to stand out. Not run-of-the-mill, but memorable, unique and unforgettable.

So the extraordinary may just be an ordinary part of my job.

On the negative side, I rang a bride a couple of days before the wedding to check all was well. She asked me if the groom hadn’t rung me. No, he hadn’t.

It turns out that the wedding was off, after the groom had been caught in bed with another woman a few days before the big day!

I don’t know how extraordinary that is, in reality, but it’s my only wedding cancelled for such reasons.

One other instance of a potentially unsuccessful marriage came when I was having a Skype call with a bride. Ordinarily, I have such a call with the couple, but not this time. However, I saw a male figure hovering in the background and asked if that was the groom. Indeed, it was.

“Why don’t you invite him to take part in our conversation?” I asked. “No, this is MY wedding – he’ll do what I say.”

I didn’t work with her, and I only hope the groom got out of it too, as soon as he could!

To be more positive, I’ve been part of some absolutely fabulous ceremonies. The outdoors ones are often more stunning (although the weather can play a major part!). However, the simple joy and love shown by some couples, indoors or out, have been incomparable.

One of the most impressive ceremonies I have conducted was a wedding in Cyprus in a 5-star hotel in the hills overlooking the sea. There were flowers everywhere, people from all over the world, and an unparalleled atmosphere.

Much simpler, but also unforgettable, was the pagan marrying a half-Jew in the open air (in an Iron Age fort) one January! A fabulous mix of cultures – and the rain even held off!

If you’re looking to mark a life-cycle event, such as a wedding, vow renewal, anniversary, naming or handfasting, then consider a chat with me. I can help make your ceremony unique, unforgettable and absolutely extraordinary!