I was recently interviewed by a newspaper reporter. Fame at last, I hear you say! However, she was a trainee, and was merely getting in some practice!
However, she asked three questions in particular which seemed worth repeating, so I’ll answer them again in today’s blog.
What is a civil celebrant?
A civil celebrant works with the client to create a totally personalised ceremony, which they then conduct. This could be a wedding, vow renewal, handfasting, naming ceremony, or whatever is required.
Depending on the type of celebrant, the ceremony can be religious, part-religious or non-religious.
The celebrant is not normally obliged to produce a standard ceremony. It can be personalised and, thus, unique.
Note that a celebrant-led wedding does not have legal validity in England & Wales (at present), so registrars are still required.
Why are civil ceremonies becoming increasingly popular?
Probably because not everyone wants a full religious service. At the other extreme, a Register Office ceremony is fairly standardised and, of course, completely secular.
For those who want a hint of religion only, what the civil celebrant offers is ideal.
There are some (Catholic divorcees, for example) who might welcome a full religious service and are denied it by the Church, so they can go to a (non-humanist) civil celebrant.
Others are happy with a secular ceremony, but want something unique (which the Register Office doesn’t offer).
Tell us about some of your unique experiences and ceremonies
I’ve conducted over 150 ceremonies, and most stick in the mind (usually for good!).
I think two ceremonies are particularly memorable, though.
Firstly, I conducted a September wedding in Cyprus. This involved me reading a couple of paragraphs in Russian (I have a Modern Languages degree, so this wasn’t the hardship it may appear!). The venue was a 5-star hotel, full of flowers, overlooking the sea. A ravishing setting.
However, I also remember the bride. It is understandable that she wanted perfection on her big day, but she came across – at least! – as OCD. Before she employed me, she interviewed me (and sent her parents a recording of me reading Russian). She consistently made unreasonable demands on her groom, humiliating him even in front of suppliers. (If I had been him, I wouldn’t have married her!)
However, she came up smelling of roses on the day, and it was a fabulous event.
My other favourite was a contrasting occasion. This was also in the open air, much lower-budget, during a very wet January near Salisbury (Old Sarum). The groom was half-Jewish and the bride pagan, and elements of both religions were combined in the service.
Apart from the setting and the intrinsic interest of the mixed-faith rituals, the weather was notable. The night before, I had driven through torrential rain for a couple of hours to reach my hotel. When I drove back after the ceremony, I had to pass through a severe thunderstorm.
On the morning itself, I arrived early to set up. Unfortunately, the couple were marrying at the Register Office in Salisbury and got caught in a terrible traffic jam, delaying them the best part of an hour. I therefore had to stay on the hilltop for a couple of hours unprotected, at the mercy of the elements. Amazingly, it was quite mild and even stayed dry!
After my moment in the spotlight, I guess it’s just a matter of time before that call comes in from “The Times”!