You probably wouldn’t expect last-minute situations at weddings and the like, would you?
After all, surely such ceremonies are arranged well in advance, so everybody knows what they are supposed to be doing. Don’t they?
Well, my civil celebrant experience has taught me that long-term planning and weddings don’t always go together.
Cutting it fine
I was recently asked to write and conduct a wedding at the Savoy (no less!) with only eleven days notice. I don’t know what had happened. I suspect the family had made too many demands on the assigned celebrant. Anyway, I was happy to do it. (I was less happy when they changed the ring-bearer without telling me. That meant that I called up a non-existent person during the ceremony!)
But, believe me, eleven days is not a generous time-span.
None so queer as folk!
Last April I was contacted to do a wedding in a month’s time. Short notice too, but I am known for working efficiently and fast. So, no problem, think I.
It was just going to be the three of us – no guests. Unusual, but the clients are entitled to their choice.
Then it emerged that they weren’t going to get married (legally) at all. This meant that, with or without guests, I wouldn’t be able to pronounce the couple “man and wife”. I explained this and suggested a Commitment Ceremony, instead.
They were happy with that and said they’d book me. They then asked if I could recommend any photographers, which I did.
The next thing was … total radio silence.
Finally, a week before the day, they e-mailed me a completed “Request to Start Work” form (without even a covering e-mail). However, no payment was ever sent.
I tried to follow up, but always radio silence, so I gave up.
Had they ever really been trying to arrange some sort of ceremony? Had they found someone else? Were they simply wasting my time?
People can be very strange.
Another last-minute job
My record for last-minute ceremonies took place a couple of years ago.
One August day, my family was all ready to go off for a week’s holiday. It was a Friday morning. The suitcases were literally on the doorstep and we were making our way out when the phone rang. I wanted to ignore it, but my wife insisted on answering.
Would I be available to lead a ring blessing on Saturday evening (in 8 days)?
I explained my circumstances – I was sorry, but I wouldn’t be in a position to compile something suitable from abroad. (I always e-mail out drafts for clients’ approval before the ceremony, and I am passionate about delivering a professional service. I could make no guarantees in this case.)
I therefore gave them contact details of another civil celebrant who might be free. I told them that I’d try and access my e-mails on holiday, just in case. If they were still desperate, they could e-mail me and I’d see what I could do on the day itself.
Off we went, and I was able to see my e-mails. Nothing of note arrived. We got back on Friday evening and I immediately checked e-mails again. Not a word. So I knew was clear.
The following morning I was free to go out. Returning at lunchtime, there was a message for me. Could I please call them – after 2 p.m.?
It turned out that they did still want my services – with the ceremony due to start in the small matter of five hours!
I guess I wouldn’t be writing this, if there hadn’t been a happy ending!
Suffice it to say that that short phone call gave me an idea of what was required. I couldn’t send the draft for approval (as it was to be a surprise for the wife, and their e-mail address was shared), and had to take pot luck and write what I judged would be suitable. Fortunately, she burst into tears (of joy!), they loved it and all was well!
You might be able to get away with it. But you might not. So it’s much better that you plan your ceremony well in advance rather than relying on goodwill or chance! There is never a guarantee of a happy ending.
Whether or not you are in a rush, feel free to contact Michael for help and guidance!