It’s good to be challenged and to learn. That’s one of the bonuses about being a civil celebrant. No two jobs are ever the same.
Just as I was leaving with my family to go on holiday on Friday two weeks ago, the phone rang. We actually had the front door open, and were literally about to depart with our suitcases for the station. I was tempted to ignore the call, but my wife decided to take it.
It turned out that it was the daughter of a man who had (re)married last year. He had then suffered a massive heart attack and not worked since. His wife, Aretha [not her real name!] had nursed him back to health, as well as earning an income, and, now he was well again, they wanted to have the wedding party they had never had. He is C of E and she is Catholic, so they wanted their new rings blessed, which is where I came in.
The problem was that they were giving me all of eight days’ notice! (I could not work while I was away and I would only be returning late the previous evening, so it would be asking quite a lot to prepare a ceremony properly in the time available.) I explained this to them and said that, if they could not find another celebrant (I passed one name on to them), I would do it for them, provided I had an e-mail waiting for me on my return.
In the event, there was no e-mail, and, as I was free that Saturday, I went out till about 1.30 p.m. When I came back, there was a message for me, asking me to contact the father on his mobile after 2 p.m. The job was on after all!
The plan was to surprise Aretha (who had done so much for the husband in the last year). I normally meet with clients in advance, find out exactly what they are looking for, compile a service, e-mail it across and make any changes requested. This time, all I knew was the background to the ceremony and that they wanted ‘a little religion’.
There is a happy ending to this story. I managed to plan a ceremony (all of seven or eight minutes long!), and it was appropriate to a party, where none of the guests had an inkling about the ring blessing. There was a mixture of serious readings and humour that went down well. Aretha was moved to tears, the guests seemed to enjoy it (it was a new experience for them – AND it was not over-long!), and the family clearly appreciated it. A mad rush, perhaps, but it gave me (and, I trust all present) a feeling of real contentment.
Being a celebrant is never boring – and can be such a delight!
Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.