(Ritual) food for thought!

(Ritual) food for thought!

With it being Shrove Tuesday today, my thoughts – not unnaturally – have turned to food and drink. Obviously, today is technically a religious day, and many religions feature food and drink in their festivals. None more so than Judaism, I’d say.

One example is due in a matter of a week or two. That is the festival of Purim, and the eating of hamantaschen – Haman’s ears, or poppy-seed parcels – is closely associated with this. (Haman is the villain of the story.)

I don’t often conduct full religious ceremonies, but, every so often my services include some emphasis on food or drink. Perhaps that will give you an appetite (sorry!) to include something similar in your ceremony.


A very popular, simple ritual at a wedding can be the Loving Cup. In this case, a goblet of wine (or whatever drink the couple prefer) is prepared. Bride and groom will sip three times from the goblet, passing it to each other each time.

I ask them to drink to the love they’ve shared in the past. Next, to drink to their love in the present, on this their wedding day. And finally to drink to their love in the future and forever more.

On one memorable occasion the groom was extremely nervous. He took the invitation to ‘sip’ to mean ‘gulp’. The alcohol clearly went to his head and he became very relaxed and amusing for the rest of the ceremony!


Although this can only be relevant to a limited number of readers, a lovely ritual I have witnessed comes from Russia.

The bride’s mother bakes a large plaited loaf of bread. At the appointed time, both bride and groom start eating it – from the opposite ends. They take one bite each.

My role was to ask the guests to judge who took the bigger piece and I pointed out that whoever gets the bigger piece will be assured to be the head of the household! (I think the bride always wins!)

So, as you tuck into your pancakes, give some thought to the value of food and drink! If you want to talk to me about rituals, then feel free!

Photo: Matt Penberthy

Controlling Your wedding Costs (i)

Controlling Your wedding Costs (i)

As a civil celebrant, I come across some wonderful professionals, and I’m extremely fortunate to have enlisted the help of Event Planners, Mish & Katy of KP Events, who have written a marvellous article about controlling your wedding costs. Something that affects us all! There’s so much useful information here that I’m dividing the piece up. That means you’ll have to come back next week!



Here’s some advice on where and where not to compromise.

So we’re all agreed … low key, nothing fancy, just an intimate celebration with close family …

Until … “Darling, you know my Mum’s rellies in LA – that weird family with 6 kids … we can’t not invite them. I know they’re not close, but they are 1st cousins after all …” or …
“You know, it’s going to have to be proper über-kosher. I know we’re not into all that, but we just can’t make assumptions about all our guests.” or …

“I know it was stupid but I promised your niece she could have a frilly pink bridesmaid’s dress with ruby sequins … I just can’t let her down. I know, I know – it means we have to get all five of them matching dresses …”

Familiar? Of course it is – that’s just the way it always pans out!

But is there a way to prevent it? Is it actually possible to stop the whole thing from spiralling totally out of control and ending up with a bill of stratospheric proportions?

The answer is yes … to an extent. After many years in the business we might not be able to solve the extended overseas family issue but we’re confident we know where to compromise and where not – in order to ensure your event is everything and more without having to spend everything and more!

Here are 10 elements of your wedding spend in which savings can undoubtedly be made … Food, music (band or DJ) and photography are what we call The Untouchables. Great food and real musical entertainment are absolutely key to the day’s success, and fabulous images are what will provide the memories for years to come. There is no middle-ground here – you simply have to get these three aspects right, so cutting corners can prove disastrous. Despite that, even here you’ll find some room for manoeuvre.

Food is (and should be) your biggest spend and you should be as generous as you possibly can with this element of your budget. Get it right and your guests are more than half-way to having a great time; get it wrong and you’ll be hard pushed to salvage the situation. There are, however, many ways of holding back the reins without skimping on quality and quantity.

If you don’t have to have supervised, but the majority of your guests are kosher, then a caterer using kosher ingredients is a cheaper and perfectly acceptable option. By eliminating kosher meat altogether and sticking to fish and vegetarian options, you can bring the menu cost down further, while a good caterer will still be able to produce an exciting and creative menu within those parameters. If you only have a handful of strict kosher guests, and a non-kosher majority, then you could just buy in supervised kosher meals for them, while opening up more options for the majority of guests. That would almost certainly prove cheaper than the fully kosher-catered option for the entire party.

The buffet vs sit-down comparison is always worth a visit, though a buffet may not always work out cheaper. Although the staffing costs are considerably less than silver service, the preparation is usually more labour intensive.

Do investigate the options however as there will usually be a price differential as well as a more fundamental difference in relation to the style and atmosphere of your event.

Music (band or DJ)
Unlike most other events that have “sideshow” entertainment, wedding entertainment is usually fully focussed on the music. As a consequence it needs to be good. Lacklustre function bands and DJs who manage to clear the dance floor are big no-nos. While live music always has the potential to really enhance the atmosphere of an event, it isn’t a cheap option. A top tried and tested band will often come with a top tried and tested price tag. You generally get what you pay for, but there are ways of cutting your cloth to suit.

A very effective compromise is what’s called the Live DJ – a set up in which you have a DJ accompanied by 2 or 3 instrumentalists – sax and percussion usually work well. Another option is to find a couple of great singers who can sing to track. That way you’re paying fees to 2 or 3 musicians rather than a full band which could amount of 8 or 9 people plus significant production costs.

If you get the food and music right, you’ve ostensibly got an event. If you get the photographer right, you’ve got memories. If you get the partner right, you’ve got a marriage! While we can’t help you with the choice of partner, we can help with the rest. And a good photographer – who understands what you as a couple are all about – is critical. There’s a thing with wedding photos – you can’t re-take them if they’re bad !

Do your research on photographers as the price range can be enormous and don’t be tempted to buy into packages of services and products that you don’t necessarily need or want. Some will charge a lot in return for a beautiful gilt-edged coffee table book along with a DVD slideshow of your images set to schmaltzy music. If that’s what you want (perhaps as a gift for your future in-laws) then great, but if it’s not what you’re into, don’t get sucked in.

We work with several photographers, some of whom do provide the full ‘platinum service’, while others simply produce great reportage style imagery that they pass onto their clients simply edited but essentially raw, so you can do whatever you want in terms of printing. Nowadays there are plenty of internet-based photo printing companies that can produce quality prints at hugely competitive rates. The proviso of course is that the original images are professional high resolution files – so by all means take over the printing but don’t leave the actual photography to a friend even if he or she did win the Amateur Photographer of the Month competition back in May. As already mentioned, you need to be careful when tinkering with the above trio of “untouchables”. However, with the remaining elements of your budget there are plenty of ways of keeping things in check without begrudgingly having to accept an unwanted compromise option.

There will be more next time, as promised, but if you can’t wait,  please conatct Mish or Kati on 020 8883 7411 www.kpevents.co.uk | www.facebook.com/kpeventslondon

Upsetting your Wedding Guests

It doesn’t take a lot of skill to upset your wedding guests. If you want to enjoy your big day, you must ensure that your guests are content too.

You might like to consider these items when planning your event.

Bad dates

If possible, don’t arrange your wedding during something major like Wimbledon or the World Cup or over Christmas holidays. People often take the whole Christmas period off and go away, so, unless you give a lot of warning, this may not work for them. Similarly, if you don’t give enough notice, guests may have already booked their summer holiday by the time your invitation arrives.


Make sure you do specify whom you actually wish to invite. Do you really mean for your friends’ 8-year-old child to come too? What about a “plus one”? Then, if there are several events (eg ceremony, drinks reception, meal, disco), make it clear who is invited to which. You can put something like “Children are only welcome for the ceremony”, for example.


Seating plan

An impossible one to perfect, but don’t seat wedding guests too close together. Try and be aware of who it might be unwise to seat near to whom (such as couples who have recently broken up). Resist the temptation to score points off people!


Cash bars are not popular. To reduce your expenditure, but to keep guests happy, supply a limited selection of wine, beer, champagne, and soft drinks (at the table).

Melt-down or frost

Although you can’t control the climate, you can ensure the experience does not become a deterrent. If the ceremony is outdoors and in hot weather, ensure there is sufficient shade and/or fans and arrange for cold water to be available; blankets could be laid on for the winter.

The food

It’s a nice touch to find out about guests’ allergies or dietary requirements in advance. You obviously need to work with your caterers to ensure there will be sufficient food and that it is of decent quality. You can probably arrange a food-tasting in advance. (If you’re only offering nibbles, then this should be made clear on the invitations).

Children’s menus should not be too exotic, but can be a bit more imaginative than chicken wings.


Do what you can to ensure that the photographs don’t go on for ever – or the speeches. You can reasonably give instructions about this beforehand.

It is also a good idea to plan things so there are not huge gaps between, say, the ceremony and cocktails, or before the reception. Nobody likes ‘dead time’.

The music

You’ll never please everyone all the time, but music before the dancing should be background level, and not everybody will want to have tub-thumping, ear-splitting music for the dancing. This will apply even more if the majority of guests are more mature.


Do try and get round and speak to everybody – table to table is best – even to offer just a short acknowledgement (and it’s better than making people stand in a receiving line).

Don’t forget the thank-you cards either.

Your guests will appreciate touches like these – and the atmosphere will accordingly be that much more pleasant!

Wedding Day Health – civil celebrant and wellness consultant collide!

Wedding Day Health – civil celebrant and wellness consultant collide!

In addition to being a civil celebrant, I am a wellness consultant, so why not put my two areas of expertise together? Pleased as I would be to conduct your wedding, I’d like to help ensure that you enjoy wedding day health!

So here are a few useful tips.

Before the Wedding


In the run-up to your wedding, try and get as much rest as possible. I know, there’s often last minute planning, seating arrangements  or problems with suppliers to contend with, but you obviously want to avoid stress as much as possible.

At least, manage some early nights – and maybe a bit of pampering (massage etc.). Then you’ll perform much better.


Everybody should drink about 2 litres of water a day (on average) as a given. You certainly should not neglect that. Being hydrated can avoid back pain and can also have a positive effect on your skin.


You may well be focusing on how you are going to look on the day, but don’t neglect regular meals. Ensure you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

During the Wedding

photo courtesy of Neli Prahova

Food (again!)

The bride, especially, is likely to find that everyone wants to talk and there’s little opportunity to eat anything. So if it’s a buffet, get someone to fetch a plate or two for you. At a sit-down meal, make sure you don’t spend all your time circulating. You should be able to enjoy your meal too. You do need to eat and keep your strength up (if only, to be able to cut the cake!).


There’s likely to be a lot of drink flowing, and why not? However, you might do well to have a glass of water between each glass of alcohol.


See if you can arrange a little quiet time to relax between the day and evening receptions.  That will enable you to get through a delightful, but demanding, day comfortably.

After the Wedding


Depending where you are going, beware of too much sun, especially early on. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water, if it’s safe (there are portable bottles with filter systems available).

Bring a mini-medical kit with you (we usually take a few magnets, actually!).

Finally – although this could have gone in the “Before Your Wedding” section – ensure you have received any vaccinations you may need.

Wishing you a healthy wedding and honeymoon!

With thanks to Neli Prahova (www.neliprahova.com) for the photo.

Michael Gordon is a civil celebrant based in London.