Do you get what you pay for with a Civil Celebrant?

Do you get what you pay for with a Civil Celebrant?

I’m bound to start with “it depends”, aren’t I?!

Do you get value for money when you engage a civil celebrant? Well, how much are you paying, for a start? How can you be sure that your supplier will provide what is wanted? What value do you put on a bespoke ceremony, impeccably delivered? Why bother with a Civil Celebrant in the first place – what’s wrong with DIY?


Let’s take the last point first.

Doing it yourself can work out. It’s obviously cheaper getting an amateur to compile and conduct the ceremony, but the key could be in the word “amateur”.

It’s quite a challenge to understand what is required, what the couple’s vision might be. Then choosing readings that are appropriate is not the easiest thing in the world. Finally, projecting and delivering a meaningful, memorable ceremony on the day is not something everybody can successfully do.

A civil celebrant will be trained to do all these tasks and, with luck, will have experience of the whole process. They take pride and pleasure in doing a good job. They are also aware that their reputation as a professional is at stake.

The Offering

So what can they offer you,  and how much can you reasonably expect to pay?

Again, “it depends”!

The celebrant will consult with you and ask questions (as well as answer them). They will endeavour to eke out your vision for the day so that they can include the most suitable elements. These may include rituals such as a wine ceremony or handfasting, but there is a huge variety available.

They will suggest and advise what might work best and what, if anything, to be wary of.

Celebrants will discuss the processional (entry) and exit, music, readings, choreography and participants. They will offer guidance with the preparation of the vows.

After agreeing the ceremony order and content with you, the celebrant will know what to do on the day itself. Experience will be invaluable, especially when checking that everything is prepared beforehand and calming the nerves of all concerned.

Finally, the celebrant’s presentation skills will make all the difference to the actual ceremony.

To some extent, you get what you pay for. The amount charged may fluctuate depending on how complicated the work is likely to be. I might charge more for a foreign language ceremony, as I would have to put in quite a bit of extra work to get it perfect.  

Whatever the quote, be sure you understand what is included. Is travel extra, for example?

Some celebrants will ask over £1,000 for the whole thing; others may barely charge half of that. So how can you judge which will give better value? I think the answer also depends!

If you’ve seen the celebrant in action or you know somebody who has worked with them, then you’ll have a feel for them. Otherwise, start at the website (including testimonials) and see if the celebrant appears to be on your page. Whatever you do, have a call (face-to-face, zoom or even just by phone), so you can see if you like the celebrant. Ask plenty of questions. Do they listen to you and understand what you have in mind?

Most civil celebrants are professionals in the best meaning of the term. This one would love to make a real difference to your big occasion, and you have only to contact me to set the wheels in motion.


Stunning Ceremonies

Stunning Ceremonies

I’m often asked to talk about my favourite ceremony. Wow! I’ve conducted nearly three hundred in my nine or so years as a civil celebrant, so which to choose?

And why would it be my “favourite”? Because of the people involved, the venue, the ceremony itself, or a combination?

Even if we ignore the funerals, baby blessings and vow renewals, and stick to weddings, there’s quite a choice!

I shall force myself to settle for three, so these might be them:

Lovely People

A St Peter Port sight

This category could encompass so many families, but I particularly enjoyed my rapport with a Guernsey family. They had to pay for board and lodging for me when I came over to officiate. That was standard: I had to stay two nights to accommodate a rehearsal and the wedding itself. What I didn’t anticipate was the beautiful hotel they booked for me in the centre of St Peter Port. They even suggested a restaurant for me, which they paid for, and it certainly was not one of the cheapest!

The family treated me so well, wanting me to have positive memories of Guernsey, and they really succeeded. I wasn’t “just a supplier”.

But the icing on the cake came when I left.

Despite glorious sun in St Peter Port, dense fog greeted us at the airport, and all flights for the rest of the day were cancelled. Not the family’s fault, but, when they found out we had had to stay at a hotel (a different, but still very acceptable, one) for another night, they reimbursed me fully.

Lovely Venue

Perfect setting for a wedding

I’ve been so lucky to have officiated in some stunning country houses and hotels. Any of them deserve a mention, but I’m going to be disciplined and plump for one only.

Thanks to my knowledge of Russian, I was booked to conduct a ceremony in Cyprus (that sounds illogical, but it wasn’t!). The couple took over a 5* hotel about 45 minutes’ drive up from Paphos. The venue overlooked the ocean and the terrace was decorated with hundreds of pink flowers. Quite unforgettable!

Lovely Ceremony

Handfasting wedding

At the other end of the scale regarding budget, I experienced a really memorable ceremony one January. The couple arranged for me to set up (which I did an hour in advance) in the open air at Old Sarum. This is a very exposed Iron Age fort overlooking Salisbury.

The couple were to get legally married at the local Register Office before driving up for the bespoke ceremony. Unfortunately, traffic delayed them about 45 minutes.

Remember, this was January and I was in a spot with no shelter for what turned out to be a couple of hours, even before the ceremony started!

Somehow, despite local flooding and although it poured the night before and there was a thunderstorm later that afternoon, the weather held off for me and the wedding party.

The ceremony – already special – stood out because it was a half-Jew marrying a pagan, with elements from both religions being included (and explained by me!). I’ll never forget the Unity Cup ritual, where, rather than drink a modest drop of wine, the groom virtually demolished the whole bottle on the spot!

I hope you’ve enjoyed joining me down memory lane (I certainly did!). If you want me to help you create some unforgettable memories, just have a word.

Why a Handfasting?

Why a Handfasting?

Although a lot of people have heard of “handfasting”, most don’t know what it is. So they don’t consider including it in their ceremony. It’s a lovely ritual, and they may be missing out.


Yes, it’s pagan, but if the thought of “pagan” conjures up visions of biting off the heads of live chickens, think again! This is a nature-related ritual, and nobody and nothing gets harmed!

Handfastings date back to the Middle Ages. They were originally a marriage rite, an alternative to the expense of a clergyman. So they were mostly for peasants.

What happened was that a cord was wrapped round the couple’s wrists until their union was consummated. (They would then keep it as a token of their commitment and love.)


Today, the symbolism remains the same. However, there are essentially two types of handfasting. One is the climax of an entire service; the other will just be an element in a ‘normal’ ceremony.

You have free choice of the type of cord you use. I advise one that is at least a metre long (to give me a chance to tie it successfully!). You can choose the colour or type. There are different ways of knotting – I prefer the figure of eight way (representing infinity).

Let’s see what the full service might look like.

What it is

There are no hard-and-fast rules about what goes in to the full service. Your celebrant can advise. Most ceremonies will include the following:

Sanctifying the Circle – symbolises the womb of Mother Earth – we make the wedding site a holy place.

Elemental blessings – these enable us to appreciate how the four elements help us on our journey.

Loving Cup – symbolises drinking in the promises or vows the couples have made.

Handfasting – the symbolic binding of the hands. This inspired the terms “bonds of holy matrimony” and “tying the knot”.

Jumping the Broom – another old custom (probably related to American slave weddings) symbolising the creation of hearth and home together.

Why include the handfasting?

The handfasting words and act are beautiful. They make the ceremony stand out, as the whole ritual is very special. For many people, the connection with nature is highly important. But there’s nothing wrong with simply including something that is different to the norm.

Whatever the reason for including it, you are welcome to discuss it with me. Just give me a call.


What Can You Celebrate?

What Can You Celebrate?

A lot of folk don’t need much of an excuse for a celebration.

Well, that was the scenario up until a couple of years ago. Now people tend to be more cautious. They are often hesitant to plan ceremonies. What if social distancing spoils things? What if lockdown kicks in again, and everything has got to be cancelled or postponed?

I don’t know if my opinion may start a backlash, but I feel that things in England seem to have calmed down, both politically and in terms of the epidemic. Relatively speaking, at least.

Ceremonies are being booked these days – including some large, high-end ones.

So, given that we have a (faint) green light, what sort of ceremony might you want to mark?


Major life-cycle events are back in demand – and rightly so. People really ought to mark a big event. It’s criminal to ignore a one-off that really means so much to so many people and is a vital milestone in individuals’ or couple’s lives.

Clearly, this highlights weddings, which need little introduction on these pages. Suffice it to say, that I believe that your big day should be celebrated the way YOU want it. (One major reason why I became a civil celebrant!)

More cautious or budget-conscious couples can opt for micro-weddings, but a lot of people are choosing a bigger ceremony, and that’s as it should be.

Other Causes for Celebration

Other events that deserve to be marked include Vow Renewals. There are a number of reasons (apart from an excuse for a get-together) why people opt for this ceremony. These include a milestone, like an anniversary ending in -5 or -0. There may be a desire publicly to declare one’s love (again), or it may be that circumstances have changed. You might want to replace your original vows with more relevant ones. Or perhaps you have children now, and wish to include them in your ceremony. You might even want to acknowledge coming out of a bad time, such as illness, unemployment – or even infidelity!

A Vow Renewal ceremony can be a way to cement your family harmoniously. The bonus is that you don’t need to register the ceremony legally and you can arrange it exactly as you want. (Step up the independent celebrant!)

If nature is particularly important to you, a handfasting may be a great idea. You can have it as part of a ceremony – or it can be the major focus. Most people find it beautiful and spiritually uplifting.

Naming ceremonies are popular. You can celebrate one on behalf of a baby or toddler, but you can also welcome step-children into the family after a remarriage. Again, a civil celebrant can draw up an appropriate and memorable service to mark the occasion.

There are other less conventional celebrations, such as marking a divorce or pet birthdays, and your celebrant will normally be happy to accommodate these too.

We are social animals. Let’s not allow ourselves to be deterred from having an occasional knees-up! These bring people together and put smiles back on faces. Let’s celebrate major life-cycle moments as they deserve  and rejoice that we can do so!

I’d be happy to chat with you about any issues that may come up.


How to personalise your Ceremony

How to personalise your Ceremony

Nowadays, fewer people are choosing a full religious service to mark their marriage. But the Register Office ceremony can be uninspiring, both regarding content and delivery.

That’s why there’s increasing interest in celebrant-led ceremonies.

These specialise in letting their clients choose what they are going to include in their service (and exclude!).

So how can you personalise your ceremony?


You can choose (as long as you can afford it!) the venue that really hits the mark for you. It may be quirky (like a pod on the London Eye, an aquarium, or an old favourite like a castle or a hotel). It can be outdoors (if you gamble on our climate!) or indoors. It can be grand, modest or somewhere in between.

What you choose will reflect your personalities.


You can individualise your wedding décor. This may include invitations, signage and seating plans. You can commission this, or do it yourself (given the time and creativity).


As well as beautifying things, flowers too will reflect your personalities. They may, or may not, be seasonal, exotic, simple, ravishing, or your own themed colour(s).

The flowers can extend beyond the bridal bouquet to table and room decoration (as in the photo) and even arches.


These days, you may not choose to wear the traditional clothes. So a bride might shun white, or even a dress. The groom may prefer to dispense with a tie. You can still look original and fetching, and declare your personality.


There are lots of ways to personalise the ceremony itself. You may go for a ritual (what about a handfasting?) or a recital of how the two of you got together and/or why you stayed together! You may want to write your own vows. And so on.

Your civil celebrant should be able to help you with all this, and positively channel your affection, humour and potential emotion.

So the whole service can reflect your personalities and beliefs and be very, very special.

I’d love to be of help to you constructing this. Just contact me!