Before I became a Civil Celebrant, I had assumed that a civil ceremony was pretty much stress-free. It was arranged well in advance, so everybody knew what they were doing. You wouldn’t expect to encounter last-minute ceremonies, would you?
Experience has taught me that this is not always the case!
A last-minute job
Last summer, the 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 took it anyway.
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 I conduct ceremonies, 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, and told them that I’d try and access my e-mails on holiday. 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. We got back on Friday evening and I immediately checked e-mails again. Not a word.
So 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 (no more than that!) 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, they loved it and all was well!
Plan your civil ceremony well in advance and don’t rely on goodwill or chance! Your celebrant will do his best, but you can’t always rely on a happy ending.