In my experience, a couple goes to a lot of trouble and expense to ensure that preparations for their wedding are comprehensive. Eventualities are considered and weighed up, and experienced professionals are usually employed.
From my point of view, I ensure that the couple approve every word of what I am going to say, and this was the case in my latest wedding.
So what could possibly go wrong?
I had worked for a couple of years (delayed because of Lockdowns) with a lovely couple, and we covered all the necessary ground. They were using an event planner at the venue, but I discussed with them well in advance the logistics of an outdoor ceremony.
We had a room in the house booked just in case of intemperate weather, but the first choice was a pergola situated a few hundred metres from the house. Recorded music was to be played, and a professional sound engineer (and assistant) had been employed to ensure all went well. They were also responsible for a microphone for me.
As usual, I arrived in good time and went to check out the pergola. The sound engineer was there and explained that he’d just found out that, for technical reasons, he couldn’t connect to the electricity supply in the house. In short, this meant that I had no microphone. Well, with only 60 guests and a fairly wind-free day, I am able to project my voice sufficiently, so this unpleasant surprise wasn’t an issue at all.
The processional, with music played via Bluetooth, went well, and we were off! We then came to the hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. As per the Order of Service, I invited the guests to rise and join in (they had the words on a sheet).
I waited for the music to start. Silence. I turned to the sound engineer, who just returned my look. I waited and he mouthed “I haven’t got it!”. Not good news!
I had to ad-lib. Importantly, people saw the funny side. With the bride and groom’s go-ahead, I suggested that we could gamble on me leading the singing unaccompanied. Luckily, people joined in. It wasn’t perfect, but we got through it.
The major issue came when we reached the second and final hymn. I wasn’t confident enough to lead that one. We were about to omit it, when one of the guests found a version on his mobile and passed it to the sound engineer. He was able to connect it up to the speaker. The words didn’t exactly maych those on the hymn sheet, but another hurdle was successfully negotiated!
The rest of the service went well (although we had to substitute water for wine, as the couple had left the bottle in their suite!).
What all this confirmed is that, with the best will (and planning) in the world, things can still go wrong. People will do their best to help out – and nobody will grumble, provided that the problem was not caused by negligence. Feedback I got about the service was that it was first-rate. Phew!
The couple – and their guests – may well look back on the day in the future, remember the problem(s) and share a little laugh.
It’s all about unique occasions, and some are more unique than others!
Outdoor weddings and politics make a strange combination, don’t they?
I love being involved in outdoor ceremonies. Of course, they’re a gamble. There’s the weather to take into account. I have conducted namings in baking sunshine and weddings in the rain. I’ve led funerals in snow and ice. The unpredictability is quite exciting, and sometimes bad weather can even enhance proceedings.
I well remember one outdoor wedding in August. The heavens suddenly opened. What was I to do? We were three quarters of the way through the ceremony. Should we stop?
But one bright spark grabbed one of the huge parasols for outside tables, and brought it to the front. He then put it up so that it sheltered the couple. (Though not the celebrant, sadly!!) It put a smile on everyone’s face and will long be remembered.
Less happy days
But I have a gripe.
I normally have minimal interest in politics. I like to think that politicians are basically well-intentioned. So I let them get on with what they’re doing. And hope they’ll allow me to do likewise.
However, I am not sure about this proposal.
According to the last budget, plans are afoot to enlarge the competences of registrars to include outside weddings. Currently, for a wedding to be legal, it needs to be conducted within four solid walls. (Only there is the registrar permitted to say the words that make the ceremony legally binding.)
The current situation
At the moment, if a couple wants an outdoor ceremony, this would be an addition, which is open to a civil celebrant to conduct. (See where this is leading?!)
So you have a couple of choices.
With two witnesses, you can go to the Register Office by appointment (hours or days) before the outdoor ceremony. You get legally married (so that concern is behind you) and then have what is to all intents and purposes your wedding, namely, the (celebrant-led) ceremony of your dreams, in the venue of your dreams.
Alternatively, the registrars can come – at quite a price – to your chosen venue and – inside – conduct the standard ceremony. The party can move outdoors afterwards for the celebrant-led ceremony.
Remember, the registrars cannot include any religious elements or mentions at all. They may offer reciting of vows and exchanging of rings, but these are not compulsory, and a celebrant can do that, tailoring these specifically to your wishes.
If the proposal goes ahead, then a lot of couples will presumably spend the money (we’re currently talking £5-600) on getting the registrars over to the chosen venue. They won’t then want to pay for a civil celebrant on top of that. Even if he does personalise the event for you.
So the registrars get an extra income stream, and the celebrant potentially loses out.
I know I’m biased, but I don’t see that that change is necessary.
Yes, you will gain convenience, although how inconvenient is the current position anyway? And you won’t get a better ceremony, as it won’t be personalised. Nor will you be able to choose your registrar – you’ll get who you’re given. With a civil celebrant, you can meet him in advance and see if you like him – and whether he can present well.
I wonder whether some palms are being greased, as the advantages really are not great (except to the registrars!).
You’re taking something of a gamble, if you arrange an outdoor ceremony in the UK. Of course, you can get rain in Spain (though not usually in the Summer), and there are occasional lovely days even in the UK!
Be that as it may, people are increasingly opting for home or garden ceremonies. There are ways to make planning the occasion less stressful.
It should go without saying that your celebrant will plan the actual ceremony with you in advance as well as, on the day, meeting with participants, to confirm their roles.
So we can take that part of the arrangements for granted.
You will obviously need a suitable-sized room or garden to accommodate the number of guests you are inviting. What sort of Plan B do you have in the event of bad weather?
You will need to consider the age and health of your guests, and the length of the ceremony. You will need adequate chairs, at least for disabled and/or elderly guests. Consider wheelchair access, if appropriate.
You might need to provide cover from sun (or rain!), at least for the main protagonists. Have cool drinks ready, if it’s a hot day. Don’t forget that you may need to make a table available to be used during the ceremony.
Ensure everything is laid out well in advance of the first guests’ arrival.
When you hold a ceremony outdoors, factors may enter into the equation over which you have limited – or no – control. There is the risk of all manner of disturbances, such as aircraft, lawnmowers, animals, neighbours etc.
You can ensure that your pets are shut away, if they are likely to disturb the ceremony. You may be able to liaise with neighbours. Warn them that there will be a lot of cars parking nearby on the day and explain that you would appreciate quiet for about half an hour from a certain time. (Inviting them to attend may be clever psychology!)
If you are expecting disturbances (eg you are on a flight path), it may be better to hold the ceremony inside.
Alcohol should not be served before the end of the ceremony. There is nothing worse than rowdy guests spoiling the atmosphere!
If laying out chairs, try and leave some at the back for latecomers. If VIP guests are late, it may be possible to delay the ceremony (at the celebrant’s discretion). Avoid leaving guests exposed unnecessarily long to whatever the climate is doing – or keeping children fidgeting too long.
Health & Safety
Yes, the boring bits!
Your domestic insurance will need to cover third party liability to visitors.
You’ll have to ensure entrances/exits are clear and safe, and that any garden structures (eg marquee) are safe and secure. Electrical equipment must be safe, with no trailing wires/cables. Water features should be treated as a hazard.
Holding a ceremony at home usually works out cheaper than holding it at a venue like a hotel. However, it probably loses out as regards stress. Apart from all I’ve already mentioned, there’s the catering (and logistics etc.) after the ceremony to be considered. An event planner will take away the stress, but will obviously hike the cost up.
There’s quite a lot to bear in mind, but with garden ceremonies can come the most amazing atmosphere. With planning and consideration, there is no reason why you cannot hold a truly memorable ceremony at your home.