What People Want to Know about Civil Celebrants

What People Want to Know about Civil Celebrants

Among the questions I am regularly asked are the following:

What is a Civil Celebrant, actually?

The bottom line is that a civil celebrant will personalise your ceremony for you. They should be able to advise you, but will also listen to you. Their goal is to understand your vision of the big day, and tailor a ceremony that reflects your personalities and beliefs and is everything you ever dreamt it would be.

What sort of Ceremonies does a celebrant offer?

Some specialise in one or two areas only (eg high-end weddings or funerals). However, most will offer weddings, vow renewals, namings, handfastings, funerals, and so on. These may be religious, part-religious or secular, depending on the celebrant.

Why not have a full religious ceremony?

There’s nothing to stop you having a full religious ceremony led by a celebrant. You’re more likely to go to your own Church (or whatever) for this, though. Moreover, many celebrants are not ordained; however, they may still be willing and able to perform such a ceremony.

Are civil celebrant ceremonies legal?

This is now under discussion at Parliament. But, at least, for the next few years celebrant ceremonies in England & Wales have no legal validity. That applies to weddings or funerals, as these must be legally registered.

There is nothing to stop you getting legally married at a Register Office (by appointment) with two witnesses. You can then proceed – that day or the next –  to the venue of your choosing to have the celebrant-led ceremony of your choice. Which, to all intents and purposes, will be your actual wedding.

What makes a celebrant-led ceremony special?

The celebrant crafts the ceremony together with you. Usually, you will be sent drafts to comment on, and a good celebrant will ensure that you have approved every word of the ceremony by the time the big day arrives.

You may be encouraged to incorporate rituals (such as handfasting, Unity Candle, stamping a glass underfoot, etc.) and personal items (how you met, what attracts you to each other etc.).

You can include the readings you like (whether spiritual, religious, humorous, or whatever) and have the people you want participating in the ceremony.

You might write and recite your vows (possibly, with the celebrant’s assistance).

You work as a team towards your special, unique ceremony.

How do you choose a really good celebrant and how much do they charge?

If you don’t have first-hand experience or a reliable recommendation, have a look at the celebrant’s website.

Look at testimonials.

See what the celebrant says and how they say it.

Do you think you will like them? Do you feel you can trust them?

Are they humble enough to listen to you? Will they be competent on the day?

If you think they are promising, speak to them, preferably face-to-face, and ask the burning questions you may have. (You can meet a couple of celebrants, and see how they match up.)

Once you have decided you want that particular celebrant to share the limelight with you, only then worry about their cost.

You might find one who undercuts the others considerably, but do you want to take the risk of being disappointed on the day? Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that being expensive does not guarantee quality.

 If the celebrant you do want to work with is a little too expensive, can you save some money somewhere else? Or can you pay in instalments?

Of course, you may have other questions; I’m waiting to answer them!

Renewing Your Vows

Renewing Your Vows

OK, I’m think Vow Renewals are a delight. But why, actually, should anyone even consider renewing their vows?

Well, I’m a civil celebrant, so  I have to conduct them and happen to love them. However, that response may not help you if you’re seeking justification!

I therefore suggest these (hopefully, more compelling!) reasons.

Why renew vows?

34% of marriages end in divorce and 33% of them end before 10 years, so there’s every reason to celebrate staying together. People often look at 10, 15, or other multiples of 5 years as good times to celebrate.

You don’t need to renew your marriage just because there’s a five or zero at the end of your anniversary. Renewing your vows can mark significant moments in your lives.  These could be the birth of a baby, or coming out the other side of a difficult marital patch or illness. Maybe family and friends missed the original wedding because it took place abroad.

What is a Vow Renewal ceremony?

Of course, the ceremony is a public declaration of love between two people. It can be in front of 200 people, or it can be a tiny, informal affair for just a handful of guests. The venue can be virtually anywhere and you have total control over how big – or small – any reception may be.

The Vow Renewal ceremonies I conduct tend to be modest, but very beautiful. There  may be religious content or not, or a mixture. When putting the ceremony together, I suggest readings and poems (and, where required, prayers) that are spiritual, meaningful and memorable. All are subject to the clients’ wishes.

Canalside VR

Vows

A focal point is usually the vows themselves.  These can be written by the couple, and are often very moving. I always offer guidance on writing these, as many people find the prospect daunting. If they prefer it, I can suggest vows for them.

Quite often, people want their rings blessed, which is another moving part of the ceremony.

Check list

You’ll need to consider the following when planning your Vow Renewal:

  • Venue: you don’t need to be restricted (except by budget and legality!). So you can have the ceremony in your garden, at the top of the London Eye, in a luxurious hotel, in a park or on a bridge. Or maybe at the place where you originally tied the knot.
  • Invitations: you can invite whoever you want to participate in the ceremony. Maybe you have children – why not ask them to take part? The size of the guest-list is entirely down to you.
  • Dress: again, up to you (although make sure you communicate your preferences to your celebrant and guests, to avoid potential embarrassment!)
  • Music: you may want to use the music that you heard at your wedding; you may want a relative (preferably with a great voice!) to do a solo; you may want to play a tune that means something very special to you both; you may want nothing – again, the choice is all yours.
  • Photographer: you’ll want to capture the moment for posterity, so give some thought to hiring a good photographer (see my dedicated blog )
  • Catering: even if you’re having a modest ceremony, some champagne (or equivalent) and a snack go will down well afterwards.
  • Other possibilities, like a reception, may be taken into consideration too.

The Beauty of Freedom

The joy of renewing your vows is that you have such freedom to arrange the ceremony as you want. You can tell the world that you love your spouse and your spouse loves you. You don’t have to wait fifty years – you can do it when you’re ready. You can spend as much or as little as you want. You can involve whoever you want. It’s such a happy event.

I hope I’ve managed to convince you!

I would love to help you. Just phone or e-mail me.

 

How to Choose Your Ideal Venue

How to Choose Your Ideal Venue

Getting a few things straight

Don’t assume the ideal venue for your big event is just there for the taking. For a start, it may not be available on the day. And it might cost more than you anticipate.

So you may only be able to approximate to “ideal”. Probably before anything else, you’ll need to look at your budget.

I can’t sort your finances out for you. You may well want a castle or The Ritz, but they won’t come cheap. You may have to give up on a dream. (There may find wonderful substitutes, though, once you’ve done some research.)

So this article assumes that you accept budgetary limitations.

Ceremony and/or Reception

The other thing to get straight, from the start, is where you actually hold your wedding (or other) ceremony.

You may go from the church (say) to another venue (like a hotel) for the reception.

A lot of people prefer to keep the travel arrangements simple, or prefer a secular (or only part-religious) service. Licensed premises (licensed for weddings!) will tick both boxes. You can arrange for registrars to come and do the legal bits, and then glide seamlessly through to the next part. (That could be a civil celebrant- led personalised ceremony and/or canapes and drinks etc.)

Old Sarum is a wonderful setting for a handfasting!

The third possibility is potentially most exciting. You can have the ceremony exactly where you want it (your imagination can run riot!), provided you get permission, of course. So you go (by appointment) to your local Register Office with two witnesses and get legally married. Any time after that, you go up your mountain, visit Stonehenge, mooch by your favourite canal, come into your parents’ back garden, or wherever, with your civil celebrant, and have the ceremony of your dreams.

Naturally, unless you hold this in a restaurant or hotel, you will still have to consider catering.

Choosing your Venue

Depending on your choices above, my venue suggestions would be based on personal recommendation, websites and Google to help you narrow down your search. Then, with your partner, arrange a visit, making sure you get shown round by the event planner.

Go and see a couple of possible of venues, and bear in mind that different weather conditions on the day(s) may unfairly influence your choice!

What you need to find out

Bring a list of questions with you, and write down the answers, in case you forget them later when you’re comparing notes. Naturally, you want to know the cost, but also check exactly what you get, and do not get, for the price. You may have certain requirements (eg “Can I bring in a florist from outside?” or “Can you arrange kosher catering?”) – don’t be afraid to ask.

Parking, catering, decoration, disabled access, bar, toilets, PA system, signage, choice of rooms, setting up the entertainment, buffet or silver service are all issues you are likely to need to discuss. Will the wedding planner (or deputy) be available on the day itself? How much deposit is required, and when must the balance be settled?

If the planner seems adaptable and genuinely willing to put herself out, then that looks good. Do you like her, and would you feel confident working with her?

What is also paramount is your feel for the place. Does it excite you? Do you really want to go there? If you’re lukewarm about the venue, then maybe you should look elsewhere.

If all this sounds like a lot to take in and get done, then bear in mind that you should be starting this process at least a year before the big day. Also consider that this is potentially the biggest day in your lives, and the venue can make or break it. It’s not a choice to be made lightly.

I’m always willing to help and advise, so do have a chat with me about any of the issues this article may have raised.

Wedding Count Down – twelve months

So you’ve got engaged – congratulations! But don’t sit back! It’s time to start the wedding count down.

There’s more to do than you’ll expect. To keep it as stress-free as possible, I recommend that you start planning at least a year before the event.

 

If you put things off, you’ll soon find that you’re under pressure – and possibly making the wrong decisions.

Don’t be impulsive, although you should go with your heart to quite a degree. Wherever possible, follow recommendations. Visit suppliers and certainly the venue, so you can get a feel for them. Take the opportunity to ask questions.

Here are some of the things to do:

As early as possible

  • Fix your budget
  • Decide on the type of ceremony you want (full religious; totally secular (Register Office); mainly religious, non-religious or part-religious (Civil Celebrant))
  • Book your venue
  • Book your florist, cakemaker, transport, caterers, musicians, entertainers, photographer/videographer
  • Book your minister, registrar and, of course, civil celebrant.
  • Draft a guest list
  • Choose your team (bridesmaids, ushers and Best Man)
  • Start looking for your wedding dress
  • Organise wedding insurance

 

Six months before

  • Buy your wedding rings
  • Buy your bridal lingerie and shoes (and wear them for dress fittings)
  • Book a hairdresser and make-up artist
  • Choose outfits for the groom, best man and ushers
  • Order your stationery
  • Book your honeymoon – check passports are valid. Do you need any vaccinations?

 

Three months before

  • Confirm ceremony details (including [celebrant] order of service and wedding music )
  • Send out invitations and gift list
  • Discuss menu and drinks with caterer
  • Have initial dress fitting
  • Buy gifts for Best Man, ushers and bridesmaids
  • Plan your hen/stag parties

 

My next blog will take you through the month before your wedding, so don’t miss it! However, if you can’t wait, why not e-mail me and I’ll gladly send you my Wedding Countdown Checklist, which will tell you everything in one document?

Mixed-faith ceremonies

Mixed-faith ceremonies

Hurrah for the rise of mixed-faith ceremonies!

People are beginning to realise that weddings, naming ceremonies, and even funerals, do not have to be confined to either the full religious or the totally secular. There really is a middle ground.

More and more people are marrying outside the church (or synagogue, temple etc.). In 2011, 59.3% of the population considered themselves Christian, which leaves a lot of people who don’t. Moreover, 25.1% professed no religion at all.

 

Did you know…?

Interestingly, only 30% of weddings in 2015 were celebrated in a place of worship. Of the remaining 70% who opted for a civil ceremony, some chose the register office, but most preferred approved premises. The latter mostly meant hotels (42.8%) followed (11.6%) by corporate and event spaces.

So people are voting with their feet, as it were.

Why the rise of part-religious ceremonies?

Of course, a number of churches will not marry a couple if they don’t comply with certain conditions. A divorcee may not marry in a Catholic church. So the only way these people can have a religious (or part- religious) service is to use a civil celebrant.

The same applies for people who may prefer a secular service, but who want to respect the wishes of parents, say. They’d therefore like a few (possibly, minimal!) religious elements.

In a similar way, some couples will choose to include a religious element or two as a gesture to guests who are religiously active.

More commonly, however, people of mixed faith may want to embrace and celebrate both their religions and cultures. A civil ceremony will allow just that.

Mixed-faith

I have been privileged to offer a number of couples the opportunity to pick the elements from two religions that they want to include and share. For example, we have had the bride circle the groom (multiple religions), the groom has stamped on a glass (Jewish) and both have “jumped the broom” or undergone handfasting ceremonies (pagan), and we have drunk from the Loving Cup (a variation of a Christian ritual).

So there are a goodly number of reasons why the trend for civil weddings (and celebrations) is rising.

To find out how I, as a civil celebrant, can help you, please get in touch with me for a non-obligation chat. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Featured image courtesy of Philippa Gedge photography.