How to begin planning your wedding?

How to begin planning your wedding?

Planning your wedding is likely to be challenging at the best of times. And these cannot be said to be the best of times!

However, it is an exciting and rewarding process. But what if you have no real idea where to begin?

So here’s some guidance that may set you off in the right direction.

Initial Steps

As no couple does things exactly the same way as any other, I will confine myself to general suggestions.

At all events, you’ll probably need to consider the following very early on:

  1. How are you going to arrange the planning? Will you hire a professional, will you entrust it to a friend or relative, or will you handle it yourself?
  2. Decide on your budget. Make a list of suppliers you may need and guests you are likely to invite.
  3. Choose a date. That can be complex. You may have a particular date in mind (a year on from your engagement; your late grandmother’s birthday, for example). But the date may be a Bank Holiday, so it can be more expensive to hire suppliers. It may be the wrong day of the week (some days are more expensive than others). Do your research.

First suppliers

Assuming you know the month (if not, day) of the wedding, the most important people to contact next are:

  1. The Register Office
  2. The wedding venue
  3. Caterers, if relevant

The Register Office will need at least a month’s notice (because of the banns) and you need to book the registrars. (You need to appear in the Office – by appointment – with two witnesses, as a minimum. Pre-COVID, as an alternative, the registrars would come to your venue – subject to certain conditions. Watch this space.)

The wedding venue can be a religious building (Anglicans, Jews and Quakers can currently host the whole ceremony (without the need actively to involve the registrars). If your ceremony is in a secular building (a restaurant, hotel, castle etc.), the officiant can be a civil celebrant.

Book your caterers well in advance. Do your homework, and make sure you feel confident with your choices.

The second tranche

You may need to book the entertainment quite early. The same may apply to other suppliers – you can be looking at photographers, florists, celebrants, as well as limousines, hair and make-up artists, dress and suit-makers, and the like.

Hopefully, this can suffice for starters. If you want more advice, just contact me.

A great guide (OK, I wrote it!) is “Your Wedding Guide”, available on Amazon. It takes you right through this process in much more detail – and  is very reasonably priced!

Where we stand with Life-Cycle Ceremonies

Where we stand with Life-Cycle Ceremonies

Things can move very quickly – it is fair to say that this has so far been an unprecedented year globally. However, since lockdown, speed of change seems to have slowed considerably. Some business owners – notably, in the food and drink and the leisure industries – must feel that change can’t come soon enough.

My own field – life-cycle ceremonies, especially weddings and funerals – is still surrounded by uncertainty.


There is no longer any obligation to have direct cremation, although the option remains. So there is at least the opportunity for a ceremony and a degree of closure for families. However, social distancing restrictions mean families cannot attend, if they number more than 30. Those that do often can’t sit together or share a hug for consolation.

There is still the option, of course, for memorial services, scattering of ashes ceremonies, or celebration of life events later – but who knows when these will be permissible?!


As of 22nd June, in Wales weddings may take place once more. That means that registrars will conduct ceremonies, with two witnesses present. However, no big celebrations will be allowed. So marriages and receptions will presumably be separate as well as small. (At least, there is the possibility of live-streaming to a wider audience.)

Currently, similar developments will be happening in England from 4th July, so there is a little light at the end of the tunnel.

The 30-people (plus social distancing) limit will apply. There will probably be restrictions on locations too.

The same will apply to namings and vow renewals (which don’t need registrars).

Well, let’s hope things can soon progress and that it will become easier to plan life-cycle events.

I’m happy to chat things over with you, if you are considering such a ceremony.

Who do you want to Officiate at your Wedding?

Who do you want to Officiate at your Wedding?

You’re getting married? Brilliant! Have you decided who will officiate? Will it be a priest (or equivalent), a registrar or a civil celebrant? Did you even realise that you have a choice?!

[This post is designed for English or Welsh couples, although laws are set to change in the not-too-distant future. Separate rules apply to Scotland and Ireland.]


If you are marrying in an Anglican church, this is as simple as it gets. You will be able to combine religious and legal in one ceremony. The same applies for Jewish and Quaker weddings.

Otherwise, you will have to arrange a trip to the register office and to the church before you can be declared married.


The registrars come at the other end of the spectrum to priests, although both services are pretty much standardised. The registrars are not permitted even to mention God or religion. What they do, however, is to pronounce the legal words. Without these being uttered and witnessed, no marriage is valid.

You need to make an appointment with the registrars and go to their office with two witnesses. Or the registrars may come to the venue of your choice (currently, there are restrictions, such as a minimum requirement of four solid walls). Be aware that this will cost you substantially more.

The registrars will offer you a minimum of choice as to the service structure. And their presentation skills can vary wildly!


Until the law changes, civil celebrants cannot marry people legally. They can bless them, conduct a part-religious (or even wholly-religious) service, hand-fast them, get them to sign a marriage certificate afterwards, but none of this makes the marriage legal.

So what normally happens in these cases is that the couple marries first (at the register office, unless the registrars come out to their venue). This can be done in a private room or in front of guests.

When the registrars have left, the civil celebrant can stand up and publicly conduct the personalised ceremony the couple have been dreaming of. It may be religious, or partly so; it may be (partly) humorous; it may contain ritual; active participation may be invited; favourite readings or music may be chosen; it may well be unique to the couple.

At the end, the celebrant may declare the couple legally married (as long as the registrar service has been completed!).

The point is that, by using a celebrant, you have free choice as to the tone and content of your ceremony on your big day.

If you want any further clarification on this issue, please feel free to contact me.

Where can my wedding take place?

Where can my wedding take place?

Where you hold your wedding is likely to be a vital question for you to resolve. You surely want to be married in a place that you both love.

The obvious choices

It’s simple, if you go down the full religious route. It’ll be your religious building.

It’s almost as simple if you’re having a Register Office affair. You make an appointment to attend the office, with two witnesses, and that can be it. (However, the Registrars will come out to some venues – though at quite a price!)

There’s another choice

You don’t have to be bound by those two alternatives. You can opt for the civil celebrant route, and then it’s a different ball-game.

This doesn’t negate the Registrars. You still have to get legally married first. That means making an appointment before the ceremony (as above).

The difference is that now you can also have your personalised ceremony – in the venue of your dreams.

And that means almost anywhere! It could be in your back garden or (with permission, of course) in a field next to a canal, up the Shard, at Stonehenge, by the seaside, in the Savoy Hotel, in a hot-air balloon … – well, you get the picture!


If you’re arranging the ceremony yourself, you’ll need a celebrant, and probably suppliers such as florists, photographers, make-up artists, caterers, etc.

You may want to hire a wedding planner. For the extra cost, you get peace of mind. Depending on the package you agree, every detail can be organised and overseen for you.

Regardless, you need to get permission/pay for the venue you may be using.

All this should be arranged well in advance – generally, at least a year ahead, as some of the suppliers get booked up quite early.

With all suppliers, try and get first-hand reports from people who have used them. This may be word-of-mouth or website testimonials, but speaking to them directly is important. You can ask your questions and get a feel for the supplier’s attitude.


Remember good old health and safety – especially if you’re organising everything yourself. (No trailing wires; ensure there are sufficient toilets; check signposting etc. etc.)

The bottom line is that you really can choose where (and how) to mark your big day. Of course, if you need any advice on the ceremony, just contact your friendly neighbourhood celebrant!

Release the wedding shackles!

Release the wedding shackles!

Wedding shackles? Sounds a bit melodramatic!

Let’s have a look.

It’s over forty years since people were given free choice as to the type of wedding ceremony they could have. That happened in Australia.  It took much longer to get established over here, but England too now gives you the opportunity to have the ceremony that you actually want.

However, judging by my experience at wedding fairs, the majority of people think that the only choices are a full religious service (from a prayer book) or a (secular) register office ceremony. They seem quite surprised when I tell them that the service can be personalised and as religious (or not) as they want.

Putting ON the shackles!!


So, in case you’re a bit confused too, here are some guidelines.

What you MUST do

The bottom line is that, in order to marry legally in England, the marriage has to be registered with the registrars and certain words pronounced aloud. You can only do this at the Register Office, or at a licensed venue (if the registrars can come out there), or in a C. of E. Church.

What you CAN do

You may be thinking about a personalised service.  So this won’t be one that, as you move down the ‘conveyor belt’, is the same for you as it is for the next person, and the one after that.

The way you can achieve a unique ceremony is to use a civil celebrant (like myself!). Ensure the mandatory stuff is complete like this:

  1. Hold your ceremony in a venue licensed for weddings, such as certain hotels. The registrars normally come out (at a price) and will conduct their standard service. As soon as they have done so, your civil celebrant can stand up and start leading the ceremony of your dreams.
  2. Go along with two witnesses (in your jeans, if you wish!) to the local Register Office. (Book up first!) Once you are legally married, you can proceed (either immediately or even in a day or two) to the venue of your choice where your Civil Celebrant can conduct your special ceremony.


One advantage of number two is that you can go (almost literally) anywhere to hold yourceremony. That might mean an island, a mountain top, a monument, beside the water – you are only limited by your imagination, practicality and permission!

Types of Ceremony

The beauty of a civil celebrant is that you are not obliged to hold a fully non-religious ceremony. Nor is the opposite the case. You may want a compromise. Perhaps you are a mixed-faith couple, unable to marry in your own religious buildings, but who still want a religious service. The civil celebrant can write such a ceremony. Perhaps your parents want religious elements, but you do not. Again, the civil celebrant can help.

However, you want your ceremony, your civil celebrant can advise and guide you.

That way you have abundant choice, and your ceremony will be everything that you want it to be.

And why shouldn’t it be?!


Featured image source: thegroomsays.