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!
What do I mean by the “best” ceremony?
Of course, no such thing exists. However, there are definitely ceremonies that will meet your needs and expectations better than others. If you have the choice – and a lot of people don’t realise there actually is choice out there – are you happy with the standard ceremony offered by your religious institution or by the Registry Office? Or might you prefer something tailor-made, that reflects your personal beliefs and desires?
Let’s look at the options, so that you can make that decision more easily. I’m going to talk about weddings here, but a lot of my remarks will apply to other ceremonies (such as Vow renewals or even funerals). I am assuming, incidentally, that you are marrying for love, rather than for legal reasons!
The religious option
There are a number of advantages for marrying in your church/synagogue/temple etc. You will probably be comfortable if you have your familiar priest; your family may well approve; you yourself may be happy remaining within your cultural traditions. On a practical level, the religious and legal parts will be combined if it’s an Anglican ceremony.
I had a religious wedding (my choice), so I have nothing against it whatever – except that it is a standard ceremony (same size fits all).
The church etc. wedding is not for everybody. You may not be allowed a full religious wedding if you are “marrying out”. Or perhaps you are uncomfortable with a religious service, especially if you opted out long ago.
What else is open to you?
The Registry ceremony comes at the other extreme to a religious service. It is quick and simple, probably lasting less than 15 minutes. It smacks a little of a ‘conveyor-belt’, but such a ceremony will suit some people well enough.
Of course, the service is standardised. But the main disadvantage is that, if you want just a little religion or ritual (either because you don’t feel happy cutting yourself off culturally or even because you don’t want to upset family or friends), that option is simply not available.
The third option
If you rule out the two choices mentioned above, you may be looking for a ceremony that appeals to you spiritually, personally and emotionally. A civil celebrant may offer what you are really looking for on your big day.
The service will be created for you in conjunction with your civil celebrant. (It will not cover the legal side, of course, but that is easily dealt with and your civil celebrant will be able to advise you).
Your ceremony will not be a standardised service, though it may contain many conventional elements, if you so choose. The point is that you are free to put in whatever readings, music or rituals you want (your celebrant will offer ideas) and choose whoever you want to participate.
This way, your ceremony can be a reflection of you both. It can be as romantic as you choose, and should be a memorable, meaningful experience that you – and your guests – will treasure long after the event itself.
So don’t go thinking that there’s no third option – there is. And it’s really viable. Just ask someone who knows!
Why not enjoy the “best” ceremony, after all!
Michael can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, Europe.
Many people assume that a wedding needs to be held either in a religious building or in the register office. Well, those are not ideal for all, but fortunately there is the option of a civil celebrant .
As a lot of people don’t know that civil celebrants even exist, here’s some general information that should be useful.
Can a celebrant marry me legally?
The short answer, according to current English legislation, is no. However, there are two workable options to allow you to marry legally and also to enjoy the ceremony that you actually want.
1) you can have a registrar in attendance at the celebrant-led ceremony (provided the venue has the appropriate licence) or
2) you can marry legally (with 2 witnesses) at the Register Office the morning or day(s) before the ceremony. The celebrant can then conduct what to all intents and purposes is a full wedding or a wedding blessing ceremony (in the venue of your choice). That way, everything is covered.
What’s the difference between the Registrar’s and Celebrant’s ceremony?
The short answer is personalisation.
A registrar will keep to a script, without departing from it at all. The ceremony must contain no religious references. The time-slot is limited (there is usually a ‘conveyor-belt’ system in operation). You won’t normally have met the registrar who will be conducting your wedding.
None of the above applies to a civil celebrant. In addition to the personal and bespoke service that a celebrant offers, you also have freedom of choice of venue and even hour.
Would it be a humanist service?
It depends on the celebrant. A humanist, like the registrar, is not permitted to offer any religious content. A civil celebrant, like myself, can tailor the service absolutely according to your beliefs and wishes. I recently conducted a handfasting wedding, which was a fusion of paganism and Judaism! And it worked!
How are celebrants overseen?
Many celebrants belong to a body that has strict codes of ethics (I belong to UK Society of Celebrants, for example). These normally ensure that standards are being adhered to, although the celebrants I come into contact with are clearly professional, competent and trustworthy.
What about fees?
These will vary between celebrants and, obviously, need to take into account travel, possibly, board and lodging, and any unusual accessories requested.
The amount of work that will go into creating and performing a ceremony will depend on the type of ceremony required, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule. Personally, I usually give clients a firm quotation after our initial chat.
My fees include (virtually) unlimited contact with clients and as many revisions to the script as we need. Naturally, I conduct the service too. There are details of what is included on my website (www.vowsthatwow.co.uk) and I always send a clear summary in my Ts & Cs, once I have had the introductory chat with my clients.
What restrictions are there to the ceremony?
Beyond what I have already mentioned (especially on the legal side), as long as your requirements are within the realms of decency and reason, you can have what you want at your wedding.
- If you want to dance down the aisle or wear Superman outfits, you can!
- You can get married where you want (within reason) – that includes outdoors, of course, and could be in a hot-air balloon, say
- Your ceremony can include your choice of music, readings, rituals and participants
The idea is that we are working towards your big day. It should reflect your personality and be fun (where appropriate), meaningful and memorable.
That’s where a good celebrant comes in …