You may accuse me of cynicism, but I am convinced that some suppliers put their prices up as soon as they see an engaged couple on the horizon. They know it’s the couple’s first time (or likely to be), so they assume the pair aren’t very savvy in this area.
On the other hand, a lot of specialist knowledge, experience and ability is required, and they, deservedly come at a price.
Of course, what is “expensive” to one couple may be “reasonable” to another, so I am not going to put figures in this blog. I assume you will do your due diligence and compare suppliers in the various fields.
So what are you paying for?
Different suppliers may need different skills. Your photographer may come singly, or be inexperienced. In such a case, I’d look elsewhere, because the photographer has a lot to do and can’t afford slip-ups. Your caterer must surely be prepared to offer alternative menus (eg vegan or gluten-free). Your wedding planner will have to be available all day and absolutely know what they are doing and talking about.
As I’m a celebrant, I’m aware that a good one needs a lot of skills (some which are not commonly combined). These include being a good questioner-cum-listener, being a good writer and being a good presenter. Naturally, I have committed time and money to training and development, belong to professional associations that insist on high ethics and standards. Most of all, I have experience, as well as the personality that many find highly suitable for the job.
Consequently, I feel that I have a lot to offer my couples (and others too!) and it’s right that I should be remunerated for what I offer.
The same (or similar) applies to other suppliers. They may need other skills, but they are professionals. Many are experts in their field and can guarantee an excellent job.
So, although not all suppliers may be worth it, the vast majority are. Make sure you are clear on what you are expecting from them and read their Ts and Cs to ensure you understand what they will, and will not, offer.
Two mini-tips, if you want to save a bit of money: avoid extravagance (so don’t buy flowers out of season, for example) and think about the date of your wedding. It will cost more, if it’s on a special day like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Day, and if you hold it in the morning, say, you should have some bargaining power.
Come what may, work out your budget first, speak to lots of suppliers and settle on the team you want to have around you. If that costs a bit more (and you can still afford it), then go with them.
Peace of mind will be (almost!) assured, then!
When you buy a car, you usually know what features you will be getting. The same with most products. So when you’re booking a service like that of a civil celebrant, why should things be any different?
However, not that many people really know what a celebrant does. For example, they assume that a civil celebrant and event planner are the same.
No! The event planner usually books and organises the venue and suppliers. The one thing they don’t do is to organise the ceremony itself. (That’s usually their only time out the whole day!)
The weight of the ceremony falls squarely on the shoulders of the civil celebrant.
A lot of people also assume that a civil celebrant is either a “vicar” or a humanist. An independent celebrant can be anything they want to be – the clue is in the word “independent”. They may be prepared to include religious elements despite their own personal belief, and the opposite may be true too.
So what does a civil celebrant do (apart from conducting the ceremony on the day)?
Behind the Scenes
There’s normally a discovery conversation to start the ball rolling. That way, the couple can see if they even want to work with the celebrant – and the reverse is true too! What is also important is to discuss the couple’s vision for their big day. If the celebrant feels they can’t achieve it or opposes or even ignores it, it ain’t goin’ ta work!
Assuming the Ts & Cs have been agreed and both will work together, the celebrant prepares a draft and e-mails it to the couple in due course. They will probably want some changes, and there’s some toing and froing to be expected before the final version is agreed.
That way, there are no unpleasant surprises on the day, and the couple get exactly what they want.
On the Day
The visible role of the celebrant comes into play on the wedding day. As for me, I like to arrive about an hour before the ceremony is due to start. I can check that everything is set up correctly and sort it, if not.
I nudge relevant people, such as Best Men (“have you got the rings?”) and make sure any Event Planner knows I’ve safely arrived. The same goes for the bride (where accessible) and groom. A lot of it is about putting their minds at ease. I also collaborate with musicians (do they have the same playlist as me?) and photographers (“who is standing where?”). I try and remind those in the bridal train to process in slowly and remind them where they should end up.
As for the half hour or so in the spotlight, that’s our big moment. As celebrant, I never forget that it is not about me, but about the couple standing with me. I conduct the ceremony in the tone we have already agreed – usually solemnly, in places, humorously, and welcoming in others. I facilitate the events calmly and clearly. Sometimes there’s the unexpected to deal with. Then I rely on my years of experience.
The important thing is to make the ceremony memorable, enjoyable, meaningful and special for all concerned.
Much of what goes towards making the ceremony so special happens in the days and months preceding the wedding, and that is what a civil celebrant can do for you!
Feel free to have a chat to find out about how you could put together your special ceremony.
How do you judge the value of a celebrant? Yes, you expect a well-presented wedding ceremony, but is that the limit of your expectation? And what price do you put on that, anyway?
To some extent, the same goes with any supplier. They name a price and you decide whether or not to pay it. But it’s harder to evaluate the worth of a service, as opposed to tangible goods.
You may be able to ask around for recommendations. (But bear in mind that another person’s opinion may conflict with yours.) The website may furnish some useful information. Testimonials are useful.
But most civil celebrants’ websites will talk about the same things. They’ll tell you the sort of ceremony on offer. They may talk about their experience and training. They may have some lovely photos.
But no two celebrants can offer an identical service, simply because their personality and characteristics are individual.
I might not be the first choice for someone looking for an Elvis-impersonator; but they could jump at the chance to work with me on a mixed-faith ceremony, for example. Some may prefer my calm, measured approach; others, might go for razzamatazz.
So how do you know what you are getting?
Choosing the Celebrant
Ultimately, you may have to go with your gut. Do you actually want this celebrant to be conducting your marriage? Can you trust them to deliver?
A consultation will help you answer these questions. You may have a vision of your big day. Share this with the celebrant. Do they sympathise? Do they even listen ? Do they insist on doing it their way?
Do they seem professional? Have they a sense of humour? Are they pleasant? Are they passionate? How clear are their explanations? Do their presentation skills look good? Do you think they are dependable?
You may also like to consider the celebrant’s USP. I would have missed out on several wonderful ceremonies without my knowledge of Russian and Hebrew (and I speak French and German as well!).
Before you sign on the dotted line, take the trouble to read the Ts and Cs. They may not be very interesting, but it’s as well to know what the mutual expectations are.
The cost is obviously relevant, but you can sometimes juggle your budget allocations to ensure you get the celebrant you really want. It is so important to get your choice right.
I hope these hints help you judge the value of your celebrant.
Do feel free to approach me for a non-obligation chat!
Most people have little, or no, experience of putting together a ceremony. The internet can offer some help, but consulting a professional is wise. However, how do you know which supplier is going to be a match for you?
Of course, you’ve got to decide what you want and how much you are willing to spend. One rule of thumb is that, if you really like someone but they’re just out of your price range, it’s worth going with them. You can probably cut a corner elsewhere to cover the shortfall.
I’m not going to talk here about the reception, as my brief is the ceremony. There are still decisions to be made, though.
The venue and the officiant are paramount – and will each have their own advantages as well as potential drawbacks.
If you are not marrying in church, you essentially have two choices: the Register Office or a venue such as a hotel. If the venue is not licensed for weddings, you need to go to the Register Office first (with two witnesses). Then you can have the wedding of your dreams (see next section) in the venue of your dreams.
If you’re choosing a hotel, say, make sure you have visited – and love – it. Ensure you have spoken to the Event Planner and understand exactly what the terms and conditions are. For example, does your hire cover the whole venue? What about payment terms? What social distance safeguards are they employing? What happens if you have to cancel?
If you’re going with a celebrant as officiant, there are many different types. Humanists should not even mention “God” or include any religious elements in their service (though a few do seem to be doing that nowadays). Wiccan celebrants will include pagan (nature-related) elements. Then there are independent celebrants who will include some conventional religious readings or rituals, if desired, but who are comfortable with secular ceremonies.
To clarify, an independent civil celebrant will normally tailor the service to your expectations and beliefs, so you can have as much – or as little – religion as you want. Your day really can be special and the way YOU want it.
Finally, you need to be sure of venue and celebrant (especially, as you’ll want to be comfortable for your actual marriage).
Personal recommendations are always good. Otherwise, websites will give you an idea, but personal contact is even more revealing. Is this a venue that excites you? Will this celebrant listen to your wishes and be someone you can feel confident about?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Check Terms and Conditions and query anything unclear.
If you have any questions in the meanwhile, please feel free to ask me!
Do we even need wedding suppliers these days? After all, with social distancing and government regulations limiting the size of ceremonies, we’ve moved towards small-scale ceremonies.
Can’t we manage on our own now?
Maybe, but I would be less than sanguine as soon as the guest-list goes into double figures. (hopefully, next month!)
If you’re doing it yourself, you can easily go to the Cash & Carry and buy in a load of food and drink. Oh, you’ll probably want to clean your front room up first before putting up the ribbons and bunting. How will you serve refreshments? How will you arrange the room to accommodate a relatively large number? Are you using the back garden? Supposing it rains? Have you warned the neighbours? Will there be a sound system? Have you avoided trailing wires and trip hazards?
So, rather than exhaust yourself before the event even starts, it may be wiser to hire some professional suppliers.
Even if circumstances don’t change, then consider a professional wedding planner. Given their contacts with suppliers, they may work out cheaper than you envisage!
Otherwise, there may be an event planner who comes with the venue you book. Of course, if you’re confident you can handle it – go for it yourself.
Visit venues until your heart says “yes”. Obviously, the price must be right and you must feel happy about the planner there.
Be aware that you may have to give the venue a lot of notice.
You may not be having a full religious service. However, you may want more than the Registrars’ standard ceremony. They do the legal bit, but they do not personalise. For that, contact a civil celebrant.
Working together with your civil celebrant, you can achieve the unique ceremony of your dreams.
If current law proposal proceeds, soon the celebrant may actually be able to conduct a personalised, but fully legal, ceremony at one and the same time.
Musicians and Entertainment
You may want music, either at the wedding ceremony or at the reception (or both). Decisions to make include whether it should be live or recorded, and whether you’re having a DJ or a friend to push a button.
Make sure you know who is providing the sound equipment.
Again, this is where a planner can earn their keep. Are you having some drinks and hors d’oeuvres before the meal? Will the meal be buffet or silver service? What – and how much – drink will you offer? Will you have a cash bar? What about vegans and those on gluten-free or dairy-free regimes? Do you want a special table for children?
Don’t neglect a photographic record of your big day. How many photographers – or videographers – you have is down to you. Don’t ask a friend to do it (even though you save money): he/she may accidentally fail to deliver, which you really wouldn’t thank them for. Moreover, the friend is there to be part of your wedding, not to worry about the pictures.
Most of us want flowers at such an occasion – seasonal ones are usually cheaper than ones flown in.
There may well be other suppliers you’d want to employ (such as drivers, cake-makers, magicians), but I hope that this article gives at least a reasonable idea of what may be involved in planning a wedding.
It may look daunting, but professional suppliers can manage it smoothly for you.
If you have any questions or comments, especially about ceremonies, please feel free to contact me.