Micro-weddings

Micro-weddings

It’s time to take a look at the relatively new trend that is changing the face of weddings across the UK (and beyond).

I’m referring to micro-weddings.

Of course, people are still looking at “traditional” weddings (bride in white, formal processions, receptions for large numbers, and the like). Hopefully, after 21st June, weddings will be unrestricted again (although social distancing will surely still apply) and people will be able to pursue this lovely course of action once more.

However, there are more choices open to couples nowadays, as people have had to adapt to the draconian regulations imposed on us. With guests and participants severely limited, what has changed?

Excessive pomp has been limited, but the budget for weddings has not necessarily decreased. Demand is exceeding supply at the moment, which can add a premium to the budgeting. Couples are also focussing on quality, as that appears more affordable. The guest list might be smaller (allowing you substantial savings), but that has opened the way to, for example, providing better champagne!

As such weddings are often not “traditional”, they can become more personalised. I hardly need say that, as a civil celebrant, I have been offering personalised ceremonies for years, but this is becoming the norm now.

So the proceedings can be far more relaxed. The bride’s father might not give the bride away. The bride might dress in colours or separates. Dresses may be shorter and less formal nowadays.

Venues can be less formal too, as cafes or bandstands come into the equation. Decoration still plays a big part, but quality can stand out at smaller-scale events. There can be personalisation for the guests too – perhaps their name can be inscribed on the cutlery, for example.

Make the ceremony yours.

Don’t forget that a civil celebrant will add so much to your ceremony, whether it be a larger “traditional-style” event or a micro-wedding. Just contact Michael for a chance to find out how!

Wonderful Venues for Vow Renewals

Wonderful Venues for Vow Renewals

You may never even have considered renewing your vows, but one of the beauties of such a ceremony (as opposed to a wedding, say) is that you have real choice. There are some wonderful venues out there.

Depending on your budget, you can hold a vast, lavish affair for a hundred or more in a plush hotel. Alternatively, you might prefer a modest ceremony in your back garden for close family and friends.

A wedding may require a church service or a registrar ceremony; the planning (ceremony and reception) may involve family; you may have to organise any, or all, of: venues, catering, flowers, photographers, evening entertainment – all the trimmings.

For a Vow Renewal, you invite who you want, and prepare the ceremony that you want, at the place that you want. (This may be with the help of a civil celebrant, but not necessarily.) The size and scope will be down to you.

To give you some idea of what you can have, I’d like to look at three Vow Renewals that I recently played a part in.

Three Differing Examples

Cox Vow Renewal - ceremony

A London hotel

One was fairly conventional (and that’s in no way a criticism!). It took place in a lovely Mayfair hotel, the Washington, before a couple of dozen guests. The room was opulent, but not overstated; there was a slide-show in the background, and the ceremony featured a moving, piece of music sung by a wonderful soprano.

The attention to detail by the staff was excellent, and we enjoyed a reception in the same room after the service. Though quite formal, it was a real feel-good affair.

Correen & Steve Farnborough Canal Centre

Messing About on the … Canal

Another couple were mad about barges, so Basingstoke Canal Centre made perfect sense for their venue.

The hire costs were negligible, as we used a secluded area in a wood with a tree trunk as a table, and benches made from trees, so the atmosphere was lovely. Dress was informal. The only expense (apart from refreshments, which the couple brought with them) was to hire a yurt for the reception (and for the ceremony, in case of rain). Again, we were only a couple of dozen chosen people.

 

Stonehenge

Finally, how about a handfasting ceremony at Stonehenge? How atmospheric is that?

Actually, the atmosphere was different to what we expected, as it was Midsummer Day, and, uniquely, the site was free to visit. There was no chance to book the inner circle, so we shared the occasion with the public. In fact, we were actually part of quite a crowd – even though our party consisted only of the couple, a photographer, and myself. (Not to mention, Druids!)

A very special event indeed.

Other ideas

As a Londoner, I could suggest venues like the Shangri-la Hotel, up the Shard, or The Ritz or Savoy. At the other end of the scale – and be aware that you need permission – you could hold your ceremony on a bridge over the Thames or in Green Park.

What about booking the London Aquarium or the nearby London Eye?

Just the tip of the iceberg.

So be imaginative and relish a once-in-a-lifetime celebration!

 

Contact Michael for help, advice and guidance.

Glorious Ceremony Venues

Glorious Ceremony Venues

What a privilege! I’m so lucky, doing what I do. True, I don’t get to choose where I get to officiate. However, I end up at some glorious ceremony venues.

I could wax lyrical about many of them, in truth. However, I want to keep this to a manageable length, so will exercise self-restraint (for once).

Indoors

I loved the opulence of the Savoy. I thought the Oak Room at le Meridien hotel, Piccadilly, wonderful. Mill Hill Chapel was imposing without making you feel daunted. The winner, though, must surely be Lillibrooke Manor.

The Great Barn, Lillibrooke Manor

The current Manor House was constructed in about 1490, but the Great Barn is an unparalleled venue that is full of atmosphere.

Outdoors

Can you beat Stonehenge for an iconic setting?!

The day I conducted a ceremony there were Druids processing among the stones, so it made it even more special. I don’t know how you can top that.

However, I was lucky enough to have a ceremony at Old Sarum. That is a lovely Iron Age fort overlooking Salisbury. This was actually my first wedding. I also remember it fondly because we avoided bad weather that January day.

Finally, I assisted at a wedding at the Rollright Stones, in Oxfordshire. They are fairly remote and not particularly well-known. However, they are an impressive and atmospheric stone circle. They are pretty much complete and overlook a valley.

Perhaps the most stunning setting, though, came abroad, when I conducted a destination wedding at the Hotel Anassa, Cyprus. I have shown this picture below in several blogs, but make no apologies for repeating myself.  It was glorious!

So which ceremony venues have you seen that have particularly struck you? Do please share them with me.

And if you’re planning a ceremony somewhere very special, I’d like to know about it too. (And if you want to take me there with you as your celebrant, I’d be more than interested to have a chat with you!)

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.

Less traditional venues

Less traditional venues

So you’re not going down the church route for your wedding? Maybe you’re not sure about holding your ceremony in a restaurant or hotel? There’s good news! There are less traditional venues available, and they can be wonderful!

Whereas you might choose the Queen Mary II (if you have a large budget!) or The Shard, your back garden might lend itself perfectly to your event. You may prefer to hold the event up Mount Snowdon or in a local aquarium. The London Eye may beckon, or else the seashore. Perhaps a medieval barn. Maybe a foreign clime attracts …

I know of people who have celebrated a naturist wedding, held weddings underwater and even while abseiling down some monstrous crag. (Quite relieved that I didn’t get to conduct those, actually!)

The world is potentially your oyster!

Advantages

Freedom to choose a place that means something special to you is a reason to go a little less traditional. You may also like the opportunity to select a venue that reflects your personalities. That could be a prehistoric site, a barn or a  battlefield for history buffs.

You will almost certainly be choosing premises that don’t hold a licence for weddings. What that means is that you will have to go to the register office to get legally married first. You can go down together (make an appointment first!), in jeans, with two witnesses and get legally married a day or two – or even an hour or so – before the ceremony of your choice. Then you can really relax and enjoy your ceremony. You are secure in the knowledge that the legal bits have been dealt with, and now it’s all about celebrating!

Disadvantages

Depending where you choose, you may have to organise most things yourself (or pay a wedding planner to do so). This may include arranging the catering and decorations, PA system, signage, entertainment. Then there’s the celebrant, photographer, florist, and the like, which you’d expect wherever you hold your event.

Correen & Steve Farnborough Canal Centre

Outdoor ceremonies?

A lot of people like the idea of an outdoor venue. Yes, you have to take into account logistics and health and safety, but you can let yourself be bounded only by your imagination. Well, by practicality too.

You can select a place that really means something to you. For example, I have conducted ceremonies at Old Sarum (Iron Age castle), a canalside grove and at Stonehenge. The atmosphere was unique and made the event even more special, and that was where the couple absolutely wanted to be.

Things to consider

Don’t forget to ask permission from the relevant landowner before you start organising things.

Weather is going to be a major unpredictable factor, especially in Britain!

Considerations should include:

  • availability of protection from the elements (sun, rain, cold and heat),
  • accessibility (mud, car parking, signage to the relevant area, distance to the reception and arrangements for getting there),
  • health and safety (no trailing wires),
  • seating (for, at least, disabled guests),
  • toilets,
  • PA system,
  • potential ambient noise,
  • warning/inviting neighbours, etc.
  • catering (including providing water on hot days).

So don’t go rushing into this without thinking it through. There can be nothing more magical than a beautiful ceremony in the most wonderful setting – but are you sure you can achieve the results you want?

Given time and sensible planning, you really can achieve your goals. Just be aware that it will call for hard work.

However, the rewards may be so stunning …