What? A Vow renewal? Surely not?!

Although demand has levelled off a bit since COVID, things are becoming a bit more ‘normal’. I have noticed increased interest in Vow Renewals, but the same questions tend to come up. I hope my answers can be useful.

Does a Vow renewal have to take place on the anniversary?

Of course, it’s nice to mark the anniversary on the exact date, but there’s no compulsion. In my experience, people aim for the same week or even month, but I’d gladly celebrate an occasion for my clients whatever the date.

What does a Vow Renewal consist of?

Unlike the wedding ceremony, a Vow Renewal requires no legal paperwork, and there are no obligatory elements. You may wish to include certain rituals (lighting a Unity Candle, for example, or including family members as participants), but there is no set formula. You really can have the ceremony that you want, and your celebrant will be happy to advise and guide you.

Where should a Vow renewal take place?

Again, there is no obligation as regards the venue. You can hold the ceremony by the side of your favourite canal, or in your back garden. You can hire a hotel or manor house. It’s entirely up to you.

Why bother with a Vow Renewal?

There are numerous reasons to celebrate the occasion.

Your anniversary year may end in a 5 or 0.

You may want to proclaim your mutual love publicly.

Things may have changed since your marriage (eg your vows), and you’d like to update the position.

Your family may have altered (children?) and you’d like a ceremony to reflect that.

You simply want a big celebration!

How does it work?

You would organise the event like any life-cycle occasion. So you’d need to settle on a venue, send out invitations, possibly arrange catering, and the like. For the ceremony you may well want a civil celebrant, who can help you to put together a fantastic ceremony that’s perfect for you, and who will conduct it memorably.

So don’t delay! Speak to your favoured civil celebrant and arrange something that everybody will love. We all need a bit of cheering up, and this is a very good way to do it!

photo: mckinley_rodgers.com


What Can You Celebrate?

A lot of folk don’t need much of an excuse for a celebration.

Well, that was the scenario up until a couple of years ago. Now people tend to be more cautious. They are often hesitant to plan ceremonies. What if social distancing spoils things? What if lockdown kicks in again, and everything has got to be cancelled or postponed?

I don’t know if my opinion may start a backlash, but I feel that things in England seem to have calmed down, both politically and in terms of the epidemic. Relatively speaking, at least.

Ceremonies are being booked these days – including some large, high-end ones.

So, given that we have a (faint) green light, what sort of ceremony might you want to mark?


Major life-cycle events are back in demand – and rightly so. People really ought to mark a big event. It’s criminal to ignore a one-off that really means so much to so many people and is a vital milestone in individuals’ or couple’s lives.

Clearly, this highlights weddings, which need little introduction on these pages. Suffice it to say, that I believe that your big day should be celebrated the way YOU want it. (One major reason why I became a civil celebrant!)

More cautious or budget-conscious couples can opt for micro-weddings, but a lot of people are choosing a bigger ceremony, and that’s as it should be.

Other Causes for Celebration

Other events that deserve to be marked include Vow Renewals. There are a number of reasons (apart from an excuse for a get-together) why people opt for this ceremony. These include a milestone, like an anniversary ending in -5 or -0. There may be a desire publicly to declare one’s love (again), or it may be that circumstances have changed. You might want to replace your original vows with more relevant ones. Or perhaps you have children now, and wish to include them in your ceremony. You might even want to acknowledge coming out of a bad time, such as illness, unemployment – or even infidelity!

A Vow Renewal ceremony can be a way to cement your family harmoniously. The bonus is that you don’t need to register the ceremony legally and you can arrange it exactly as you want. (Step up the independent celebrant!)

If nature is particularly important to you, a handfasting may be a great idea. You can have it as part of a ceremony – or it can be the major focus. Most people find it beautiful and spiritually uplifting.

Naming ceremonies are popular. You can celebrate one on behalf of a baby or toddler, but you can also welcome step-children into the family after a remarriage. Again, a civil celebrant can draw up an appropriate and memorable service to mark the occasion.

There are other less conventional celebrations, such as marking a divorce or pet birthdays, and your celebrant will normally be happy to accommodate these too.

We are social animals. Let’s not allow ourselves to be deterred from having an occasional knees-up! These bring people together and put smiles back on faces. Let’s celebrate major life-cycle moments as they deserve  and rejoice that we can do so!

I’d be happy to chat with you about any issues that may come up.

photo: mckinley_rodgers.com

A Very Special Day

A Very Special Day

Of course, you want your wedding to be a very special day!

It’s an important and (hopefully!) unique occasion; it’s natural to invite lots of friends and family to share your joy.

One thing you don’t want is to have to worry about suppliers on the day.

That definitely includes the venue. You may need recommendations to help you choose, and a personal visit is well-nigh essential, so you can judge the atmosphere for yourself. You have got to love the place and feel confidence in the staff, if you’re going to get married there.

I’ve conducted ceremonies at dozens of venues and most have something to commend them. I felt it could be useful to mention one in particular, which seems suitable for almost all kinds of events.

Shendish Manor (https://shendish-manor.com) is situated in Hertfordshire, not far from the Harry Potter Studios, though closer to Kings Langley. Just arriving there gives you an idea that it’s not like other places.

To access it, you go up a long drive surrounded by trees and, eventually, a golf course. The house, when you get there, is striking.

The Manor is actually Victorian, but very much up-to-date. It’s comfortable, with all the facilities you would expect from a classy hotel. Not least, lovely, comfortable bedrooms, fine dining, a super lounge area and free parking, to mention but a few.

If you fancy the outdoors, the Manor is set in 160 acres of parkland and formal gardens and boasts an 18-hole golf course.

But what about weddings?

There are banqueting suites of different sizes, depending on the numbers you are expecting. You don’t have to be confined indoors, if you don’t want to be. There’s a gazebo outside, licensed for civil ceremonies. Below is a view from the gazebo in summer.

Civil celebrant seen from Shendish Manor gazebo (in summer!)

I like the feel of the Manor and so, seemingly, do my clients. The atmosphere is warm, the surroundings beautiful, and the staff are professional, efficient and friendly. I always look forward to conducting a wedding, vow renewal, naming ceremony, or whatever, at Shendish.

It’s well worth coming to have a look round, and that may be enough to win you over. Have a chat with the events staff, if you still need convincing. Then, all you have to do is to book me to conduct the civil ceremony and we’ll all be very happy!

Thumbs up for the Tower of Babel!

Thumbs up for the Tower of Babel!

When I first became a celebrant (some 8 years ago, as I write), I thought it would all be quite simple. I’d meet the client, find out what they were looking for, send them a few draft emails, and then conduct the ceremony on the day at their chosen venue.

That’s the process in a nutshell.

An Embarrassing Moment

Over the years, however, I’ve been asked for more than I had bargained for. One example was the funeral for someone known to everybody as “Greenie”. The family asked me to wear something green, when officiating. Everybody else would be.

I was happy to comply.

On the day, there must have been a change of plan not communicated to me, but I was the only person wearing green!


I had never thought that linguistic skills would be an asset as a celebrant. But on several occasions, I’ve been asked to read Hebrew blessings (I can – with practice – manage this), which was great.

I had prepared an English Vow Renewal service for a French-Canadian couple. I had been assured that they both spoke fluent English, and their emails bore this out. However, although the wife did indeed speak and understand perfectly, it became clear that the husband had little understanding of what was going on. I had to improvise and translate the main bits for him as we went along. It was much appreciated, but quite a challenge!

Another time, I was invited to read a paragraph of Russian. Fortunately, my Modern Languages degree covered this, but the bride made me record a reading and sent it off to her parents in Russia, before I could be approved!

This had an unexpected benefit, as another Russian native, who was a guest, liked what I did and booked me for his wedding!

I have been invited to write and conduct a wedding in Italian, which is quite challenging, as I never learnt Italian grammar, although I can manage a passable accent when reading. Google Translate is an aid, but is fallible, so I need quite a lot of input from the couple. Still, linguistic skills are continually proving to be quite a boon.

Finally, the Swedish I read at one wedding comes to mind. I have no knowledge of Swedish (I think “tak” means “thank you”, but that’s the limit of my expertise). However, even though all the guests from Sweden were probably English-speakers, the groom wrote a welcome paragraph of Swedish for me, and coached me over the phone so that it sounded recognisable! It went down a treat, by the way.

All I want now, to complete my “full house”, are ceremonies in German and (possibly) Czech!

I’m waiting!

Paying for a Civil Celebrant

Paying for a Civil Celebrant

People sometimes think the civil celebrant cost for a ceremony is not justified. Uncle John can do that just as well – and for free!

But will Uncle John be able to put together – let alone present – a ceremony that is memorable (for the right reasons)? Does he have the writing and presentation skills, for example?

A lot of people think that all a civil celebrant has to do is to rock up at the ‘gig’ and deliver a few well-chosen words and then go home. Money for old rope, as they say.

However, it’s actually a lot more than that for me.

The ideal

My mission is to cultivate a relationship between myself and the client. I want them to trust me and feel there’s rapport. That’s especially important if I’m going to be conducting their ceremony on the most important day of their lives!

I make it my goal when we meet to ask the right questions and actually listen to the responses. Then I can understand the clients’ vision and be in a position to help them realise it.

I compile a ceremony that reflects their personalities and beliefs and which is everything they want.

I take pride in conducting an impeccable ceremony.

Finally, I appreciate that I am privileged to be part of the couple’s excitement and joy.

How do I achieve that?

Firstly, cultivating a close relationship takes time, as well as patience and tact. (I do not end up working with every person who enquires about my services.)

I don’t assume I know the clients’ wishes better than they do. I will advise them, if I feel, from my considerable experience, that something might, or might not, work; however, it is their big day, and I never forget that.

I am happy to give advice, if the clients are unsure what to do. The goal is to draw up a unique, personalised ceremony that fulfils the clients’ dreams.

Either way, we normally exchange drafts until the clients are happy with every word.

I always bear in mind that it’s not about me, but the clients. I present clearly and beautifully. I won’t accept second best.

The bottom line

I trained both as a funeral celebrant and as a celebratory celebrant, and that training was not cheap.

I have considerable experience – I graduated as a celebrant in late 2012 and have now conducted over 150 ceremonies (including weddings (same-sex and heterosexual), vow renewals, handfastings, namings and funerals). It’s difficult to put a price on such experience.

My many testimonials demonstrate that I am professional but friendly, and focussed on achieving my clients’ goals.

On the day, I will normally arrive an hour early. I check everything is in place at the venue and reassure the groom! I am a calming influence at a frenetic time.

When I conduct the ceremony, I use my considerable presentation skills. I foster a warm atmosphere and make the guests feel included too. Such skills come at a price.

All this is why I charge a fee. if you try me, I hope you’ll agree that I do earn it!