This is going to be my last blog this year (I allow myself time off for good behaviour between Christmas and New Year!).
As is traditional, I intend to briefly look back on the past year before signing off for 2022.
Apart from the expected coughs and colds, healthwise the year has been dominated by quite a lot of hospital visits and checks for me. The main issue has been with an enlarged prostate. This was announced rather suddenly and certainly abruptly when I found myself totally unable to pee. I alarmingly gained a couple of kilos in a matter of hours and swelled up visibly. I became extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, A & E at Northwick Park were excellent, and basically saved my life.
After unpleasant experiences with catheters, which I won’t go into, I was able to have an operation. The paperwork was inefficient and inaccurate, but the care from the nurses was impeccable. Although the operation gave me my waterworks back, I don’t have quite the freedom that I used to have. However, this is a small price to pay, and I am very grateful to be able to function (to all intents and purposes) normally.
As I write this, I am due for a pre-assessment for cataract surgery in a few days, so all the medical stuff hasn’t quite ended. However, such procedures are nowadays considered routine, so I am grateful it is nothing worse.
Ah, but what it is to grow old! However, I do not feel old, so that is something to be very grateful for.
The other disappointment about 2022 is that I have only had a handful of weddings to conduct and no Vow Renewals. It is true that my attention has been somewhat off the ball due to my various health issues, so this has proved almost a blessing in disguise. However, I am hopeful that 2023 will be more productive on the celebration front.
Although COVID made us lose out on tickets we had bought for a Lisbon holiday (this is under the heading “Good”?!), we tried out something else. We did manage a flight, so we felt we had gone abroad. This was to Jersey in June, and we had perfect weather for our 4-night stay. It was a real delight, as was our other 4-night trip away.
This second trip (in August) had similar weather. We went to Bath (mainly to see Rob Brydon’s excellent show) and continued to Cardiff. Although a bit of a building-site, Cardiff was worth a visit – especially the castle, and we took a day trip out to the Brecon Beacons, which were in no way a disappointment. Far from it.
On the work front, in my ten years of being a celebrant, this was the second-best year for funerals for me. I am not trying to be ghoulish, but people are always going to die, and somebody has to conduct the funeral. I am willing to be that person.
On a brighter note (and I think we need one!), I conducted my first ever elopement (pictured) The couple came over from the States for the occasion. We had a lovely day for it and the venue (a ruined medieval church) was atmospheric. They were clearly very much in love and it was a delight as well as a privilege to have been invited to participate.
I gather they have a baby on the way!
Last Words for the Year
I do hope the past year has not been too trying for you (whether healthwise or energy-wise or financially etc.) and that you can enjoy the festive period with people that you love. Thank you for reading my blog(s) and I wish you all the very best – health, prosperity, happiness – for the New Year.
Looking back on one of my posts from about a year ago (“Expectations”), I see how accurately I foresaw that this year would go. I advised ignoring fear and pessimism, and encouraged booking those weddings, vow renewals, namings, handfastings, and the like.
In the event, we had no more lockdowns or sudden changes of law, and all has gone pretty smoothly.
Before I claim to be an infallible soothsayer, I have to admit that I didn’t hit the mark with every prediction the previous year! So feel free to take my words with a pinch of the proverbial!
However, encouraged by my recent success, I do suggest the following.
Definitely, go for it. If you want to mark an occasion in a special way. Don’t hold back. Although we don’t know – of course! – what lies round the next corner, there’s no point hesitating from fear or apprehension. As I write, there’s no major threat hanging over us. So, why defer?
If you have the excuse to celebrate, then do so! We haven’t had a lot of joy in the last few years, so let’s make up for it!
Another bonus lies on the horizon. Mind you, this is speculation at present …
You may know that Parliament is currently debating amendments to the marriage laws. What these might mean is that independent celebrants (yes, such as me!) might be able to conduct legally-binding marriages. A decision is unlikely to be reached before July, and then the celebrant will have to be trained and vetted, so it may not happen in 2023. And it’s no forgone conclusion. However, it’s something that can be looked forward to (I just hope it gets passed).
If it happens, it will make the whole registering process so much simpler. You’ll be able to ask me (for example!) to conduct the ceremony of your dreams and also do the legal bits at one and the same time. That may also work out cheaper, but it will certainly be more convenient. Well, let’s see how that pans out.
I predict that it will happen – let’s see if I’m right again!
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!
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.
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.
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!