Never a Dull Moment!

Never a Dull Moment!

When I was a student (a little after Noah’s flood!), I little suspected what knowledge of languages would offer me. I guessed it would come in handy for my travels, but little suspected how useful it might be in my current career.

Indeed, at that time, I had no idea that such a career existed, let alone what a civil celebrant was!

Meanwhile, over the course of 25 years, I passed on my knowledge of languages, as a teacher.

Finally, in 2013, I changed direction and became a civil celebrant. I didn’t see any obvious use any more for my knowledge of tongues, although I still travelled a fair bit.

It became clear, however, that my reading knowledge of Hebrew was valuable. I started being found because I could conduct Jewish (and part-Jewish) ceremonies. One advantage was that I could read one of the most important wedding prayers, the “Seven Blessings”. I also conducted two “shivas” (or funeral services at the family home).

At that point, I saw the value of languages in my field, and made changes to my website accordingly.

Not long afterwards, I was located by a Parisian travel agent, who, rather bizarrely, was fixing up a Vow Renewal ceremony for his clients in London. It turned out they were French Canadian. They claimed to be fluent in English.

E-mails came and went, and I met the couple in a London hotel at the appointed time. They were charming, although Jacques struggled a bit with the conversation. As we started the ceremony, I realised the reason: his English was extremely shaky! He clearly didn’t understand much of what was going on. Luckily, French wasn’t a problem for me, so I improvised a little, could explain what was going on and put him at his ease.

Soon afterwards, having been briefed and having practised hard, I even read a paragraph at another wedding … in Swedish – which is definitely NOT one of my languages!

Interestingly, I was also asked to prepare an Italian ceremony, but that didn’t materialise. However, I am proud that I did conduct a part-Russian wedding.

Thanks to the website, I was invited to be interviewed by the couple, who wanted some Russian in their service. They even recorded me reading aloud, and sent the recording off to parents in Moscow! Luckily, I passed the test.

As a consequence of that wedding, I was asked to do another part-Russian wedding, this time in Portugal,so I blessed my knowledge of languages!

As a fluent German speaker, I am awaiting my first German ceremony (and even Czech, although I am very rusty now). If you know anyone looking for some foreign languages in their ceremony, please think of me!

Photo: Victor Shack

Going the Extra Mile

Going the Extra Mile

Being in the wedding industry means you are part of people’s biggest day. I am very privileged to work as a civil celebrant, and serve my clients by creating and conducting the ceremony itself.

Others contribute with their own specialisms. Who do you go to, if you want to organise a destination wedding? Or your honeymoon?

Obviously, a travel agent. There are a lot of them out there, though.

I recently met Uli Williams, who is an independent Travel Counsellor. When she had explained to me how she can arrange all this – and with the personal touch –  I thought I should share her offerings with you, my readers, so this week’s blog is written by Uli. Enjoy!

Turning Your Dreams into Reality

exotic wedding dinner (Neli)

Isn’t it exciting to organise your Big Day, looking forward to tie the knot with your loved one?

I know that planning your wedding day and honeymoon is one of the most exciting periods of your life – but it’s often among the most stressful! From grand arrangements to the finer details that make your wedding unique, there’s plenty to organise to ensure that you get hitched without any hitches. As your personal Travel Counsellor, you can relax while I take care of it all for you.

We can discuss your personal ideas and requirements to create your hen and stag dos, dream wedding day and honeymoon to remember.

Perhaps it’s against a backdrop of azure seas, with soft white sand between your toes. Maybe it’s a New York party into the early hours after a wedding in Central Park?

Whatever makes up your unique vision for the perfect marriage, I can make it happen for you.

Travel Counsellors offer a unique ‘Honeymoon Gift Registry’ which will enable your guests to give you the most memorable gift of all – the honeymoon of your dreams. This registry service works much like the usual department store wedding list, except that your wedding guests can contribute monetary amounts towards your honeymoon plans.

If you have decided to get married abroad, maybe just the two of you or with a close circle of family, why not have a wedding blessing after your return to the UK, allowing your wider family and friends to celebrate your wedding and share your happiness?

If you are looking for a memorable, meaningful ceremony, think about using a civil celebrant. With his/her advice and guidance, you can enjoy that unique experience that reflects your personalities and beliefs. Why not give Michael Gordon, at Vows That Vow, a call? He is passionate about making your day just as you want.


Get in touch with me for your personalised, professional wedding planning!

Contact: Uli Williams, Travel Counsellor


T: 07739 184865 or 01992 877 390



Thank you so much, Uli.

An unusual wedding ceremony?

An unusual wedding ceremony?

It’s Spring, so the Summer Solstice is approaching. It’s a fantastic time to consider a solstice handfasting.

“A what?” I hear some of you say. “That does sound ‘unusual’!”

Allow me to elaborate.

If you don’t know, I am assuming that you are not a Druid or pagan, and if you are, please understand that I am writing this for the uninitiated. There are, however, different kinds of handfastings, so there’s no single answer to the question.

Example of a handfasting

Remember when Kate and Prince William got married about five years ago? Although it was a religious C of E ceremony, there was an element of handfasting in there when the couple took each other’s hands, which were covered by a ribbon.

It was a lovely simple ritual.

Now if you take that one step further and bind the two hands together, you have a handfasting.

Incidentally, this gives rise to the expression “tying the knot” and also “bonds of holy matrimony”.


This ceremony probably originated in Celtic times; however, it flourished in Europe until the mid 1700s. Up till then, few unions were sanctified in a religious building like a church. Rather, they were celebrated by a simple handfasting ceremony in which the two partners joined hands over the village anvil, in the fields or in the groves of trees. Today, we build upon this tradition.

The basics

The couple link and cross hands (normally right hand to right, and left to left) to form an infinity circle, symbolising the entirety of the universe as represented in their relationship. Then, with a cord or ribbon (or ribbons), the wrists are tied and knotted, in a lovers’ knot, to the accompaniment of a suitable text, to symbolise the joining together of the two people in lives and spirits.

The cords are then removed, normally by the couple – occasionally, with difficulty! – with the knots still in place. They will take the cord away with them and, ideally, it will remind them of their vows, should they hit a rocky patch.

Where does this happen?

Again, it depends, but many people prefer a quiet, open-air historic site that may be considered to be spiritual and preferably pagan – such as standing stones.

What about Stonehenge?

A civil celebrant, such as myself, can conduct a handfasting wedding or vow renewal in the Inner Circle at Stonehenge (normally around dawn or dusk), but this needs to be booked months in advance (and the Druids will have priority at the solstice). However, places like Avebury, Old Sarum or the Rollright Stones are wonderful and might serve the purpose every bit as well.


Michael raring to go at the Rollright Stones

I’m booked for a Stonehenge handfasting this June, but do have a chat (07931 538487) and see if we can sort something very special out for you for another time!


Freedom to Choose

Freedom to Choose

Is there any freedom to choose your wedding ceremony?

What if a full religious wedding doesn’t rock your boat?

The non-religious ceremony offered by the Register Office will tick some people’s boxes, but it is standardised. There’s nothing personal or special about it.

What if you could go to the Register Office in the morning in your jeans, with a couple of witnesses, to sign the marriage certificate – and then enjoy a wonderful, joyous ceremony in the afternoon or the next day with all your guests?

Nowadays, that is a possibility.

And your celebrant can really help you.

As long as the legal bit is still carried out, there’s nothing to stop you holding the ceremony you actually want – at the venue you want.


The Ceremony

One of the beauties about a celebrant-led wedding is that you will receive help (as much or as little as you want!) to build your own ceremony. So if you do want a religious component (and you are welcome to draw from various cultural sources), you can put it in; if you want spiritual elements, that’s absolutely possible; choosing your favourite poems and readings is an option that can contribute such a lot. Usually, you’ll be able to please yourselves AND keep your parents happy!

As well as the readings, you decide on the music. You also decide on the choreography (who walks or stands where), readers, the wording, and recital of the Vows. Your celebrant will be pleased to advise and make helpful suggestions. (This process of getting the ‘script’ word-perfect, usually conducted by e-mail, may take a number of e-mails.)


You will be able to incorporate any rituals and little touches that would not otherwise have been possible, if you so wish. For example, why not drink together from a loving cup, light a Unity Candle or celebrate a handfasting (an ancient Celtic betrothal ritual)?


In short, this is YOUR day, and your celebrant, who will of course conduct the ceremony for you, will do everything to ensure that the day is unforgettable, meaningful and what YOU want.

Unlike previous generations, you have the freedom to choose every single thing about your ceremony, so that it fits in totally with your personal beliefs and wishes. Why shouldn’t your big day be exactly what you want it to be?

Let your civil celebrant work with you to ensure you achieve that rare goal of turning your dreams into reality.


Assembling the Wedding Jigsaw

Assembling the Wedding Jigsaw

A wedding jigsaw seems an apt description of the process. Putting a wedding together is all about how the various elements meld.

Naturally, there are many factors that make up a successful wedding. As a civil celebrant, my specialism lies in the ceremony itself, but I get to see and experience other aspects too. So here are a few rather random – but no less valuable – thoughts that may help to make a difference to your big day.


The Bride’s appearance

As a middle-aged male, I don’t pretend to be an expert in this particular field. However, everybody seems to focus on the dress, make-up and hair. One area that tends to be overlooked is the skin. Without radiant skin, the cosmetics won’t be effective.

As for the dress, I’d only say that it should fit the occasion (ie stylish, if it’s a formal occasion).

I’ll stand aside now, and let others give their (probably much sager) opinions!


I would always advise hiring a professional. Go with their advice about seasonal displays. They will also look after the flowers – wilting flowers at a ceremony are so disappointing.


Whether you want the occasion recorded by video or still camera, you can save money by asking a friend to do the job.  Just bear in mind that there are down sides to this. Firstly, your friend may well miss out on much of the celebrating and socialising. Then, if he is not a professional, he might stuff up, and there are no second chances at weddings! And, of course, if you don’t like his work, a long-standing friendship could be put at risk.

I think a professional is advisable, though a major added expense. Provided you choose wisely, the outlay will feel justified, once you see the results.

Barn wedding 1 resized


You need someone who knows what they are doing, that you can relate to and trust. Again, I have often written about choosing a good celebrant, but the importance of doing your homework can’t be overestimated. After all, you want the ceremony to be perfect. I would be more than willing to advise you further.


The Reception

Table plans can be the devil to draw up, but are actually very welcome for guests. A big do can be quite disorientating and a little direction will not go amiss. If you mix people up a bit (judiciously!), they can have a lovely time making new acquaintances. Resist any mischievous streak you may have and try not to settle old scores!)


I have recently written about children at weddings. If you invite them, make sure they are occupied as much as possible. If they can participate in the ceremony, so much the better. At the reception, give them their own table (in the same room), with appropriate food and activities.

A miscellany, maybe, but I hope this was helpful and gave you a few things to think about when fitting the pieces together.


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