Explaining a Civil Celebrant

Explaining a Civil Celebrant

People often think they understand what a civil celebrant does. One of the problems for us is that they are usually wrong. Mostly, they tend to confuse us with wedding planners.

Wedding Planners

Their job normally includes booking the venue and organising suppliers (such as make-up artists, musicians, the catering and/or entertainment, the decor and supervising what happens on the day).

A civil celebrant doesn’t usually do any of these jobs. Like a wedding planner, our work starts well before the wedding day. However, on the day, our role is to conduct the ceremony. Very occasionally, we are around for other parts (canapes, ‘breakfast’, even the reception), often working as a sort of toastmaster, but that is not the job specification of a regular Civil Celebrant, so I won’t discuss that further.

The one part of the day the wedding planner has no control over is the conducting of the actual ceremony. And that’s where we come in.

Civil Celebrants

The bit of the job of a celebrant that the public sees is on the day itself. We arrive at the venue in very good time – or ought to! –, check all is set up correctly, make contact with the major players (event planner, couple’s family, musicians, photographer, etc.) , meet the ‘team’ (eg Best Man and ushers etc.) and calm the Groom down!

photo: Elwood Photography

Then we’re in charge of the ceremony. We conduct it from the ‘front line’ calmly, clearly, professionally and with humour (as appropriate). We co-ordinate with the other ‘actors’. We ensure the couple are at their ease. We have to be ready to react suitably to the unexpected (you’d be surprised!), and make the ceremony memorable, enjoyable and special for all concerned.  

The public part of what we do only extends to the half-hour (or so) ceremony, plus the hour beforehand.

The unseen side

Of course, there’s a lot to putting together the ceremony in the first place.

It usually starts from an initial conversation (face-to-face or on Skype or Zoom). The idea is to establish a picture of what the client wants (and what can work) and create a relationship.

Then there’ll be research, as a draft ceremony is prepared. Once that has been written and e-mailed for the client’s approval, there’ll be irregular contact. Tweaks are often made before the final version is agreed.

Well before the big day, the couple will have agreed exactly what will be uttered, and will have no unpleasant surprises in wait. Their dream ceremony is ready.

And that’s what a civil celebrant does!

Top photo: Matt Penberthy

The Great Wedding Planner Debate

Once the engagement is announced, sharks start circling round the couple, becoming frenzied at the scent of money. Is the wedding planner likely to be one of these?

Wedding planners may well charge thousands of pounds for what appears to be about 4 hours’ work, so do they give value?

Money for old rope?

But, if we dig a bit deeper, they may actually not be ripping you off at all.

In reality, the wedding planner spends many hours before the wedding day, planning, communicating, organising rehearsals, meeting suppliers, travelling and dealing with paperwork.

Similarly, photographers, florists, DJs, Civil Celebrants and other professionals appear on the day, but don’t assume that that is the only time that they are working on the wedding!

Far from it.

Choosing your Wedding Planner

Ideally, you will know someone who has worked with the wedding planner and can recommend her. Failing that, their website will help, but an exploratory phone call – have a list of questions ready – will give you an idea whether you would even want to work with this particular person.

This is an event where you really don’t want things getting forgotten or going wrong. So employing someone you have doubts about – or an amateur – could be a huge risk.

Cost

You can expect professionals to have experience, training and passion – and those qualities rightly don’t come cheap. Skill and specialisation are keys in this business, and you have to pay for these.

Wedding professionals are not like many solicitors, invoicing you per e-mail and itemising each expense. You pay the full fee and this may encompass many planning meetings, calls and consultations, not to mention countless e-mails with the client over the course of what may be a year or more.

Benefits

Each wedding planner values her reputation. She can’t afford to mess up, so the professional goes the extra mile to ensure things don’t go wrong. Actually, something probably will go wrong at some point in the day – that’s the way it is. But the wedding planner can reduce and minimise any negative impact.

The professional wedding planner will offer advice – not for her own convenience, but for your benefit. Her experience and knowledge can be invaluable.

You may actually save money by employing a wedding planner. If you are taking on hiring a venue or marquee, arranging the food, drink and catering, crockery, silverware, rentals, flowers, centerpieces and the rest, all by yourself, not only will that set you back more than you might expect, but you won’t have peace of mind (especially if you are a perfectionist).

So weigh up the pros and cons, inform yourself, and do what makes most sense to you.

Are Wedding Planners Sharks?

Weddings can be honey-traps. Look at wedding planners, for example.

These people may well charge thousands of pounds for what appears to be about 4 hours’ work.

Money for old rope?

But, if we dig a bit deeper, we may actually not be talking rip-offs at all.

In reality, the wedding planner spends many hours before the wedding day, planning, communicating, organising rehearsals, meeting suppliers, travelling and dealing with paperwork.

Similarly, photographers, florists, DJs, Civil Celebrants and other professionals appear on the day, but don’t assume that that is the only time that they are working on the wedding!

Far from it.

Choosing your Wedding Planner

Ideally, you will know someone who has worked with the wedding planner and can recommend her. Failing that, the website will help, but an exploratory phone call – have a list of questions ready – will give you an idea whether you even want to work with this particular person.

This is an event where you really don’t want things getting forgotten or going wrong. So employing an amateur could be a huge risk.

Cost

You can expect professionals to have experience, training and passion – and those qualities rightly don’t come cheap. Skill and specialisation are keys in this business, and you have to pay for these.

Wedding professionals are not like many solicitors, invoicing you per e-mail and itemising each expense. You pay the full fee and this may encompass many planning meetings, calls and consultations, not to mention countless e-mails with the client over the course of what may be a year or more.

Benefits

Each wedding planner values her reputation. She can’t afford to mess up, so the professional goes the extra mile to ensure things don’t go wrong. Actually, something probably will go wrong at some point in the day – that’s the way it is. But the wedding planner can reduce and minimise any negative impact.

The professional wedding planner will offer advice – not for her own convenience, but for your benefit. Her experience and knowledge can be invaluable.

You may actually save money by employing a wedding planner. If you are taking on hiring a venue or marquee, arranging the food, drink and catering, crockery, silverware, rentals, flowers, centerpieces and the rest, all by yourself, not only will that set you back more than you might expect, but you won’t have peace of mind (especially if you are a perfectionist).

So weigh up the pros and cons, inform yourself, and do what makes most sense to you.

 

 

Avoiding Wedding Foul-ups

In my profession of civil celebrant, I sometimes find myself in “marriage counsellor mode”. But rather than look at putting right what may have gone wrong after marriage, in this blog I look at ways to prevent wedding foul-ups.

Prepare thoroughly

It’s always a difficult path to tread: do you hire a wedding planner or do it yourself? This is a subject I have discussed in my blogs already, but it is  something only you can decide on. If it’s a large wedding, there is so much that may be overlooked, so a wedding planner is an obvious choice.

Wedding planners don’t always turn out to be exorbitant and, in the long run, they may even save you money. What they certainly offer, which is invaluable, is peace of mind.

If you’re arranging it all yourself, you have to make a check-list of suppliers you will need. Next comes sourcing them – (first, vet and evaluate them, then be prepared to chase them up.) You need to make plenty of lists (well in advance) and be very careful not to miss anything out.

Be thorough in your research. Are there any local laws or regulations you need to know about – possibly, regarding the marriage licence or the venue’s requirements?

How are you going to organise the reception – and will there be that dreaded seating plan to draw up?

Keep your guests in the loop

Whom to invite is a potential minefield, but, if you have special requirements for your guests (eg theme, wedding list, dress code, unplugged wedding, arrangements for destination wedding, children not wanted, etc.), make sure these are clearly communicated.

Prepare participants

Ensure the best man (if you have one) has the ring(s) and knows what is required. If you have a reader or singer, will they know their cue? Do you need to warn any speech-makers about keeping it brief, and not offending others? Do bridesmaids and ushers know their roles?

 

On the day

Always allow more time than you need – for applying make-up or getting dressed calmly, traffic hold-ups, co-ordinating with photographers/videographers, or checking room arrangements with the venue.

Quite a lot to bear in mind, I accept. But if you proceed calmly and bear all the above in mind, there should every reason why your wedding day will be a resounding success!