People think that, because a celebrant is independent, they will not be emotionally involved in what is going on in front of them.
I consider myself as macho as the next wimp (!), and I have often been able to look at a ceremony objectively, though sympathetically. However, that has not always been the case.
Not unreasonably, it was a struggle for me to conduct the funeral of my aunt without tears, but of course I was emotionally involved, which people understood and accepted.
I found it incredibly hard to keep a dry eye when I conducted the funeral of a suicide victim, whose death had come as a total shock to his widow and young children. The general outpouring of grief was devastating.
In some ways, even worse was the time I had to read out the last message from a young lady to the mourners. “Moving” doesn’t describe how it was for me – let alone, the guests present.
I have had to hold back a tear at some celebratory ceremonies too. When I stand right next to a couple, and see the looks of unreserved love they are directing to each other, then that is a privilege and delight. If they cry, then it is hard not to follow suit!
In some cases, the couple has had to overcome huge adversity; in other cases, their stories are more mundane, but their true love no less evident and enjoyable.
I well remember my own wedding some 23 years ago. I was 45 and had given up hope of ever forming a meaningful attachment, let alone, marrying. In 1997, I met the lady who would revolutionise my life.
Isobel had been through an abusive marriage and had not had things easy. She needed the security and love that I would offer her.
Our guests were clearly so happy that we were getting together! You could feel the love, as you entered the building. It really was the happiest day of my life (hopefully, of Isobel’s too!). I couldn’t stop grinning like an idiot!
I think I managed to keep a dry eye, though!
Just as there are many types of weddings, a mixed-faith service can vary ceremony by ceremony. Not just because the couples are different. Or because the religions highlighted might be different.
As with any celebrant-led ceremony, you can tailor the components to fit in with what you believe and want to include.
The ceremony can be 100% religious (or almost). I have conducted a couple of mixed-faith ceremonies, which were, to all intents and purposes, pretty much traditional Jewish wedding services (albeit with less Hebrew). In both cases, there was a Christian reading and/or prayer included. That’s how the couples wanted to play it out, and it worked.
In most cases, the couples want religious elements, despite not being active worshippers. In one case, it was simply to placate parents. Usually, it is because the couple, though not active participants, feel attached to their religion and want to include this as part of their important day.
There’s nothing to stop you mixing religious and pagan elements into one ceremony.
In all cases, the couples need to agree beforehand what they actually want. If they don’t, it’s a recipe for dis-harmony and potentially resentment. Of course, discussing things with the celebrant can clarify how things are going to appear on the day and make it easier to choose.
It may be that the couples want to clear things with their parents too. That’s fine, although you might be walking a tightrope here. Naturally, you want to please everybody (especially if your parents are helping to bankroll the event), but it is ultimately your day. You don’t want to get railroaded into doing what doesn’t sit comfortably with you.
One thing to bear in mind is how “heavy” you want the ceremony to be. For example, when I do a Jewish (or part-Jewish) wedding, I weigh up how much Hebrew should go in. You will need to decide on how many, and which, prayers you include. What sort of rituals will you put in? How about a few spiritual readings? Do you want a balance of religions, or is it OK, if things are a bit lop-sided?
Again, discussing this with your celebrant should illuminate things better for you. You could do worse than to have a word with me!
My last blog was about stress at weddings. It reminded me of a piece I wrote about a year ago concerning nightmare scenarios.
The scenarios were:
- A fire
- The groom forgot the ring
- The bride’s car got lost
- A staircase collapsed
- A photographer fell over backwards
- The Best Man arrived two hours late because of a job interview
(Talk about stress!)
I was asked by several people after publication “what happened next” in each scenario, so I thought I’d put those people out of their misery at last!
This particular fire broke out in the kitchens; we had to evacuate (luckily, it was a warm, sunny day) and wait an hour or so before we could go into the hall and proceed with the ceremony. Could have been much worse!
Luckily, the groom left the ring in his hotel room, which was close to the wedding venue. He was able to go back for it, and got back even before his bride arrived!
No bride, no car, no phone signal; it didn’t look good – not helped by a friend of the groom suggesting that the bride had stood him up! Luckily, the driver eventually found the venue, and we could start (about 40 minutes late).
A hotel outer staircase that was used for wedding photographs collapsed the day before our occasion, while being used for a photo-shoot. Nobody was hurt, I believe, but there was no option but to postpone our event.
Large pot plants had been placed in the hall where a wedding was to take place. Our photographer was taken by surprise by the entry of the bride, and was evidently not in prime position. He started taking shots, and walked backwards as he did so. The inevitable happened, and he fell head-over-heels. Luckily, there was no damage to him or to his equipment, but a lot of guests made the best of their opportunity to take photos of that photographer!
Delayed Best Man
All was perfectly poised for an outdoor wedding I was conducting. The venue was lovely, guests were all in good humour, bride and groom in great spirits, and perfect weather. Almost all was in place, but the Best Man was missing.
Eventually, the groom shared that the Best Man, Howard, had attended a job interview (successful!), but this had overrun. Then Howard had got stuck in Friday afternoon traffic on the M25. He didn’t turn up for two hours. By then, some guests were the worse for drink (which you can understand!), but the ceremony went well – except that the weather turned in that time, and we had to contend with a heavy downpour!
I hope there’ll be no more sleepless nights now, dear reader!
I’d like to stress that these were the worst things that have happened in my experience of some 300 ceremonies, of which the vast majority proceeded without a hitch!
Do have a chat, and we’ll see about managing a seamless ceremony for you!
photo: neli-prahova (who would NEVER take a tumble!)
In my blog this time last year, I looked forward to 2021 with optimism. Perhaps I was a little naive, but at least it has not been the write-off 2020 mostly was.
Personally, although our son had to isolate with COVID, his attack was not severe – and he didn’t pass it on to us, for which we are grateful. I have had to undergo a couple of (unrelated) medical investigations, but it seems as if there is nothing to worry about there, Otherwise, our health has been good.
We got to celebrate our son’s achievement a few months back: he saved the life of a potential suicide. He got quite a bit of press coverage, but he saw it as “all in a day’s work”. We were dead proud of him, as you’d expect!
We did manage a holiday – although two nights in Essex is not everybody’s idea of an exotic trip! However, we greatly enjoyed it and appreciated the chance for a break, brief as the trip was. We might even return next year …
Work-wise, my celebrations business has been slow to take off after lockdown was relaxed last July. I did enjoy three autumn weddings, but there’s not a lot in my diary for 2022 or beyond, which surprises me a little. But normally, January sees a rush of bookings, so I am not downhearted. As I write, I have been booked for a Spring elopement, which should be amazing.
Funerals have been forthcoming, as you might expect. In fact, I have never done so many in one year (over 50). I’m so glad I’ve been able to make a difference to so many people at such a difficult time. Without wishing ill on anybody, I hope that that momentum continues, and that I can still make a real contribution.
If you’ve been following me during this year (or before), then I’d sincerely like to thank you and ask you to keep up the habit! Please rejoin me at my next blog (in January).
Meanwhile, may I wish you and those close to you all the very best for the festive season, and a very happy, prosperous and healthy New Year.
See you in January!
There’s no ignoring it. We’ve had Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Christmas is looming and a new year is beckoning.
It’s been difficult to plan weddings or celebratory events, never knowing when the next lockdown might be imposed. In fact, it’s turned out to have been plain sailing since July, but who was to know?
So, can we look forward to the future with any confidence? Dare we be positive about 2022?
Obviously, my guess is as good as yours. I suspect that, although there may be renewed restrictions in the coming few months, Spring and Summer may shine a green light for unrestricted ceremonies. But don’t hold me to account, if I’m wrong!
With alll the uncertainty, should we put plans on the back burner?
Definitely not, in my opinion. We can’t – and mustn’t – go on indefinitely with life on hold. We’re social animals and need to escape isolation.
So don’t put off planning for happy, life-cycle events. As humans, we do have to mark such occasions. Don’t ignore big birthdays, weddings, vow renewals, anniversaries ending -5 or -0, namings, or other such events.
It doesn’t have to be a traditional, large-scale ceremony. You may opt for a micro-event. You may well check terms and conditions and cancellation clauses more carefully than usual with your suppliers. But still go for it.
Of course, it is still a gamble. So it may be wise to arrange something that can be adapted at fairly short notice. That probably entails liaising with your venue (if you’re booking one at all) and/or suppliers, and checking how flexible they are.
Take precautions, by all means, but you certainly don’t want to regret missing out due to fear.
If you are thinking of organising something a bit special, then please have a chat with me.