Thumbs up for the Tower of Babel!

Mar 16, 2021
civil celebrant

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!