Choosing the Right Wedding Celebrant

You know that you want a wedding celebrant to lead your ceremony for your special day, and with the personal nature of celebrant led ceremonies why wouldn’t you? But finding the right celebrant can feel like a difficult task as there are plenty of us out there!

So here are my quick tips to help you find the perfect celebrant…

  •  A great place to start is on the wedding website directories. There are a few dedicated sites for celebrant searches, The Celebrant Directory and Humanist Ceremonies. While sites like Hitched and Bride Book have great listings for celebrants too.
  • Search for wedding celebrants who live reasonably close to you or your venue. Many celebrants will travel long distances but you’ll pay extra for this and there will be someone local-ish who will be right for you.
  • Come up with a longlist and do a bit of stalking! What do you think of their own website and social media presence? Have they got plenty of testimonials and endorsements? Who are they accredited by? Does their style match yours?
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Arrange a consultation with your chosen few

  • Select 3 or 4 celebrants who you like the look of. Drop them a line to check their availability for your date and ask for a Zoom consultation. Most celebrants will be happy to arrange a free no-obligation chat, and they know you’ll be chatting to other celebrants too!
  • Use your consultation time to see how you get on and whether you’ll be a good fit for each other. Have they left you with some great ideas and feeling excited about your ceremony? Have they listened to what you want and guided you when needed? If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions then you’re on to a winner!
  • Also check out how they work, and what future meetings you’ll have as part of their fee. You should see a draft of your ceremony script so you can agree everything your celebrant is going to say. And talk to them about your vows too. How will they support you with creating personal vows that mean the world to the two of you? I have a ‘how to’ guide for my couples to set them in the right direction, plus extra help for those with writers’ block!
  • Finally, your wedding celebrant should be suggesting a rehearsal for your ceremony. This helps everyone who is going to be involved in the ceremony to know what’s expected of them. You can step through each stage together and practice your entrance. It’s great for settling everyone’s nerves and I like to do this the day before the ceremony if possible.  
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Sealing the deal

  • If you think you’ve found the right celebrant get them booked ASAP. The date is only secure in their diary once you’ve signed your agreement and paid the deposit. Although most celebrants will hold the date for you if you express your intention to book, it’s best to get everything firmed up as soon as you’ve made your decision.
  • And you’ll want to check their agreement feels reasonable too, what is their policy around changes due to COVID-19? Because you just never know what’s around the corner!

And that’s it. Good luck with your celebrant search and have some fun with it too.

If you’re not really sure why choosing a celebrant led wedding is the best choice you’ll make for your wedding day, check out my Celebrant Led Weddings blog for all the deets.

Celebrant Led Weddings – Why Bother?

Currently in England celebrant led weddings aren’t legally binding. So why do thousands of couples every year choose to have their wedding ceremony officiated by a celebrant instead of a registrar?

There are of course numerous answers to this question. Here are a few of the main reasons couples choose to tie the knot with a wedding celebrant leading the proceedings.

Getting personal

Celebrant led weddings dispense with any of the ‘must have’ elements. So your ceremony can include anything you choose and couples love the personal feel celebrants bring to ceremonies. One of my favourites is to include the couple’s love story. Telling how you met, early dating anecdotes, that romantic proposal and your hopes for the future. And reading out secret words you’ve written previously about each other is a really special moment.

Adding symbolic gestures into a wedding ceremony is also really popular. And I love conducting hand-fastings for my couples. Here your hands are bound together with ribbon while a blessing is made. Did you know this is where the phrases tying the knot and binding agreement originate? It’s a gesture steeped in history too. If you’re bringing families together a sand blending is a visual treat for everyone. Or you may like to involve all your guests in a ring warming. They take it in turns to imbue your wedding rings with love and wishes and the rings are ‘warmed’ when you come to exchange them.

Naturally you can include poems, readings, songs, exchange of your wedding vows and your wedding rings. But these can all be in any format you choose and you can write your own vows to share with each other. Your celebrant can help if the thought of having to write something fills you with panic!

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Image courtesy of This and That Photography

Time is on your side with celebrant led weddings

There are no time constraints with celebrant led weddings. You won’t be rushed through for the next booking. So, without making it so long that your guests get fidgety, you can take as long as you like. I’d suggest that 45 mins is long enough with 35 mins being about right. Plenty of time for lots of personal and memorable elements without everyone straining to get to the fizz and canapes!

This means you can add extra elements to your ceremony that might take a bit of time. How about getting everyone on their feet to sing – karaoke style – to your favourite song. It’s an amazing moment with everyone singing their hearts out and sounds fab. You’ve also got time to involve friends and family more in your ceremony. There are lots of options here. Your parents could give you a blessing or your friends could share a memory or marriage tip for the two of you, which can be quite entertaining.

Location, location, location

Aha, the reason most couples choose celebrant led weddings – ‘cos you can marry anywhere you choose! There are no constrains as long as you have the land owner permission. I’ve conducted ceremonies in a woodland copse (so romantic), a family farm which added to the many memories already held on the land, country estate hotels like the stunning Wotton House near Dorking in Surrey, a private island on the Thames where the groom arrived by speed boat, a trendy wine bar in London, and numerous back gardens. I’m still waiting for an invitation to conduct a ceremony on a remote mountain pass or a vineyard in the Dordogne, but I am sure they will come!

Most couples have a single venue where you have your ceremony and celebrations together. This makes it easy for all your guests and great fun too. If a festival style wedding in a field with a festival bar and food, billowing bell star tents and dancing under the stars appeals, then a celebrant led wedding is certainly for you.  

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You’ve done the legal bit already

Maybe you married abroad or during lockdown without all your friends and family with you to celebrate. Having a celebrant led wedding followed by a wedding breakfast let’s you share your wedding with everyone you choose. And no-one has to miss out on the special moment that you say ‘I do’, or the after party! It doesn’t matter when you did the legal bit. You can re-create your ceremony or create something completely new for your celebrant led wedding. Read more about this in my Re-weddings blog.  

But most couples who decide on a celebrant to lead their wedding do so because their ceremony will be just as they want it. Your legal wedding could take place in the days or weeks beforehand at the registrar office. Invite just a few of your nearest and dearest sharing the day with you. You can save exchanging your wedding rings for your celebrant service, and just do the legal bit. This can cost as little as £50. Or you could opt for having the registrar marry you at your wedding venue, assuming there is a licenced area, after your celebrant led wedding.

The choices are endless really, and that’s why you should bother!

Re-wedding, getting married all over again!

‘Re-wedding’ seems to be a word made for 2020 and 2021!

What a year we’ve all had. Those couples who had their big day planned, their hearts set on committing to each other witnessed by their friends and family are amongst those my heart goes out to. But some of you chose to carry on, often with a small registry office service with just your parents as your witnesses, and I salute you for your determination not to let COVID get in the way of true love!

So does this mean you can’t have the wedding you originally planned? No, no, no. Get your wedding planning head back on. Start designing your re-wedding with family and friends at the centre of your plans.

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Your re-wedding venue

Once restrictions are lifted, you can once again have the ceremony and reception of your choice. Whether that’s a festival style wedding in a summertime field, a rustic country barn setting, or a gorgeous hotel on the banks of the Thames, and everything in-between. Certainly your first port of call will be the venue you originally chose. Hopefully they’ll transfer your deposit to your new date, but you have an opportunity to decide on something different. Maybe your experiences of the past year have changed your thinking about what’s important to the two of you and what’s important for your re-wedding.

Celebrate in your own style

I suggest taking a bit of time out to think about what you’d really like for your re-wedding. Consider the sort of venue that feels right and the atmosphere you’d like to create. Maybe your guests would love a relaxed party vibe with some games the best dance tunes rather than the wedding breakfast you had originally planned. After a bit of deliberation, you might decide that you got it right with your original plans. If you want your day just the way you had planned it, that’s great – job done! But there’s no harm in a bit of reflection.

Your re-wedding ceremony

And what should you do about your wedding ceremony? You are married, and you’re wearing your rings to prove it. But all your friends and family missed those special moments when the two of you made your commitments and promises to each other. To make up for this, many couples are planning a celebrant-led wedding ceremony for their re-wedding. And these promise to be even more special than their legal service.

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Image courtesy of This and That Photography

This time you can choose exactly what you’d like included in your wedding ceremony and involve your family and friends too. You can create your own wedding vows centred on what you’d like to promise each other, and choose your own words for your ring exchange too.

You might like to add some symbolic gestures such as a ring warming ceremony. Here your guests take turns to hold your wedding rings and charge them with love and wishes for the two of you. Or maybe a handfasting with ribbons tied by your family as you make promises to each other would bring a fab visual element to your ceremony, you can read more about handfasting here. Another great way to involve all your guests in your re-wedding ceremony is to get everyone on their feet singing. Pick an easy song that everyone knows like ‘It Must Be Love’ from Madness and do it karaoke style! I guarantee everyone will get into it and you’ll create a really magical and fun moment.

If you’d like your re-wedding to feel like ‘the real thing’ you can also sign a marriage certificate with witnesses signing with you. This is a great moment for some fab photos too. And don’t forget to think about how you’d like to be introduced at the end of the ceremony. Are you going to be ‘Mr & Mrs’ or maybe you just want all your guests to ‘big it up for the happy couple’.

Choosing a celebrant

Your celebrant will be happy to talk through ideas and suggestions and to create a ceremony that reflects the two of you as a couple and the vibe you’d like for your re-wedding ceremony. If you’re not sure how to find the right celebrant, the Celebrant Directory will have the perfect person for you and lots of great tips too. Or you could, of course, just give me a call!

Good luck with your planning, and do drop me a line if you have any questions.

10 Tips for Creating a Fab Naming Ceremony

Naming ceremonies are beginning to grow in popularity as parents look for different, non-religious ways to celebrate the arrival of a precious new life into their world. Namings can be fun while being heartfelt at the right moments too, and they are always special. So here are my top tips for creating a personal ceremony that’s just right for you.

  1. Choose a time of day that will fit with your usual routine of feeds, sleeps and hopefully some awake time to help take the stress out of the day. This will also maximise your chances of having a smiley baby for part of the celebrations at least! Find a venue that will work well for you too, if having the ceremony at home seems like a good idea but is stressing you out then book a local community venue instead or a nearby hotel who will take care of everything. Or if you don’t want to wait until the pandemic is over, consider going virtual instead.
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  2. Think about who you would like to appoint as guide parents and role models for your little one. There is no set number of guide parents, so anything from one to 10 works. They don’t need to be upstanding pillars of the community, just friends and family members who will take an interest in your child as they grow up. Maybe they have an adventurous nature and will help your child develop a sense of adventure, or they might be a great role model for their family or work ethic, or maybe they are great fun and will be a positive force in your child’s life. Whatever the reason, this can be celebrated as part of the ceremony. 
  3. Shape the commitments that your guide parents will make to your child to reflect their character and attributes. If one of your guide parents is football mad then make this part of their commitments, “I promise to take Rory to see the match on Saturday afternoons and to teach him the offside rule!” Or if their kindness is what you admire most about them, “I promise to teach by example to help Chloe become kind and generous”.
  4. Consider if you want to make promises to your little one yourself. You could do this in the form of a poem or reading – the tale of Edward hopping into life from Beatrix Potter is wonderful. Or your celebrant could ask you questions that you then respond to, either together or you could have separate commitments for each parent.  
  5. Poems or readings make a great addition to a naming ceremony, or maybe a short story would work well if you’ve got lots of young children there. Find a friend who’s great at reading stories and gather the children at the front for a quick story time with a moral, The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright is a great option.
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  6. If you are music fans then why not include a karaoke style song as part of the celebrations? I love these moments, the whole room is singing the song you’ve chosen at the top of their voices and loving every moment of it. It Must by Love by Madness is one of my favourites but you can choose anything you like, although something well known that is also easy to sing is best.
  7. Make sure you tell everyone how and why you chose the name that you did for your child, and the significance of each name – if there is one. Maybe their middle name is your grandma’s first name, what attributes does your grandma have that you’d love your little one to inherit through sharing her name?
  8. Find a way to involve all your guests in the naming ceremony. There are loads of options here and you could ask them to add their wishes for your child to a wishes tree, or to add their fingerprint and name to a picture which you can frame and display at home afterwards. It’s great to ask everyone to join in formally naming your child too, they can repeat a few short sentences after the celebrant.
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  9. You might want to hire the services of a celebrant to write the ceremony for you and to lead the proceedings on the day, Humanists UK has a directory of celebrants who are trained specifically to perform naming ceremonies. But you might feel comfortable doing this yourself or asking a confident friend or family member to do it for you, particularly if you’d like a very relaxed celebration. There is no right or wrong, just what’s right for you!
  10. Finish on a high! You could end with a toast, just make sure everyone has their glasses charged before you start and they know they need to keep a little back until the end of the ceremony! Alternatively, you could finish with three cheers or by singing happy birthday if the naming ceremony is doubling as a 1st birthday party. Have some music ready to play as soon as the ceremony finishes to keep the atmosphere going. 

There you have it, my top tips for creating a great naming ceremony that everyone will love and that will bring a smile to their face when they think back to it. You can find out more about naming ceremonies here.

However you decide to celebrate, enjoy welcoming your little one to the world!

Managing Family Worries About Your Celebrant Led Wedding

You’ve set your heart on a celebrant led wedding, the personal and relaxed style is just what you want and it’s a perfect fit for your venue. But how are going to convince your family that it’s every bit a proper wedding ceremony?

The majority of over 50s probably aren’t aware that celebrant led weddings are an option, and very few will have been to one. After all, they have only really gained in popularity across England during the past 10 years, although they have been available for decades for those seeking an alternative path to a church or registry office wedding if you knew where to go.

I’ve enjoyed many conversations with great aunts and uncles over a glass of fizz after the ceremony who’ve told me: “We’d never been to a celebrant led wedding before but it was the most wonderful wedding ceremony ever!”

What to Tell Fact Lovers About Your Celebrant Led Wedding

So, you could just tell your sceptical relatives that they’ll have to come along on the day and see what it’s all about but it would be great to get them on side and excited for your big day. For those practical relatives you want to fill them with facts:

  • Over 1000 couples in England choose a celebrant led wedding each year
  • Those who choose a Humanist celebrant to led their service are the most likely to remain married!
  • There are no rules about what has to be included in your wedding ceremony so it’s much more flexible than a religious or registry office service
  • Celebrant weddings can still include vows, exchanging rings, poems and readings, and a certificate singing with witnesses,. But they are more personal than the other options available and you can add symbolic gestures or cultural elements to your ceremony just as you choose
  • No, it’s not legally binding in England at the moment but it’s important for the two of you to celebrate your special day in the way that suits you in the place of your choice. The commitments you make to each other on the day are real, these are your promises to each other for life
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What to Tell Romantics About Your Celebrant Led Wedding

And for those relatives who have a romantic side, they’ll be swooning if you weave these suggestions into your conversation:

  • Celebrant led weddings are so romantic as they are designed and written around the two of you, your love for each other and what’s important to you
  • You get to write your own heartfelt vows that you can surprise each other with on the day, with a bit of writing help from your celebrant if needed!
  • Ceremonies usually include your love story so your guests will get to relive the anecdotes from your early days together and that romantic proposal all over again
  • You could include romantic symbolic gestures such as a ring warming where they will get to hold your wedding rings and warm them with their love and wishes for you both during the ceremony. This can be coupled with with the more traditional exchange of rings and certificate signing which will make for gorgeous photos
  • Your wedding ceremony will be in the exact spot you choose, maybe a woodland copse, a beach, or your parent’s back garden. A setting that is special to you brings extra meaning and emotion to the day

The Final Word

But probably the most important thing to tell anyone who has reservations about your choice is that your celebrant led wedding is something you’ve got your heart set on. You want a personal wedding ceremony that’s been written just for the two of you. And it includes everything you want – whether that’s singing, poetry or a hand fasting – while you commit to your future lives together in front of the people that mean the most to you. Surely that will win them over!

Good luck with your conversations and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

If you’d like to find out more about my wedding ceremony services visit my weddings page for some inspo and check out my FAQs page too.