What's it like to work with a Wedding Celebrant?
What happens between booking your wedding celebrant and your big day? Is it the same as when you book a Registrar, where you go into the Register Office to give notice of marriage; complete a tick-the-box questionnaire; and then have no contact with them again until a brief telephone conversation in the week before your wedding - often with a completely different person from the one you saw when you gave notice - and finally get to meet them half an hour before your ceremony?
Not at all! As an experienced Celebrant who used to be a Registrar of Marriage, I can tell you that the two experiences couldn’t be more different!
Choosing Your Celebrant
Well, there's the first difference - you actually get to choose your own Celebrant, and don't just get whichever Registrar is on duty on the day.
When choosing your celebrant, it’s so important to have a face-to-face chat, either in person or via Zoom/WhatsApp etc. That way, you can really get a feel for whether they are right for you and will fit with your style and personalities.
All celebrants want to make sure that you are completely relaxed and comfortable with them, so that you will then be able to enjoy your wedding ceremony properly on the day, and will welcome the chance to chat with you informally before you make any decisions.
Personally, I like to take a few notes during this initial chat (even before you’ve booked me) as ideas will already be bubbling up and I have to jot them down while they’re still fresh. They won’t always make it into the final edit, but are often a first step towards creating your perfect ceremony.
Generally, you will know when you’ve found the right person, and do trust your instincts on this one. You know how sometimes you just hit it off with someone straight away, well finding your Celebrant can be just like that - when you know, you know!
Tell Me All About You
Once you’ve decided to book, and have completed an electronic booking form and paid a deposit to secure your date, I’ll send you a questionnaire. I actually really dislike the word ‘questionnaire’ as it makes it sound quite dull and functional, which it really isn’t!
This is where you get to tell me your story: how you met; first impressions; how the proposal happened; why you’ve decided to get married and why now; what does being married mean to you - all the good stuff that I’ll use as the heart of your ceremony.
You’ll also have the opportunity to tell me about any readings you may want to include, or ask me to help you choose something appropriate if you know that you’d like someone to give a reading, but haven’t a clue what!
There is also a section where you can tell me about the logistics of your ceremony: how many bridesmaids/flower girls etc.; who will be looking after the rings; what music have you chosen. You may not have all these details right away, but the questions help you have an idea of how you’d like your ceremony to go - and which bits you’d like to keep, and which you’d like to get rid of! - and can be amended as we get closer to the day.
I will also ask about your colour scheme. While this may seem like a random question, I ask it so that I can wear something appropriate. I always aim to blend in with your theme and colour scheme, so that I don’t stand out: the focus should be on you, not me! (It’s all about the details…!)
Let's Talk About Your Wedding!
If we haven’t already met in person, I usually like to try to arrange to meet up at this stage before I start to actually write your ceremony. And, don't worry if distance makes this impossible, a Zoom/WhatsApp chat is great, too.
This is a lovely opportunity to talk through the information you’ve already given me, and it’s amazing how often other fantastic nuggets crop up during our chat which can be woven into the ceremony. We can really start to get an idea of the feel of your big day and how your ceremony will be an integral part, and not just something to get out of the way so that the party can start!
Couples also like the fact that this meeting gives us a moment to talk about the practical details, if you wish, so that you are completely reassured about every aspect of the ceremony from the very start of the process.
The First Draft
I’ll then go away and get to work researching appropriate readings and vows that suit you, if you wish, and even listening to the music you have chosen, or watching the film/reading the book that you many have mentioned so that I am immersed in you and your story.
I usually read and re-read your questionnaire responses many times before actually sitting down to write the first draft. Creating your ceremony is an intuitive process for me, and I usually let it all marinate in my head until I feel that the time is right, and I then sit down and let it all flow onto the page!
This is when you’ll receive a copy of the first draft - exciting! If you’ve asked me to suggest/write vows for you and/or to suggest appropriate readings, I’ll usually include three options, so that you have a choice, but it is not overwhelming.
You are free to make as many amendments as you like, and as often as you like, until you are completely happy that the ceremony is just as you would like it to be. In practice, the steps we’ve taken together so far mean that few tweaks/if any are usually needed, but this doesn’t stop me always feeling anxious from the moment I press ‘Send’ until the moment I hear back from you!
It’s a sign of how important it is to me that the ceremony is absolutely right for you, so the day that that feeling goes away is the day I should stop being a Celebrant!
If you’ve chosen any symbolic elements as part of your ceremony, such as hand tying cords, unity candle etc., this is where I will start to make/source the relevant items. I’ll also start to design vow and readings booklets so that everything matches) and an added bonus is that they look great in the photos - no scrappy bits of folded paper pulled from a pocket here!
As always, you will be kept up-to-date with options so that everything fits perfectly with the rest of your wedding day.
The Final Version
Once you have signed off the final draft of your ceremony, I always advise you to put it away and forget about it! You will now be confident that you know how the ceremony will go, and how fabulous it will be, so don’t over-familiarise yourself with the content. It’s so much nicer when it is still fresh on the day, so just relax and leave it to me!
A rehearsal isn’t for everyone, but if you do decide that you’d like one, I’m more than happy to oblige. It won’t be a full rehearsal, but rather a walk-through so that everyone knows where they will stand and when, and can be particularly reassuring for readers who can get an idea of when they will be called upon, and where they might like to stand - and they can even have a little practice, if they want to.
A rehearsal can be a lovely way for people to meet each other, if they haven’t met before, and for the excitement and anticipation of the big day to really start to build…
The Big Day
So, the big day is finally here! I will usually arrive at least an hour before the ceremony is due to begin, and will meet with each of you separately to make sure you have everything you need; to calm any last-minute nerves; and to answer any questions which may crop up.
I’ll also spend the time checking-in with the venue/planner; the musicians/person controlling the music; best man/woman (yes, I will ask to see the rings, and yes, they will usually pat their pockets and pretend to look worried…!); and have a quick chat with any readers to put their minds at rest.
I will also check that the ceremony set-up is just right, and chat with the photographer to make sure that they are able to catch all the shots they need.
I take only one booking per day, so can be completely focused on you and YOUR wedding. That means that we can be relaxed and flexible with timings if needed, such as when key members of the wedding party are stuck in traffic, or the bride’s flowers have been left behind (has happened!) - it’s not a problem at all. I never need to rush away, and will work with the venue to make sure your day continues to run smoothly.
It’s always lovely, and very much appreciated, if you would agree to having a photo taken with me after the ceremony, and I then usually discreetly slip away.
The next day, among your wedding cards and gifts, you’ll find a bag containing your signed certificate, copies of your vow and reading booklets, and a boxed printed copy of your whole ceremony as a beautiful keepsake of your day. Many of my couples have commented on how much they appreciate these, and some even take them out each year to re-read their vows to each other :)
So there you have it - my focus is always on you and your happiness, from our first conversation to the first handful of confetti!