Someone asked me yesterday what it is I enjoy about my wedding ceremonies in France - it's hard to know where to start...
I love the amazing countryside I travel through to get to stunning venues - often chateaus emerge from sheltering woodland suddenly and almost magically.
More magical still is the way a place is transformed by plants and flowers and lit by candles to create a romantic backdrop for this ceremony, which is about to mark the start of the next phase of the couple's lives.
I love that people seem to be at their best: happy, looking lovely and looking forward to the day...there's such an air of optimism and hope for the future.
So, I tried to explain that it's the glamour of a wedding - not in the way we use the word now, but in the old usage, meaning a sort of veil of magic, transformation, spellbinding.
And to me, the glamour comes from such things as seeing the girl I meet when I arrive - usually in slippers and rollers - transform into the beautiful woman walking towards the waiting company, composed and readied to take the huge next step into her future.
And to see the groom - who has been playing football with his mates, before I arrive, transform into the man, who can't wait to turn round to see his bride appear - and who has to use the carefully chosen accessory of the handkerchief in his top pocket, to wipe away a tear...
It's seeing the little flower girls, who have been scrambling about on the floor thirty minutes earlier, pointing in awe at the bride - someone they know well but who, transformed, they don't know...
There also seems to be a magic in what happens to the couple when they make their promises to each other, in front of family and friends, and feel the support of that group - and realise the seriousness of what they have just done.
Finally, for those at a celebrant or secular wedding, where the couple may have written their own vows, the effect of their optimism, seems to be that we think again about those we might have made - and that can have its own transformational power.
Don't make the celebrant sing...and other cautionary tales...
Sometime ago, after many weddings, I started thinking about how a couple can get the best out of their wedding celebrant. This is Part 3 in the series...or further random thoughts! Having left you, after Part 2, with the first draft in your hands, making sure it is all you want it to be, what next? Well, I think, some practicalities.
When you've decided on the readings you want - the poem, the extract from a novel, someone's wise or witty words - you need to decide whether the celebrant will read them - or whether you have willing (and able) friends or members of family who would like to be involved. I think it's a good idea to have at least two readers - simply so that the guests are not just hearing the celebrant for the whole ceremony - it's good to involve your guests. A good celebrant will make contact with the readers before the start of the ceremony, to make sure they are comfortable and know where their reading comes in the ceremony, but it is worth suggesting to your readers that they practise the piece in advance and that they speak more slowly than they think necessary - people tend to speed up, if they're a bit nervous, in an effort to get it done!!
Couples spend a lot of time choosing their processional and recessional music and it is sometimes a shame if the recessional music starts a little late - as a newly married couple, ready to walk/dance jubilantly down the aisle, or through your guests, you don't want there to be an anticlimax while you wait for the music to start. Make sure the celebrant, or a designated person, cues the musicians, or the person pushing the button, to start just a little bit earlier than they think they should.
This is an interesting one! I would say don't ask guests to sing unless you have a choir amongst them or very extrovert guests, who you know will sing! Furthermore, unless your celebrant has a great voice and is happy to lead a song do not ask them to sing! I have now seen three weddings where the couple assured me their friends would want to sing - I said they wouldn't - and, yes, you've guessed it, they didn't - and they didn't...!
Think about who is sitting where in advance - it's really not the celebrant's area of expertise.
The confetti moment is one of my favourites! It should be dramatic, fun and photogenic! But, again, you need to plan for it in advance - you photographer needs to know what you want and where it will be and, if you are not using a wedding planner, one of your guests - a good use for the ushers maybe - should be prepared to organise everyone. I think it ends a ceremony on an anticlimax if, after you have walked down the aisle in triumph, the celebrant has to organise the guests.
Maybe more words of wisdom - or experience - next year!
Part 2 - Your ceremony, your way | Scripting your ceremony
So you've decided on your celebrant and asked all those important preliminary questions - the next stage is the scripting of your ceremony. Your ceremony should be unique to you and you will have spoken to your celebrant, maybe completed a questionnaire so that they know more about you and the sort of ceremony you are imagining, and have begun to think about it more. You and your celebrant design the ceremony together - it's a partnership.
Your celebrant will tell as much, or as little, of your personal story, as you feel comfortable with: with some couples I have shared first meetings, the proposal (...sometimes when it has gone slightly awry...) what it is they like and love about each other, (...and sometimes the things they don't...!) with their guests - one couple had their guests in fits of giggles when we shared the groom's habit of hiding from the bride and then jumping out to frighten her - once dressed as a cockroach!!
Others have asked for the ceremony to be less personal or private - again, it is your choice.
Your celebrant should be able to suggest appropriate readings, poems, extracts from novels that you might want them or some of your guests to share ...they will have a wide-ranging selection, or will be able to find some - or, if their choice is not yours, it may trigger a memory of something you can use instead - but use your celebrant as a resource!
Equally, unless you know what promises you want to make to each other, ask your celebrant to suggest some - if you want to write your own nothing is as scary as a blank piece of paper! If you have some ideas in front of you, it's easy to change, rearrange and replace until you feel they are perfect for you. If you are writing your own, think of them more as promises you are making - vows sound a bit impersonal...but you are promising to bring certain things to your marriage...you choose what they are.
Make it yours...
Your celebrant should let you see the first draft of the ceremony - this is your chance to change anything, replace or add anything, or simply to say, 'Yes that's perfect!' - your input is vital so that you feel that this is truly your ceremony.
Part 3 to follow...
Part 1 Celebrant weddings - just ask!
After a lovely, long spring and summer of weddings, my thoughts have turned to what I would want from my wedding celebrant if I was getting married - and over the next few weeks, September and October weddings allowing, I'll share my thoughts on how to get the best from the celebrant you've chosen.
This blog assumes that those reading it know what a celebrant is, and does - see my page, Celebrant Weddings - a guide, if not.
(I have been asked how I 'got to be a Priestess', introduced as 'The Judge' and referred to as the 'vicar'...I am none of those...although I rather like the thought of being a priestess or having the gravitas of a judge...)
1 Ask questions, ask for explanations, make suggestions...
Don't hesitate to ask...you won't be the first person to ask that question. I've been asked:
'If we write our own vows, do we have to learn them by heart?'
No! But you can if you want to...
'Do we have to tell people we've married legally already?'
'Can we let people think this is the 'real' wedding?'
Yes...the atmosphere will be as 'real' as a 'real' one - but more romantic and unique to you...
'Can we sing?'
Oh yes - and dance down the aisle too if you like..! (Although see a later post for a dire warning...)
'We're gay -will you marry us?'
Of course and with pleasure...!
'Can we marry in a field of sunflowers?'
Yes - please do!
'Is there a way we can involve our children?'
'My family are religious - will they still find the ceremony meaningful?'
Yes, they almost certainly will - my ceremonies this year have included Roman Catholic families, Hindu families, Jewish guests - all of whom have made a point of saying afterwards how much they enjoyed the ceremony.
'Can we still have 'an aisle'?
Yes - it's all in the way you seat your guests - even if they're sitting on picnic blankets, you can walk through them...
'Can we have an 'elopement' ceremony?'
'Can we have a 'traditional' ceremony?
Of course - it's your ceremony - your choice.
'Can we have a very informal, laid back ceremony...?'
As above - absolutely your choice...
And of course, I've been asked many, many more questions - my point being: just ask!
Part 2 to follow...
I'm loving planning a tree planting ceremony for a couple - the tree will be planted in a pot, during the ceremony and then later in the parent's garden. I thought it was a lovely idea when the couple asked if I could write the ceremony and, as I was writing, it occurred to me that, like a tree, a relationship needs to have strong foundations, put down solid roots to withstand all weathers and be constantly nurtured.
Louis de Berniere's lovely description of what love is in Captain Corelli's Mandolin will also fit beautifully...
" ...Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two..."
As a postscript to this blog I can now add some of the beautiful photos taken by www.lydiataylorjones.com
What a wonderful wedding it was yesterday! Lovely, funny couple, gorgeous guests, stunning style, crazy shoes and then a surprise mariachi band - great start to a marriage!
With planner Joanna, www.dreamfrenchwedding.com lurking round the corner waiting for the cue as I sent the couple off down the aisle, the mariachi band appeared to much jubilation and dancing down the aisle by the couple, then bridesmaids and guests! Loved it!
Official photographs to follow, from John Armstrong-Millar, www.armstrong-millar.com - can't wait but until then - the romantic La Leotardie, www.laleotardie.com, the crazy shoes - and the paper bouquets made from posters of the couples favourite drag queens...(!)
A stunningly mad and joyous day!
Busy busy writing ceremonies for this year's weddings but couldn't resist sharing these - they're from an annual wedding photography competition, MyWed Award - and I loved them...clear from the first one why I don't work with birds...!
A client said recently that she chose me to be their celebrant because " ...you seem to really enjoy what you do and create such a sense of warmth in your ceremonies..." A lovely comment and yes, I'm lucky - who would not enjoy so many of the fabulous couples I work with - I love that moment when the ring seems to have shrunk on the way from the jewellers to France - and I particularly love that we've managed to create the warm and relaxed atmosphere so that bride and groom - and guests - and I - can find it funny...!