Make the ceremony suit the couple

One part of being a celebrant that I love is discovering what sort of ceremony will suit my couples. It’s true to say that, even though I’m one wedding celebrant, no wedding ceremony is like any other! What follows is my account of two very different ceremonies to show what I mean.

Castle Romance Simplicity

Last October I held a ceremony which was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever witnessed. There was beauty in the surroundings, which was Manorbier Castle – a medieval chapel, decorated with golden autumn leaves studded with exotic blooms. And of course the bride and groom – Emily and Jason – were beautiful. The bride looked stunning, the groom elegantly understated.

Jay and Emily looked fabulous in their autumnal castle setting

But a large part of the beauty was in the simplicity of the proceedings. Let me explain. Very often, when reading or talking about celebrant – led wedding ceremonies, we get very enthused by the symbolism. I and many others have blogged about this elsewhere and the sand pouring, candle – lighting, hand – fasting and so on can be used together or singly to make a ceremony special for the couple and for their invited guests.
This particular couple – and all of their guests – had travelled from Canada to have their ceremony in Wales. None had visited previously but both bride and groom had links with Wales through their grandparents. They “interviewed” three celebrants and thankfully chose me. In the interview they asked what I would do and of course I mentioned the “rituals” we could perform but I remember telling them that, at the end of the day, it’s what you say and how you say it that matters as much as, if not more than, what you do. Our pre-wedding meeting was on Skype and I wrote the ceremony on the basis of our conversation.

Let the words do the talking

I offered them ideas for their ceremony; it was to be held in a chapel so surely candles lighting would work? We’ll be near the sea, and you’ve crossed the ocean, so how about creating a sand sculpture? They were adamant that, in the end, a simple exchange of rings was all that was necessary, apart from that it was up to me just to find the right words. They did make one exception to this, we would have a ring blessing. So, before Emily (the bride) entered, the rings – held in the pretty compact that Emily’s Nan had given her – were passed between the guests.
During the ceremony I talked about what makes Wales special for them, and a little about their lives together so far. Their mothers chose a reading which is often used for a hand-fasting ceremony, called “These are the Hands”. It worked well as then Emily and Jay were holding each others’ hands in preparation to exchange their rings and say their vows.
Instead of having vows separated from the exchange of rings as is traditional, Emily and Jay incorporated their vows into their ring exchange. Emotions ran high as they each read their promises and commitments to each other. Apart from a brief word about the significance of their new rings, and confirming that they are now husband and wife, this was the end of the ceremony. It probably took less than fifteen minutes, but those fifteen minutes had been intensely emotional!

The ceremony was understated and beautiful

Gilly and Glen’s Garden Gathering

The wedding ceremony I want to contrast with Emily and Jay’s in Gilly and Glen’s. Firstly, two things that the two weddings had in common were the beauty of the surroundings and the kindness of the weather! This ceremony was held in Gilly’s magnificent “tamed but feels wild” garden. We stood in the willow arbour she had planted with the scent of the camomile she had sown drifting up from our feet. The valley spread out ahead of us, the hills behind framed the scene. Gilly and Glen looked great, but not in the traditional cream dress and smart suit style of Emily and Jay!

Glen showing off the wedding ring which everybody had blessed

Glen and Gilly have been together for twenty-nine years, but decided they should have some sort of ceremony to celebrate “tying the knot”. That’s where I came in. We chatted over cups of tea about what they wanted, and at the beginning of the conversation they had no idea. What we did know was that there would be over two hundred guests, and they wanted a very relaxed atmosphere. Their guests would all stay standing, which wasn’t an issue but I’d have to work hard to keep their attention. They loved the whole concept of symbolising their partnership – actions spoke louder than words to Gilly and Glen. I was given clear instructions to say less, and do more!
In brief, then the ceremony went like this……….

Wedding Symbolism in Spades!

Gilly was led in to the bower by her choir and grandchildren.
We blessed the rings, by passing them around a long ribbon. This ribbon was in the colours of Wales, red, green and white. Meanwhile, a friend played the cello. The ribbon was collected by a son, and held safely.

Hand-fasting ribbons are prepared

A few words were said, a poem about the importance of being one – but also maintaining individuality – was read.
We “hand-fasted” Glen and Gilly’s hands using a willow hoop and wand and thicker red and green ribbons. The original thin ribbon was then snipped by me into short lengths and distributed to everybody there to tie onto the hoop and wand. The cello played as this was done. Once tied, I said a very few words over their hands, then held up the completed structure for all to see.

The hand-fasting hoop with everybody’s ribbons

Gilly and Glen then toasted each other with Champagne, drinking from a quaich which I provided. As they did so, I read words written by Kahlil Gibran.

Drinking a toast to each other and all of their friends

Finally, Gilly and Glen exited our little circle by jumping over the very beautiful broomstick which Glen had half made, half commissioned.

Jump the Broomstick!

Both of these ceremonies were deemed great successes by both couple, parents and guests. I loved both of them. The atmosphere in the chapel was intimate whereas in the garden I needed to move about and throw my voice, keeping things “big”. I even had a heckler to deal with! I didn’t mind, I knew who he was, had an idea as to his motive and responded to him in good humour!
The point, I think, of this article is to try to show the sheer depth of choice you have when you choose a celebrant for your wedding day. As long as you find the right person, you will get a ceremony even better than anything you could have dreamed of. Above all, it will be “your” ceremony!