I read with interest the Chancellor's proposals for a review of wedding venues in England and Wales. The review will look at lifting restrictions on al fresco locations such as gardens, woodlands or beaches.
The Treasury said the changes would offer more choice and could lower the cost of booking a venue. The move would also bring England and Wales into line with Scotland.
I believe this is a step in the right direction but it still does not give couples the freedom to design the ceremony they want.
Whilst welcoming this positive step forward I look forward to the day when Celebrants and Registrars can deliver ceremonies in which the legal declarations and contracting vows can be incorporated into a Celebrant-led ceremony.
Over the course of the last few months I have made a collection of the most frequent questions I have been asked. I thought it might be useful to share these. Please let me know your thoughts too.
What is an Independent Celebrant ?
An Independent Celebrant creates and conducts non-statutory ceremonies. Each ceremony is unique and written to meet your requirements.
An Independent Celebrant differs in their approach from a Humanist as they will include some religious content with in the ceremony. For instance one of the readings may be from a religious text or a prayer, hymn or blessing may be included.
Why choose a Celebrant led ceremony ?
Choosing a Celebrant led ceremony gives you more choice about the content to be included. It also means there are fewer restraints on time and place.
So if you wish to celebrate your event at home, in a local hall or outdoors a Celebrant led ceremony would be ideal.
What types of ceremony are possible ?
The most common types of Celebrant led ceremonies are Weddings, Namings, Commitment and Renewal of vows.
A wedding ceremony is conducted after a couple legally marry. Registering your marriage should be done at a Registry Office in the presence of two witnesses. For full information on the process is available on line or within the notes on my Facebook page within the notes section you can find my fact sheet.
There are a number of reasons why you might choose to marry and then have a wedding ceremony including the freedom to celebrate where, when and how you wish.
Each ceremony is tailor-made to each couples requirements. A wedding ceremony can be held in a location of your choice, at a time to suit you and there are no limits to the number of people who can be present.
Your choice of music, poetry and readings can be woven into the ceremony.
Symbolic actions such as exchanging rings, lighting candles, a sand ceremony, releasing balloons, butterflies or doves, or creating unique items to cherish are just a few of the ideas that can be included.
These ceremonies can also contain religious elements if you choose.
Naming Ceremonies and Welcoming ceremonies
A naming ceremony is suitable for children of all ages. It is an ideal way of bringing family and friends together to formally welcome the newest member or members to the family. It is also an appropriate way to welcome an adopted child or children from a previous partnership.
During a Naming ceremony parents make promises to their child or children and share their hopes and dreams for their futures. Other adults too can pledge their support as Supporting Adults who will play a significant part in the child or children’s lives.
A naming ceremony is a wonderful family occasion and can include elements such as tree planting, lighting a candle, a circle of support or gifts.
A Welcoming ceremony is very similar to a Naming ceremony and such ceremonies are often used to welcome an older child whose has been adopted. The aim of the ceremony is to acknowledge the new relationship and for the child to be welcomed into their new family and community.
A Commitment ceremony is very similar to a Wedding ceremony in its structure and can be offered where a couple wish to acknowledge their love and commitment to each other without undertaking any legal contract.
A Commitment ceremony can also be conducted before a legal marriage has been undertaken and may be used in situations where one partner may be still technically married.
Renewal of vows
Ceremonies can take place where, when and how you wish.
Where a legal marriage has taken place a couple might choose to have a Renewal of vows ceremony to celebrate a significant wedding anniversary.
A Renewal of vows can also be incorporated into a family occasion to celebrate a Marriage which may have taken place abroad.
Will I be legally married if I have a Celebrant led ceremony ?
No. All ceremonies are non-statutory.
Many couples opt to undertake the legal declarations at a local Registry Office prior to their Wedding ceremony. All Registry offices offer simple marriage services in which you can complete the legal formalities.
For further information please refer to the fact-sheet available on my Face book page (Notes)
Who can take part in the ceremony ?
As these ceremonies are all bespoke it is possible to include all the people you wish to be included. Friends and family can be involved by reading poems or performing songs.
You may also wish children from previous partnerships to be included and acknowledge the new roles and relationships that have been created.
Where numbers permit you can also involve everyone using a symbolic action; within a Naming or Welcoming ceremony the invited guests may form a circle of support around the parents and child and Ring warming is a good way to include guests when undertaking a Wedding or Commitment ceremony.
I have heard of old traditions like hand fasting - can these be included in a ceremony ?
Yes – hand fasting is one of many symbolic actions which can be included within a ceremony.
Many Symbolic actions have their roots in traditional rituals.
Interestingly there are also new symbolic actions which are being included in ceremonies nowadays which reflect our current lifestyles – a good example of this is the mixing of a cocktail which is shared by the couple.
As Celebrant led ceremonies are bespoke it is possible to mix the old and the new seamlessly.
What is a Symbolic action ?
Symbolic act can take many forms. In essence they are any actions which give a visual representation of a feeling, thought or concept.
For instance within the Sand ceremony each participant has a different coloured sand. They pour these into a clear container and as they pour the grains of sand mingle. Each container of coloured sands represents each unique individual - as the grains of sand mix together so they too are mixing their lives together uniting them into a whole.
Hand-fasting is another visual representation of joining two individuals into one union. Each person will bring different qualities and these can be combined to make a stronger, supportive partnership.
How do I choose the right Celebrant to conduct my Ceremony ?
Choosing a Celebrant is a very personal choice; if you are able to speak to a couple of Celebrants before making a decision then do so.
I would advise you to do a little research. Currently there are no requirements for Celebrants to have completed the National Qualification for Celebrants. Qualified Celebrants have had to undertake an extensive course and demonstrate that they can create and perform ceremonies to a high standard.
Personally I would try to avoid “script only” services. These companies offer an off the shelf ceremony which can then be read by a friend or member of the family. Using a friend or family member to conduct your ceremony can add pressure to your day for you and them.
I would also advise that you use a Celebrant who belongs to a recognised Professional Association.
How can I achieve the Wedding of my dreams ?
I believe it is possible to have the Wedding of your dreams and not have to compromise. A Celebrant led ceremony gives you the opportunity to have your ceremony when and where you wish. It also gives you the opportunity to express your personalities by choosing any genre of music, writing your own promises and vows and involving others.
Can I have a Celebrant led Wedding in a Licensed venue ?
There is no reason why you cannot have a Celebrant led ceremony at a licensed venue. The venue has paid a fee to hold Marriage Services which are conducted by a Registrar. This fee should be stated separately to other costs, as different Local Authorities make different charges and you can opt out.
A Celebrant led ceremony can be conducted anywhere within the venue meaning you are not restricted to the areas which are licensed. So if the venue has a woodland area or grotto or fabulous garden these can be used (weather permitting).
Please remember that to ensure your Marriage is legal you will need to undertake the legal requirements at your local registry office. All offices conduct statutory services which are very simple, cost effective ways of undertaking the legal requirements. I would suggest contacting your local authority for an informal chat.
Is it possible to include traditions from other cultures and religions within the ceremony ?
Yes – it is possible to include traditions from other cultures and religions. Sharing different experiences is a wonderful way of demonstrating unity. It is interesting that so many of the rituals we use are common to more than one culture or religion.
I certainly hope this has been helpful to you. I understand that each occasion is different and that is why I love my job so much ! Please do not hesitate if you would like more information.
This week I was discussing "Symbolic actions" with a colleague and she told me about something she offers within her ceremonies. The idea was so lovely I thought it was well worth sharing !
Within the ceremony the couple exchange letters they have written to each other. They are asked not to discuss the contents with each other. The letters explain what they feel about each other. During the
ceremony the sealed letters are then exchanged.
The couple agree on a date in the future when they will sit together and open the letters. (If their marriage encounters a sticky patch then they are allowed to open the letters before this time.)
The stresses of everyday life sometimes mean that although we don't realise it the romance in any relationship sometimes gets pushed into the background. How wonderful it would be to recapture some of the excitement and special feelings which drew us to our partner in the early stages of the relationship and what better way to reaffirm or rekindle some of those feelings.
Choosing a Celebrant to help you create that special ceremony is an important step towards making your occasion a really memorable one. Why not take advantage of the free initial meeting I offer ? I believe it is important to meet informally to discuss your ideas and what I can offer. Meeting also gives us an opportunity to explore the type of ceremony that would best suit your needs.