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Celebrant Wedding Ceremony Trends! with Yvonne Beck, Wedding Celebrant

Celebrant Wedding Ceremony Trends with Yvonne Beck, Wedding Celebrant. Yvonne shares the emerging trends with mini ceremonies that are popular with couples.

Listen to Yvonne on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…


Yvonne Beck Wedding Celebrant

Mark Fenn

Tim Podesta, Master Of Ceremonies


Yvonne: [00:00:01]

Well I thought I’d take a look at the wedding trends that I’ve noticed as a celebrant. I’ve been a celebrant since 2011. And I’ve noticed that ceremonies are definitely not only changing in terms of the decor and colours and themes, but that they also are changing in terms of size and scale, in my experience.

They’re becoming smaller and more intimate. And this is really great because some numbers from anything from 25 to 60 to 80 people are able to really take part as participants in the ceremony. It’s a lot more intimate than 200, 250 people, 300 people that traditionally would be invited to a wedding. 

Yvonne: [00:00:52] And I think it’s really lovely to have that more intimate range of really close important friends and family. The couple I think like to have a smaller ceremony with a celebrant, perhaps because it’s allowing the couple to actually have eye contact with their guests and their family. It becomes much more of a shared emotional experience. And sharing the emotion of that occasion is really important. 

Yvonne: [00:01:23]

So it’s not about spending less money.

Because as you can see on this slide here. It’s a vineyard in Suffolk, overlooking the estuary where the couple spends a lot of their time. So yes it was a very lovely affair. I don’t think it’s about saving money at all, but I think it’s about making the most of that occasion and being part of it and involved in it. 

Yvonne: [00:01:52] The trend I think is for couples to really also represent themselves authentically in terms of their values and beliefs. From a vegan wedding to eco friendly couples who care about the environment, and want to make sure that everything is used appropriately and wouldn’t harm the environment. For instance perhaps not using helium balloons or dove release, that sort of thing. So they are couples who are very careful now about what they want to include, and every detail is important. The ceremony, in the whole day then, can really have their mark on it. And instead of gifts for instance, they might ask for donations to their favourite charity. So it really represents them and we can hold a ceremony in a place that has meaning for them both. So it might be under a big old ancient oak tree or on the Riverside, or somewhere that has meaning for them and their family members. And remembering that celebrant led ceremonies can be held just about everywhere or anywhere. 

Yvonne: [00:03:04]

Some really encouraging signs are that couples are actually having their ceremonies at home in their family gardens and private spaces.

So that’s always really nice. The couple have full control. I’ve put a note here, relaxed and natural. Because they know exactly what’s going into their ceremony, and they’re taking part with me, collaborating with me, perhaps over months and even a year or more. They can really, well they really understand what’s going to happen on the ceremony day, and they’re experiencing something they’ve worked on together, and with me. So they’ve already worked as part of a team. So it’s a good sign when they’re getting married. 

Yvonne: [00:03:47] Many are opting for these outdoor ceremonies. But there’s no real awkwardness or stiffness or formality. Even though there might be traditions such as ring warming or the ring exchange or certificate signing. But they don’t have those sorts of formal worries or concerns, and they certainly don’t get nervous about the ceremony. The groom might be a little bit nervous about seeing his bride for the first time, or partner. But it does mean that they can choose some really lovely outdoor settings with plan B for the British weather, as we know, it sometimes can be a bit difficult. But I must say that in the seven years that I’ve conducted weddings, most of which have been outside, we haven’t ever had to use Plan B. And it’s been great because what the celebrant will do that a registrar won’t do, is actually wait until the clouds have passed. So in half an hour, as we know in our British summer, we get a lot of showers. We can wait for the showers to pass and then we can resume our ceremony. And we’re very flexible in that respect. So yes converted barns and tents have been another trend that I’ve noticed, and they are really beautiful because it allows the couple to put their own decorative mark on it. So they will perhaps do a lot more DIY and collaborate with their friends and family on the décor and the cake. You know the kind of fun things that they might do. Games for the children that sort of thing. It’s a really lovely trend to allow them to be more natural in the moment. 

Yvonne: [00:05:41]

One of the other trends I’ve noticed is that couples are coming and meeting each other from different parts of the world, and then deciding where to marry, and what to have in their ceremony, is occasionally something that they have to then agree on.

Europe, London, if they’re from Australia or America they might find that they have friends and family in both countries, or continents. And so they might come for a London based wedding and fly everyone over so that they can take part, and have a mini holiday at the same time. I’m a native German speaker and I spend part of my time in Germany and in England. And I’ve been creating bilingual ceremonies in German and English, which has allowed couples to really be inclusive in their ceremony. 

Yvonne: [00:06:34] A lot of the guests and family and friends may not speak English to the degree that they would understand ceremony language. And so I find it really sweet and you know, just gorgeous, to be able to offer my ceremonies in two languages. And I know lots of celebrants who now are doing the same as I am, but they’re in sunnier climes like Greece or France, South of France or Spain or Portugal. And these languages are now actually coming up and popping up in terms of what couples might want. 

Yvonne: [00:07:12] And so also in terms of their symbolic ceremonies. They might actually want something that speaks to their heritage. And they might want a candle lighting ceremony, for instance. Or a ceremony that involves a lot of their family and friends in the actual ceremony itself. A ring warming is very popular now. Which is where the rings are in a pouch, or in a box, and they’re passed hand to hand to each guest and family member, and the couple ask them to warm those rings with their good wishes and their love and their blessings. 

Yvonne: [00:07:54] And so whereas most of my ceremonies are secular. You know they’re non-religious. It does allow guests and family members who have faith to actually say a silent prayer, or give a silent blessing. Which also I think respects that the various aspects of their family and friends and their guests there. 

Yvonne: [00:08:16]

Blending ceremonies are becoming very popular because they too are inclusive.

I mean we start with the couple. You know, what is it about each other that they love the most? And blending ceremonies like a wine blending or beer blending or cocktail making ceremony. They allow the couple to show their own fun side as well in the ceremony. So choosing a type of wine and then blending it, and drinking the wine or the beer or the cocktail that they’ve made. And sharing that with their guests is quite good fun, because as we know, there are bitter and sweet moments in marriage. And there may be bitter and sweet taste in the drinks that they develop. But nevertheless it’s a really lovely way to blend and actually talk about the joining of two people and to families. 

Yvonne: [00:09:14]

A fasting ceremony, which was an old Celtic ceremony, sort of predates Christianity. When people were actually engaged for a year and a day by hand fasting.

Their hands were bound together by perishable cords. Which were maybe cloth or leather. And they were allowed to remain as man and wife for a year and a day. So back in the day there was no intervention by state or church, and they basically stayed a couple until they decided to part. And at the end of the year and a day, they could say to their village or their hamlet, we’re going to stay together as man and wife. So they will be officially married. The modern way of doing this now is just doing the hand fasting, which is saying the words, binding those two couples together and their families as well. 

Yvonne: [00:10:06]

So that’s a very popular ceremony because the hand fasting cords, the different colours, have different meanings.

And they can also include things like the tartans. The Scottish wedding ceremonies tend to use a hand fasting as the Celtics do. And there are blessings that can be said as well. And these new mini ceremonies that are symbolic are really quite personal and intimate. They have some wonderful ideas. 

Yvonne: [00:10:36] We encourage couples to really think about what sorts of mini ceremony they might like to include. And we’ve got some newish ones which is foot washing or hand washing. The washing and cleansing of each other’s hands or feet, is a sign of being of service to one another in your marriage. It’s the first act of service that you do as man and wife. 

Yvonne: [00:11:02] Or there’s another one which you might not… is more fun really. It might not look as serious. Which is actually handing the bride as she walks up the aisle, a flower. And each guest has a flower to give to her. And as she comes up to her groom, or her partner, she will create the bridal bouquet from the flowers that have been made, that have been given to her. And then the groom or partner will actually wrap a ribbon round. And it might be a piece of lace from grandmother’s dress, or a handkerchief or something. So we tend to look at finding things that are meaningful and symbolic, rather than religious. And that does give couples something really beautiful to look back on as well, as their photographer will take many photos of the emotion and the actual ceremony. 

Yvonne: [00:12:03]

And then I come to the difference between a registrar and celebrants.

And obviously as a celebrant over seven years, the registrars work still continues in terms of, you know, I’m not allowed to legally register the marriage. And that’s because I don’t have permission through the act of Parliament that is required, The Marriage Act, to do so. Only registrars or certain members of the clergy can do that. But a celebrant can create a ceremony that’s totally unique and tailored to the couple. 

Yvonne: [00:12:43] As you can see in this slide. I’ve got this gorgeous couple Caroline and Edgar. Edgar’s from Brazil and Caroline from England. Northwood where I used to live, just outside northwest London. And she wanted to have her ceremony in her family garden. And that’s a picture of the tree where she played as a child. And we set up the ceremony, chairs and ceremony location there for them. And the colours were reflecting of the Brazil flag, and that was for Edgar. Because obviously he was a long way from his homeland. And it meant that he obviously, you know, had some input as well into the wedding ceremony. 

Yvonne: [00:13:32]

I think that that’s one of the major things that celebrants can offer, which is that true personalisation.

A Registrars timing for instance, they have set times as to when they can come out and be with you. But a celebrant will be able to be with you at dawn and dusk, and any time in between. In terms of the day, we always spend our time with the couple. So for instance we won’t do another ceremony on the same day. Which does mean that when we get booked up, we get booked up early. And so it’s important to consider that as soon as you book your venue, if you want a celebrant, to just check that the celebrant is available on that date. Because we tend not to do more than one ceremony on any one date. 

Yvonne: [00:14:19] We allow you to decorate, as we see with Caroline and Edgar, your ceremony space anyway in which you wish. The time and the format is for you to decide, as a couple, how much time you want to spend on the ceremony itself. So it can be longer or shorter. It certainly doesn’t have any restriction at all, in terms of content, religious or otherwise. Most celebrants, who are not humanists, who are independent celebrants or civil celebrants, will often say that they’ll include religion or faith based words. And the reason for that is because we respect all faiths. And so we would be able to bless the rings. But we wouldn’t bless them as a priest or a vicar. We would ask for the Lord’s blessing rather than confer the blessing. 

Yvonne: [00:15:14] So it’s semantics but it’s very important and we’ll also work with clergy.

I know quite a few times now I’ve been in ceremonies where some of the readers have been either lay preachers or ordained. A priest even came to one of the weddings that I did in London.

And he was the family priest to the bride and she wanted him there. So I asked him if he would perform some blessing, and he was really surprised to be able to do that. And he was really delighted. I think he was a little bit shocked at the idea of being outside of his own church. But I think that that’s important that we embrace all faiths, and that we often do create heritage or faith based rituals that involve the family and their own faith. 

Yvonne: [00:16:11] So the couple can have any reading or type of hymn. This year in November one of the weddings I’m attending is a Disney themed wedding. And we’re going to sing along at the end. I think it’s from Moana. I’m not too sure yet. I haven’t had the words sent to me yet. So we’ll be singing along. 

Yvonne: [00:16:33] And that doesn’t make the wedding any less formal or serious. Because the words that we use in the ceremony are still, you know, very much about the commitment that this couple is making. And what they want to do is end on a high. So after the kiss, we’re going to have the sing along. And I think that when we can do things like that, we just show that we are different from the registrars in so many different ways. And these are the ways in which the couple can have exactly the ceremony, in terms of the format, the content, the length, the location, everything that they want. You know there’s no wrong door with us. And if we don’t know the answer we will find out. We are a forum of very busy people who are now experiencing so many different types of ceremonies. And we share our knowledge and our skill sets with each other. So it’s a really lovely area to work in and to be able to offer bespoke ceremonies to couples, of all types. That’s it really James. 

James: [00:17:49] Open to anybody.

Has anybody got any questions that brides and grooms to be should be asking Yvonne about planning their own celebrant led ceremony?

And Mark wants to go first. So we’re going to let Mark jump in there. 

Mark: [00:17:58] Yes please. 

James: [00:17:58] All right Mark go for it. Take it away. 

Mark: [00:18:01] Just a quick one. Just one question.

Can your bride and groom read out their own vows with you? 

Yvonne: [00:18:16] Yes. That’s the short answer. 

Mark: [00:18:17] Good. That’s all I needed to know. But you can expand it if that’s what you want? 

Yvonne: [00:18:23] They can read… What we can do is they can read their own vows to each other. Or they can read through it. I can read the vows out as a question, to the ones that are very shy. And all at the end they say is “I do or I promise”. Or the in between bit would be that I read them out, in a repeat after me mode. So there might be an element of the vows being similar to each others, and they will… I will ask each person to read them out first. Funnily enough there’s a little bit of etiquette that goes first. The men usually have to say their vows to their bride first. But with same sex couples I ask them, you know, who wants to go first. Because they don’t generally have those traditional roles. They’re a little bit more modern, and they will then fight it out between them. Sometimes just by flicking a coin as to who’s going to go first. But the idea is, in my mind, the idea would be that they write their own vows and they’re a surprise, to each other, on the day. So they can read them out and I can… You know, they can create another sense of theater and you know something really meaningful too. 

Mark: [00:19:48] Thank you. 

Tim: [00:19:49] You remind me that my brother and his sister in law, when they did their vows, they did them, they learnt them off by heart. Which I thought was very, very nice. But I was a bit nervous for them. I thought, well would they remember them? What would your advice be for people who were looking to learn their vows by heart? Would you ask them to have their notes to hand, or anything else in your experience? 

Yvonne: [00:20:21]

Absolutely always have a backup plan. Because the nervousness and the emotion on the day really kick in. And even though most of my couples, you know, 99.9% of them are already married legally, or have been married a year.

And because they’ve lived in different countries, and people haven’t been able to get together, their timing, you know, is all about making sure that they have the ceremony at the right time. So they’re already together, they’ve been living together for years perhaps as well. So they’re not nervous about each other. They know each other well. But on the day they get to the point where it’s like… “oh my gosh, I’m actually doing this”. And it’s quite an emotional moment. So there will be tears. You know there will be tears on both sides. 

Yvonne: [00:21:11]

I did a Chinese wedding recently where the couple had been married over a year. And Jimmy and Jen were a lovely couple. They had a big party, wedding party, about 60, 70 guests, you know most of them had come from China, to Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire.

And it was just the most beautiful venue and day. When he said his vows, he just said to me “I’m just going to, I’m not going to do anything, I’m just going to say something simple off the cuff”. So she started crying. And then I asked her. We had tissues and hankies, and then I asked her to say hers. And he started crying, and hers were all in Mandarin. So I had no clue what she was saying. And when she sent them to me later, to be incorporated into my form. You know I give them a ceremony presentation script, basically as a keepsake. So I wanted her vows to be in that. And she sent me them in Mandarin. So I put them in, in Mandarin, but I googled the translation. And I cried. Because they were the most stunningly beautiful tender loving words, you know. And it was like he was her sun and her moon and stars, was how it started off, you know. And I think when people feel that much around each other, it’s really hard to know which way they’re going to take it. But she had completely memorised hers. And he just started crying as soon as she spoke. 

Yvonne: [00:22:53] So I think it depends on the couple and how strong they are. But I always say to them, just think about how much you’re going to have to take a breath, before you start. And then start slowly. And stop if you need to. Because nobody is rushing you in this. So just do it how you want to do it. And if you can’t, then just take a breath. Or I’ll take over, or give you my book. Because it will be in my book as well. But we always have plan B, plan C, just as you probably do Tim. To make sure that there’s nothing left to chance and that everyone feels as if that was the best day ever. Because that’s what it should be. 

Tim: [00:23:40] Precisely, thank you. 

Yvonne: [00:23:42] You’re welcome. 

James: [00:23:44] Now earlier I mentioned that we were inspired by a lot of other couples for our wedding, and that just brought this to mind actually, it was a last minute booking. It was sort of “can you film a wedding this weekend?”. And thankfully, we could. And it was all a bit rush, rush. And you know, I like to be a bit prepared. But anyway we went and we filmed this wedding. And it was absolutely stunning. The groom was an actor, or an amateur actor at least. And he’d written a poem for the bride which he read out during the ceremony. I swear I was in floods of tears. The emotion… I was trying to film this thing, the emotion of the moment was absolutely just intense. And I thought, you know that’s incredible. And then I thought you know, well we’ll write our vows, and we’ll put our heart and soul into the words, and we’ll really work at this thing. And I rehearsed mine over and over and over and over again because I was determined that, you know, I was going to be stoic about this. And I was going to deliver it well, and slowly, and it was going to be fine. Rachel, cunningly, had a wedding dress with a pocket in it. Her Wedding dress had a pocket! So she actually put a tissue in her pocket. Come the ceremony, did Rachel need the tissue? No. She handed it to me. I got the tissue. Yeah. True story, that happened. 

James: [00:25:01] But I’ve got a quick question for you Yvonne actually. And it’s about wedding couples.

When they come to you, do you find that they’ve got a really well-formed idea of what they want to do? Or do they have a rough idea and it takes a lot of manipulation to get it there? 

Yvonne: [00:25:19] I think they have a rough idea. But they’re still not always sure what a celebrant can do. The American couples and Australian couples will very well know what a celebrant can offer. And so they tend to have their venue. And recently we had one on the lake. By Germany’s tallest mountain, for a Canadian couple who were in mining. They love lakes and mountains, it all fitted. They already knew what they wanted. Just for their ceremony, they wanted relaxed sophisticated, you know. They wanted the lovely words and readings and some music, but they also wanted to livestream it as well. So they wanted an elegant look as well as relaxed and a little bit of fun. 

Yvonne: [00:26:10] So I think that couples tend to know the style and format that they’re looking for. But they don’t always know the internal mini rituals that we can then internalise, as part of the ceremony, to give the ceremony a sense of event and structure and theater. Now if couples were already married, I sometimes ask them if they’d like to do a hand fasting. Because then they don’t have to take their rings off, you know. It depends how important the rings are to them. But then on the other hand, I’ve had couples who’ve had three rings, you know. So they’ve had three ceremonies. One in each country and then one is a neutral, you know. So they’re quite happy to do another ring exchange, because the bride says “well, I get another ring”. 

Yvonne: [00:26:59] So they do know, it’s not always the flow, they don’t always know which people to ask for readings, you know, and to give readings to, and who should be a ring bearer. So I will make suggestions about that. In Germany the tradition is for young children to be ring bearers. Young girls throwing petals, and then usually gathering them back up again because they think they’re messy. But you know children are adorable in weddings and in ceremonies. So in Germany they become the ring bearers and they come up with the rings. And sometimes they don’t want to hand them over, and this sort of thing happens. 

Yvonne: [00:27:44]

But in England, you tend not to use young children for that. So I ask if I can use them for a ring warming ceremony. Where we hand the rings over to everybody to warm them with their love and good wishes.

And I ask the young children to stand and watch, and make sure that everybody gets to hold the rings. And they love that extra supporting role. So I think a lot of couples, as they say you know, they just like the fact that with my experience, I can just add more to what they’ve already thought of. And their experience of wedding ceremonies, they’re going to more celebrant led ceremonies now. So it will start to become a little bit more where we’re just working together to get it all right. To really do the storytelling and to increase the number of maybe new ceremonies and new adaptations. 

James: [00:28:45] Fantastic. Thanks very much. 

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  • Reply
    Tim Podesta
    November 29, 2018 at 6:10 am

    A great summary of what a wedding celebrant can bring to a wedding. A special day needs special people to help out who are expert and committed to making the day extra special for the bride and bridegroom, their family and fiends.

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