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Symbolic Rituals For Alternative Wedding Ceremonies! with Michelle Taylor, The Funky Celebrant and Owen Strickland, Magician


Symbolic Rituals For Alternative Wedding Ceremonies with Michelle Taylor, The Funky Celebrant. Discover the lesser known symbolism for use in your Wedding!

Listen to Michelle and Owen on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…


Michelle Taylor from The Funky Celebrant

Owen Strickland Magic


James: [00:00:01]

So Michelle you have prepared some slides for us and you’re going to walk us through “symbolic rituals”.

So I’ll pull those up for you now, and then you can take it away. Right! We’ll hand over to you. 

Michelle: [00:00:14] So this very first slide is for a Mr and Mrs Quiz. So as well as doing slides, I’ve just got some props down here. You can either… These are using table tennis bats with their pictures on. So the couple get two Table Tennis bats each, one with one person’s picture on, the other with the other one on. And the way I do this, the Mr and Mrs Quiz or Mr and Mr, or Mrs and Mrs, so the couples quiz.

I get the family to give me a list of probably about nine questions with the answers, and the couple don’t know what’s coming.

So I have somebody help me with one of the couple, and I’m with the other one of the couple, the other part of the couple. And I’m asking these questions, and we want to get them to give honest answers. So I did it with, like I say, the table tennis bats, or you can have shoes. So you hold the shoes up, whichever one, whichever one it is. And we’ve had such such a giggle. The range of questions like… I’ll be polite. Who past wind first, and what was this reaction? So they had to be honest and hold up the shoe and say it was such and such person. And the last time we did it, it was brilliant, because I got the bride’s mother to get all the questions off the family, and she’d also made up a box each, for the winner and the loser. The loser got a pair of Marigolds with some washing up liquid and a washing up brush. And the winner got an I am the winner mug, kind of thing, which she’d made up for them. So absolutely brilliant and it’s a brilliant way of getting the family completely involved in what’s going on, on the day. 

Michelle: [00:02:03] There’s no point doing loads and loads of questions, because the audience are cheering them on, but they’ll start… You start to lose them. So I think an odd number of questions as well.

About nine’s about a good level of questions for a five minute part of the ceremony, and it’s brilliant to do that before they make the vows and exchange the rings.

Let’s see how compatible you really are! If there’s no winner, it’s brilliant, because it means they are completely compatible. But if one of them answers the questions better than the other one, clearly you might want to work on something there. But it’s all good, good fun. A lot of banter, and it really does raise the roof, and having lots and lots of giggles with that. 

Michelle: [00:02:47] So that’s you know, that’s your couples quiz. And I’ve seen people do it at parties. I’ve seen people do it at the reception, but it fits in brilliantly as part of the ceremony as well, when you want to do something a bit different. Because every ceremony should have some form of symbolic element in it. And I know you’ve probably covered hand fasting and jumping the broom and things like that before. So it’s a question of even if you do that, again, there’s so many different ways of doing it. You’re not going to be the same as the couple that did it last week.

But you don’t have to stick with the tried and traditional. If you’ve got something else that you want to have to go at, let’s create something. Because any celebrant that’s worth their salt will be up for creating something.

And which is why this is a brilliant one to do. 

Michelle: [00:03:42] So if you move on to the second slide. Oh I’ve got to press next haven’t I? Yeah, it’s me, not you. 

James: [00:03:53] I’ll let you do it Michelle. You drive the bus. You drive the bus! 

Michelle: [00:03:56] Yeah, I’m driving the bus.

So this is a variation on the Polish bread vodka and salt ceremony.

So in front of me here I have two shot glasses. I’ve got a little bowl with some salt in, and I’ve got a cookie, because I’ve haven’t got any bread. And I’ve got a purse which has got some coins in it. So basically if you want to take it to the absolute beginning of the Polish ceremony, where the matriarchs of the family would make up a very nice fancy loaf of bread, and this would all be shared around all of the guests. But I do it where it”s just between the bride and the groom. So you’d have a piece of bread or a cookie. In this case, some Monster Munch, each. And that’s so you’ll never know hunger in your relationship. And then you get a little pinch of salt, put it on your tongue, so you’ll never know bitterness in your relationship. You then exchange your silver coins and that’s so you’ll never know poverty in your relationship. Then you’ve got the two shot glasses and this is the fun bit. It should be vodka, but it could be anything that you want. In this case it was gin. So one shot glass has got Vodka, Gin, booze or whatever in there, and then the other one’s got water in. And the couple don’t know who’s got which. So mix them all up on the table and I say take your shot glass. Everybody count one, two, three, drink. They take the drink and whoever gets the alcohol rules the roost. So the competitive couples quite like this because it is just brilliant for photography as well, because you don’t know… I know who’s got it, because I can see where I’ve put it and who’s going to pick it up. 

Michelle: [00:05:47] And it’s normally, especially when it’s a bride and groom, and the bride I can see has picked up the water, I’m saying “are you sure?” “Don’t you want to swap glasses?” “No no I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.” And then you can see the groom going ” Yes I’ve got the vodka.” But it’s a good one. But I’ve had it as well where for the couples, we’ve actually put alcohol in both of them. They haven’t known that. But I’ve got alcohol in both of them. So it’s saying,

they’re the ones that are likely to have equality within the marriage. So again it’s a bit of fun.

And the shot glasses, plastic ones obviously, get chucked over the shoulder, so nobody gets smashed in the face with some glass, and it’s a really good way of getting everybody involved in that as well. And you can do it so that the guests have their own little shot glass. So when the couple have toasted each other with whatever they’re drinking, the guests get to have a drink as well. The Monster Munch can get passed around. And it’s just such a giggle. And I love doing it and I love the variations that my couples have come up with to actually get involved with that one. 

Michelle: [00:06:50] And then the last one, I haven’t actually got any candles upstairs with me,

but I’ve set up the table here to do a candle of remembrance, and then a unity candle ceremony.

So right at the beginning of the ceremony, the two exchange candles. This was it for a bride and groom, the groom lit one, the bride lit the other. And the candles in the middle, we had various family members coming up during the ceremony and lighting the candle, so that the family was all represented for them. And then from the candles that the family had lit in the middle, the Bride and Groom took some tapers, and lit the tapers, and then lit the candle, the main candle in the middle. So that is just basically, we started off… So we got the remembrance ones out the way. But the unity ones, we started off as separate entities, we’re going to take the flame from these separate entities, light the candle in the middle. This is us starting our new family together and becoming one. So it’s a really nice way of bringing other family members into the equation again. And actually quite, not a solemn ceremony, but it is quite a sweet ceremony to actually say, this is us starting on our own path. 

Michelle: [00:08:17]

Yeah those are those three. Something a bit different that people might not have thought about or heard about. And that’s what we can bring to the equation. 

James: [00:08:27] Fantastic. So Owen what do you think? What questions should Brides and Grooms to be, be thinking about asking Michelle before booking her for their wedding? 

Owen: [00:08:38] So yeah.

Have you got sort of a ballpark figure, say 10 ideas for ceremonies on the shelf, that you do, or do you just literally create them bespoke for each and every couple? 

Michelle: [00:08:53] Every element is bespoke to the couple, apart from my introduction, which is fairly generic. And then my few words that I say before the ring exchange and the vow exchange tend to be fairly generic. Everything else is written from scratch. 

Owen: [00:09:13] Wow! OK! I love that Mr and Mrs thing because it’s what we touched on earlier, is, that it will make everyone laugh. Because I was giggling about that when I heard it first. And making the whole congregation laugh, they become relaxed and everyone’s going to have a good time, so I love that!. A weird question, what’s the most… It’s a two pronged question.

What’s the most unusual request you’ve had? And have you ever had to refuse a request? 

Michelle: [00:09:40] Oooh. I’ve never had to refuse one yet, but that’s probably because I say to people there’s two things I won’t do, and they’ve never asked. So I won’t get naked. I’ll bring banana leaves if you want me to do a naturist wedding. And I wont jump out of a plane! It took thirty odd years to get me into a plane, so there’s no way I’m jumping out of one. So it would be ground to air kind of contact. So those are the only two I won’t do. 

Michelle: [00:10:05] Unusual requests? I don’t think I’ve had anything really, really weird that I wouldn’t go along with. I mean I have had obviously my Harry Potter ceremonies. But that’s because I tend to say to people, you know, let’s do this. I really, really, really want to do like a Star Wars, Star Trek kinda theme. So I’m open to that.

So I want to dress up, I like having fun and and fitting in with the theme.

I did have an enquiry, unfortunately I couldn’t do the job, because I was already booked, where they did want somebody to dress up in tudor costume. They were getting married at their house, which was a tudor period house, and everything was tudor. And I was absolutely gutted that I couldn’t do it because I was already booked. So that’s probably the most unusual request. But it wasn’t turned down because I didn’t want to do it. 

Owen: [00:11:01] Yeah. I met a photographer a few months ago now. I hadn’t seen him for years, He’s not a wedding photographer, but his big niche at the moment is wedding photography in their bridal outfits, underwater. 

Michelle: [00:11:15] All right! 

Owen: [00:11:20] He’s speaking to all the local pools and obviously not doing it on the day, but they do it afterwards. Apparently now it’s a real niche, but a real growing thing. So there’s some really unusual requests out of there. I’ve never really been asked anything that unusual. I just wondered what your most unusual was. 

Michelle: [00:11:36] I wonder how the magic goes down under water? 

Owen: [00:11:39] It ruins the cards! I saw some pictures of a Star Wars wedding a while ago, a magician that I know was at one and they were very authentic costumes. The Chewbacca was 7 foot three, and looked as good as the one in the film. So yeah. 

Michelle: [00:11:57]

Every so often I keep pestering Warner Studios to tell them that they really need to let me come and conduct a ceremony in Diagon Alley.

And they keep turning me down, I don’t know why. 

Owen: [00:12:07] Oh yeah, they must get that a lot! 

Michelle: [00:12:10] One Day! 

Owen: [00:12:11] One day. You’ll end up doing one where someone who works there, they’ll allow it for an employee. That’s where your in will be. 

Michelle: [00:12:20] I just keep reminding them I’m still here. 

James: [00:12:25] There’s a place actually near us, so between Harrogate and Weatherby in North Yorkshire… just, called Stockeld Park, and they built like an enchanted wonderland. And it’s sort of like a kid’s adventure playground. But a couple of years ago they released it for weddings and you know, you can just imagine like turning up with the whole kind of like, I don’t know, you know fairies and fairy godmothers and stuff. Somebody is going to do that, and it’s just going to look crazy and awesome. 

Owen: [00:12:56] Particularly in winter. If you have a nice snowy affect with that, that would look cool. 

Michelle: [00:12:58] Sorry, my husband’s left his phone upstairs. Bear with me. Tell him off later! 

Owen: [00:13:15] Don’t answer that one, that’s really really bad news. Don’t answer that one! 

James: [00:13:21] I was just going to say look how in demand Michelle is everybody. If you want to book Michelle, you’ve got to move fast!. Multitasking! 

Michelle: [00:13:28] Sorry I missed that! 

James: [00:13:30] Look how busy Michelle is. Like the phone’s ringing off the hook! 

Michelle: [00:13:34] Yes absolutely, that was my phone. I’ve had to disable it. 

James: [00:13:38]

If you want Michelle for your Wedding, you’ve got to book her quick. Get in there! 

Michelle: [00:13:39] But to be fair I only have a few dates left for summer next year. So, they are selling out quick! Yeah. People, and I bet you find it as well Owen, people are hearing about you, meeting you, they’ve done their research, and it’s kind of like they’re just confirming everything that they thought from what they’d read and seen online, and things like that. And think, yeah, you are the kind of person that we want to be involved in our big day. And it’s brilliant to actually find that you’re appealing to, well I call it my tribe, I’m appealing to certain people, and they know what they’re going to get when they get me. It’s someone’s who’s really loud. 

Owen: [00:14:20] And I guessing Michelle,

do you meet most of your, if not all of your couples before the day? 

Michelle: [00:14:26] Not always in person, because some of them are coming from abroad. One couple I did this month actually, earlier this month. The first day I met them was on the wedding day. Just because of circumstances and the way things conspired. But we’d Skyped a couple times. We’re in constant contact by e-mail and things like that. So it’s unusual for me not to have met them. 

Owen: [00:14:51] But it wasn’t a cold booking, and as much as just an inquiry and we’ll book. It was that they were very invested in you. 

Michelle: [00:14:56] Yes, the minimum they’ll get is a phone call before. I’ll say you know, let’s talk, so you can decide that I am the person you want. Nine times out of ten, I am. So that’s brilliant. 

Owen: [00:15:11] Yeah. 

Michelle: [00:15:12] And I bet it’s the same for you as well. It’s that personality isn’t it, and if you click, you click. 

Owen: [00:15:17]

Yeah, if you can impress them, make them laugh, and make them feel comfortable, then you’re probably nine times out of ten, you’re going to get the booking. 

James: [00:15:27] So I was going to ask you Michelle, for our wedding we really wanted the ceremony to be something special, that people enjoyed. And we had, off the top of my head… We had two readings, my sister sang a song, we had a hand fasting ceremony, and we had a quache, a Scottish drinking cup. Now I think the runtime was probably about 35 to 40 minutes. We wanted to get as close to kind of maybe a traditional church ceremony runtime as we could, just to get maximum value out of it really, to enjoy the moment. But in your experience, is there a point at which you’ve got too much going on?

Is there like a comfortable number of symbolic traditions that you should incorporate? 

Michelle: [00:16:13] The most symbolic traditions I’ve incorporated is… Candle, ring warming… Four! But one of those is right at the beginning, which is the remembrance candle, and that takes seconds. And another one is passing the rings around so that the guests actually hold them, to warm them. And again, that is actually happening whilst I’m talking. So it’s not taking any time out the ceremony. I’ve then kind of concluded the ceremony with jumping the broom, and a hand fasting. But because those two go together. I’ve been to one wedding where they had four or five symbolic elements, and that was too many. Because they had a rose exchange, followed by a sand ceremony, followed by something else. It was literally boomf, boomf, boomf. It was with a celebrant, some time ago, and it wasn’t in this country. And it just didn’t flow. If you’re going to include that many elements, there needs to be some kind of flow. And it just didn’t. So yes, you can I think have too many symbolic elements. But you can still put four, possibly five in, but spread them out during the ceremony. And I think it all depends as well what and who is doing the ceremony, as to how many is too many. I wouldn’t put more than that in personally, but other people might. 

James: [00:17:47] Right. So would you say three is about your nice average? 

Michelle: [00:17:51] Yeah, three or four. That one had four in. But the Rings was happening as I was speaking so albeit, It is a symbolic element, I don’t class it as such, because it’s not taken any time out of the ceremony. The most readings I’ve had is six. 

James: [00:18:04] Wow! 

Michelle: [00:18:07] And they wanted me to read all of them. I was like, really!?! And I managed to cut them down a bit, but I still did read them all. So I had one right at the beginning, one after I’ve told their story, one before the ring exchange, one after the certificate. And one at the end kind of thing, and that was too many. But she really, really wanted all those readings in. So on average I’ll get one to two readings. But a comfortable amount of readings is three or four. 

Owen: [00:18:38] I guess you must do almost the same as me. In what you do, you can’t have dead spots. So like when you said the rings are passed round whilst you carried on talking. Because if you just stop to let them pass round, then there’s two, three minutes there where people start looking at their watches, then phones will come out, and you lose them. So it’s keeping that flow isn’t it? And awkward silences for magicians and for you, I just think, is our enemy! 

Michelle: [00:19:03] Yeah, so I’ve been doing this job for seven and a half years now, and…

I’m learning every time I do a ceremony. What works, what doesn’t. How many people should be involved in this particular element to make it flow? How many is too many?

So yeah, it is a learning curve. 

Owen: [00:19:22] And do you have rules on mobile phones in your bit? Are they allowed to film or is it something you discourage? 

Michelle: [00:19:30] It depends on what the couples want! Some couples will adamantly say no, turn them off.

I prefer no phones personally.

But others are saying, yeah, no we’re quite happy for people to be taking pictures. But even in those ones I say take them discreetly, and make sure the phones are switched to silent. And don’t spend the whole of the ceremony stuck behind a phone, because if you’ve never seen a celebrant led ceremony before, you’re missing out, if you’re watching it through a screen. 

Owen: [00:19:54] People tend to watch here don’t they? They’re looking at it through there. They don’t even think to do this, do they? 

James: [00:20:07] Miss the moment entirely! 

Michelle: [00:20:07] Yeah, live in the moment. And let’s say once it’s gone, it’s gone. And

everybody goes to a wedding, thinking they know what they were expecting, and whatever celebrant you use, expect the unexpected. 

James: [00:20:24] Cool. That’s brilliant. Thanks so much Michelle. 

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