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What Does A Wedding Celebrant Say? with Yvonne Beck

What Does A Wedding Celebrant Say? Yvonne Beck, a bilingual Wedding Celebrant explains what Wedding Celebrants can and cannot say. Check it out!

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


Yvonne Beck Wedding Celebrant


James: [00:00:03] Yvonne hello. Thank you so much for joining me. 

Yvonne: [00:00:05] Hello there it’s a pleasure. 

James: [00:00:08]

Great to have you. So we’ve had a question been posed by brides and grooms. it’s a little bit unusual. It’s a bit different, but I kind of like it and I think it’s going to promote a very interesting response. The question is “What does a wedding celebrant say?”

Yvonne: [00:00:26] Right! That is an interesting question because there are so many things that we can say, and there are just a couple of things that we don’t say or that we wouldn’t say. So in the main, rather than focus on the negative, which obviously I will come to, a celebrant is able to tell the couple’s story and to find out what the ceremony actually means to them. 

Yvonne: [00:00:54]

So the words that we use tend to come from the couple themselves. We can say what they want us to say. And we ask lots of questions to find out about their relationship and any struggles or challenges they’ve been through.

You know the funny things that they love about each other. The things that really get them frustrated about the other as well. And so we will say things about their relationship or give the ceremony a structure. So basically we will talk about marriage and what marriage might mean to this couple. But it’s only really through the research with the couple, getting to know them, that we will talk through and do a lot of storytelling. I think that’s the main part of the celebrants role, which is to tell the couples story, in an authentic sensitive significant meaningful way and include humour. You know in terms of a light heartedness, because relationships are not just about the serious stuff, they’re also about things that give each other joy and pleasure and fun. 

Yvonne: [00:02:03]

So perhaps one of my questions will be to the couple, “What is it that you always want to have in your relationship?” “What do you always want to be doing?” “What are the things that inspire you about each other?” “What do you mean to each other?” “How was life before you met?” “What are you looking forward to in the future?”

So the celebrant really talks about the personality of the relationship and their lifestyle and their hopes and dreams, and gives the couple a really open blueprint for their ceremony. So whilst we might have a structure and make suggestions, in terms of the flow, the choreography, advice on readings and poetry, and where to place these, and where to put symbolism, and what symbolism might mean, and how to adapt symbolism and cultural references so that we can be totally inclusive, how to include language and bilingual celebrants. 

Yvonne: [00:02:58] So I do ceremonies in German and English and basically craft something that’s unique for that couple. So there are very few things that I can’t say because I’m basically using the voice of the couple in order to deliver my ceremony. And that’s what makes it really special for them, because they feel that they’re very much the participants you know, not just the recipients of a ceremony or service. 

James: [00:03:27] That’s a nice way of putting it. 

Yvonne: [00:03:30] Yeah. I mean a lot of people… I know in my first marriage… oops! I was very much the spectator. You know like what’s going on? What’s happening? What do I do next? And I think that with a celebrant ceremony we have the ability to relax the couple because they know exactly what’s happening. It’s all down to their style and ideas and my experience really that creates something, and other celebrants will do the same. 

Yvonne: [00:03:57]

So what we can’t do is we can’t pass ourselves off as ministers of religion. Or we shouldn’t! So we might not confer a blessing.

But as an independent celebrant I’m happy to include a blessing, and I just ask for the Lord’s blessing, or I’ll ask the couple to give me bible passages that they’d like me to read and include, because the Bible has lots of passages about marriage and about the relationship between man and wife and God. Obviously it’s mostly husband and wife in the Bible. But then I do respect all faiths and all religions and we can include those. But we’re not passing ourselves off as ministers or priests or Rabbis. And the other thing we’re not able to do really is to pronounce a couple as husband and wife because we’re not creating a legal framework for the ceremony. That is done at the registry office in England. And only celebrants in Scotland and Northern Ireland are… You know, humanist celebrants can offer the legal ceremony because they don’t put any religion into their ceremony. It’s all sort of just words between people. They’re non-religious. But the idea of announcing and presenting as husband and wife is still there. So we can end with the theatre of the announcements. Maybe for the first time as husband and wife or our newly weds. We’ll find creative ways in which to create that lovely crescendo at the end, that ends with a kiss. So basically those are the couple of things that we wouldn’t do. We wouldn’t use the contracting and declaratory words that the registrars use because we’re not formulaic and creating a legal ceremony, and we wouldn’t pass ourselves off… You know we wouldn’t ask… We will ask for the Lord’s blessing rather than say “I bless these rings”. However we will also be happy to work with members of the clergy and registrars if that were possible. And for me personally it has been possible on occasion where the couple have asked for their own family priest to say a few words. I’ve invited them to bless the rings for instance, because these moments that are very meaningful and sincere and have held a lot of you know special moments for the couple. So yes, so we have fun and we can do all sorts of funny things and I’m not a very good joke teller, I must say. I’m more of a whimsical person. So I don’t know how I’d cope actually telling jokes or saying anything too rude. But I would say at most ceremonies, people are just wanting the love story to be told and to go through the symbolism that we know. Handfasting, ring exchange, and adding new symbolism too. So there’s very little we can’t say or do or be in terms of acting on behalf of the couple to give them a really fantastic ceremony, and a lovely warm fuzzy feeling at the end. 

James: [00:07:16] That’s brilliant.

I think from my perspective, and sort of my view on the industry at the moment, is that there seems to be a little bit of apprehension or fear about using a celebrant, because it can be seen as a complicated thing, but I don’t think it is at all.

I think it’s very simple to go and do the legal bit in a registry office and then like you say, bring all that personality to the fore. It’s such a superior solution and it’s just so lovely. And obviously I think more couples need to be a little bit more daring and risk that because it’s so worth it. So, so worth it! 

Yvonne: [00:07:54] Yes it is.

And I’m sure that they’re worried about what other people might think. You know, they worry on behalf of everybody, in terms of their whole wedding party.

Are there enough chairs? Is there enough food? Is the cake going to be okay? Is everyone going to enjoy themselves? Is the music fine? The ceremony is really between the two of them and it should be their decision how that’s formed. Because that’s what they go home with. Go on honeymoon with. Those are the memories for the rest of their married life you know. And the photos will help them to see that their day was a success. But I think things like the special vows that they say to each other and the openness and the lack of restriction with the celebrant, is incredible. I mean there are lots of pictures of celebrants doing underwater weddings and Harry Potter weddings and Star Wars. I’m doing a Disney and Star Wars wedding without the costumes, but with all the symbolism in November. So you know, anything’s possible. Yes. I mean it’s not even a risk because you’re talking to an experienced person. And in fact I would recommend someone else that was closer to doing that you know. So if there was a ceremony that I would feel uncomfortable taking because it’s not within my skill set, you know like a pagan handfasting or a wickan or a ritualistic handfasting, those are not my skill sets. So I would recommend a celebrant who had those, and I certainly know over 500 celebrants now so I’m sure that the couple should always find the right celebrant for them and should be able to I think these days. 

James: [00:09:38] Fantastic! I remember from our wedding I asked my brother to film it for us because we we were filming weddings at the time and had apprehensions about using another video crew, and it not quite being right or something. So we asked my brother to do it. He was a professional photographer and he used our cameras. I remember as soon as we went on our mini moon after the wedding, that first night Rachel and I just jumped onto the bed, we got the camera out and we just watched the ceremony back on the little screen on the back. Because the ceremony was so personal to us and we wanted to see it from the perspective of our guests. And we got to sort of watch it back and it was everything that we’d hoped it would be. And I think because, like you say, you were able to have that input. You’re able to make it yours. And somebody who knows you or gets to know you is able to kind of support you in doing that. 

Yvonne: [00:10:32]

Exactly and I think you’ll find that your celebrant is always going to be there. You know no matter what the time of day or at weekends. We make ourselves available for rehearsals, for any kind of communication, e-mail, phone calls, Skype messaging.

You know, any questions that a couple have. Normally I would not allow couples to book me before a Skype call was made. I actually think they need to see me and hear me. And to find out what kind of a person will be standing there for half an hour at least. To lead their ceremony. And I think it’s lovely that the couples that I’ve worked with, they’ve all given me as much as I’ve given them I think. You know every wedding I do I just find it’s such an honour and a pleasure to do. And a joy, and all my celebrant colleagues feel the same way. So this isn’t a job to us. It’s a real heartfelt sincere love that we have for the work that we do and what we’re bringing to this industry. It’s incredibly soul affirming really and life affirming, to be able to offer ceremonies. Not just for weddings but for all life’s rituals. You know for the start of life, the middle, you know, the end of life. We can create ceremonies for all occasions and ceremonies ground us and keep us connected to people, and your wedding ceremony connects you to each other. It starts that bond, that deeper commitment. I’m starting to get goose bumps. 

James: [00:12:11]

Brilliant! Now we just have one quick fun question for you as well Yvonne. What would you say is your… You might have actually answered this in part actually, but what is your favourite part what you do? 

Yvonne: [00:12:24] Oh. My favourite part of what I do is actually finding out the story between the couple. You know what makes them tick as a couple. Because to find somebody to love, and to love you back, is one of the most wonderful things in life. And not everybody gets that you know. As I know myself and we’ve all been through challenges and things. But to have that person standing next to you, looking out into the future with you, you know and when they tell me their story, that gives me the chills and gives me goosebumps and makes me think… actually I love these people too. What’s not to love about this love story. So possibly I’m too romantic in some respects, but I think that to take… one of my first questions is Why are you getting married? Because I want to know what marriage means to this couple. So yeah that’s one of my favourite things is to find out, you know what brought them to this moment. What’s made… what was the change that occurred and why are they taking this step? I kind of know in a way. But I want them to tell me because I want them to tell me in their way. 

James: [00:13:38] Well thanks so much Yvonne, that’s been really, really cool. And we have you on a Meet Up next week so we’re going to be seeing you very soon again. We look forward to that obviously. 

Yvonne: [00:13:52] Me too. Thank You. 

James: [00:13:57] Thanks so much, we’ll speak to you soon! 

Yvonne: [00:13:57] Yeah bye for now, take care! 

James: [00:13:57] Bye for now! 

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