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Why have a Wedding Celebrant?

Why have a Wedding Celebrant? Tanya Jones from Perfect Promises shares a special Wedding Espresso Weducation presentation with us. Watch it here now!

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


Tanya Jones from Perfect Promises


James: [00:00:00] Tanya has prepared a little presentation for us about “why have a wedding celebrant at all”. Which is a very interesting topic to tackle. So Tanya I’m going to just bring your slides up for you now and then I’ll let you take the wheel. 

Tanya: [00:00:16] Thank you. Well much like Carly, I could talk forever on this. So James you’ll just have to stop me if I go on a bit too long, because it is something obviously I’m passionate about it, and I can talk forever. So I’ve made myself some notes, if you see me glancing down it’s to try to keep myself on track. So really why have a celebrant? The crucial thing with having a celebrant, and it is still something that’s quite new in this country, is the idea of the ceremony being completely yours. The idea is that a celebrant ceremony is exactly the way you want it. Now whether that’s location, whether that’s content, timing, it’s just all about you and the slides that I’m going to have coming up are pictures of couples that I’ve married recently this year, and with little comments that they were kind enough to send to me. But all of them really say the same thing. That they wanted their ceremony to be personal to them and that’s what they get with a celebrant. 

Tanya: [00:01:22] I used to be a registrar, so I’ve seen it from the other side, and with registrar ceremonies, we try to make the… Most of us try to make them as nice for you as we can, but we are restricted.

There are rules, there are certain words you have to say. There are so many things that you can’t say. And so it makes it quite restrictive, and you know, I have lots of couples now who want to have the traditional vows, you know the ones, to have and to hold, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. And you can’t have that in a registrar led ceremony because it comes from the Book of Common Prayer. And you can’t have anything with any religious connotation in a registrar ceremony. But you can with a celebrant. So you can have anything you like. You can have any readings, you can have any songs. What’s becoming quite popular, and I don’t know whether it’s just my couples or I don’t know, is having sing alongs instead of a reading. So we had a fantastic one with a couple who had “You are my sunshine”, as a sing a long song right in the middle of their ceremony. We had the lyrics all printed on all the seats, and everybody sang along and it was just wonderful. And I’ve got one in a couple of weeks where we’re having “Stand By Me” at the end of the ceremony, and everybody’s gonna sing along with that. 

Tanya: [00:02:48] It’s that sort of thing that you can have in a celebrant ceremony. You can have really literally anything you want at all. So that’s the main thing really is that the content of the ceremony is about you, and we will go to great lengths. We will meet you, we will chat with you. We will find out how you met. This is the best bit for us really, it’s the nosiness, we like being nosy. Finding out how you met, where the proposal was, what drives you mad about each other. What are the things that you really love doing together, and all of that is built into your ceremony. So you have… For my couples generally they want a fairly traditional ceremony, so they want the walk up the aisle, they want to be given away, they want to exchange rings, they want to say vows to each other. But they want it to be personal to them. So that’s what they get from me. 

Tanya: [00:03:42] The other big thing with a celebrant Wedding is it can be anywhere you like. As Carly was saying earlier, the idea of a waterfall, or the beach, or your own back garden. I’ve done a ceremony in a couple’s back garden, which was lovely because you can’t get more family oriented than that. It’s actually in their home and in their back garden, and it’s just lovely.

So it can be anywhere and that also means you can have it in a venue that’s licensed. You may have seen the perfect licensed venue. So this is an example. You can see that’s a hotel that’s used for a lot of licensed weddings, but they wanted something that was personal to them and you can have it. The fact that it’s a celebrant ceremony means it doesn’t matter. You can have it anywhere. And the other thing with a licensed venue is they will be licensed for particular rooms. So it may be, as in this venue, not in this particular case, but they have a lovely little room that takes about 12 people, but it’s not licensed for legal ceremonies. But it’s beautiful for a little intimate ceremony that’s celebrant led. We can do that anywhere. Or there’s another venue that I go to quite a lot where they have four rooms licensed inside, but nothing outside. And they have the most beautiful grounds. But as a celebrant, it doesn’t matter, we can go outside and have the ceremony outside. So location really is the second big reason. 

Tanya: [00:05:21] The third one I say is practice makes perfect. Which is, with a celebrant, you have complete control over your ceremony. Over the content of it, over everything to do with it.

The choreography, everything, and you will have a lot of contact with your celebrant from the moment you book, right up to the day itself. And most celebrants will be happy to chat to you, talk to you. If you’re local, meet with you, as many times as you like leading up to your Ceremony. So you can talk about everything. And it’s always lovely how the ceremony evolves over time. So I’ve got a couple that I marry in a couple of weeks, who started off wanting just a really very straightforward ceremony. They didn’t want to write their own vows. They didn’t want to have any readings. They just wanted it very simple and very straightforward and that’s lovely, and as time’s gone on they’ve thought, “oh gee one of our friends is going to sing a song” in the middle of their ceremony. These are the couple who are now having “Stand By Me” at the end of the ceremony. And that’s lovely. So nothing is set in stone. It can change as we go along and it’s entirely up to you. 

Tanya: [00:06:38] And of course the beauty with a celebrant is that most of us will offer a rehearsal if you want to have a rehearsal before the big day.

We’re happy to come along to the venue, whenever you fix it up with the venue, and walk you through it. And it’s surprising how often it’s the Grooms who want it. They know that all they’re going to do is stand there, but they want to see the rest of it unfold if you like. So that then on the day all they’ve got to do is just that moment of turning around and seeing… And I love that. I love that. But you get that chance if you want it. Not everybody wants it. But if you want it, you can actually walk things through, so that when the day comes you’re completely relaxed about everything and just ready to enjoy the day. 

Tanya: [00:07:30] And really the last big thing about having a celebrant is that the day is yours. It’s your day and only your day.

As a registrar in the summer, I would always have at least two ceremonies on a Saturday, quite often three, and not unusual to have four. So there is that thing about timing. That if somebody is late getting there… There was one occasion when the make up artist was having a bit of a meltdown because she had seven bridesmaids plus the bride, plus the bride’s mother, the groom’s mother, and also auntie so and so, who turned up unexpectantly. And it was all running a bit late. And as a registrar I kind of have to say, well tough luck, you know, if you’re not ready in five minutes, I’ve got to go. And that’s horrible. As a Celebrant, you’ve got me for the day. So whatever happens it doesn’t matter. We can rejig, we can be completely relaxed. And again that feeds back into the ceremony. If you want to have lots of things going on. If you just want to have a song that’s actually played all the way through, and not just that little bit that they can fit in in the registrar’s ceremony, we can do it because we’re not watching the clock. So really it’s just about you having the ceremony that you want. 

Tanya: [00:09:00] And so that the big things really are that it’s personal to you. It can be wherever you want and whenever you want. You can have the time you want. It can be as long or as short as you want, and you can rehearse it, you can practice it, you can tweak it until you’re completely happy with it.

So a celebrant wedding really is about you, and that’s the big thing, that’s the big difference. I’m going to stop now because I could go on for a day. 

James: [00:09:34] Yes a lot of really, really good points raised there. 

Tanya: [00:09:38] Thank you. 

James: [00:09:40] You’ve given us a few examples, but what would you say is the most unusual or quirky request you’ve had, and how did it turn out on the day? 

Tanya: [00:09:50] Well I had a Stonehenge renewing of vows, which I talked about earlier on. So that was lovely because they wanted a very full on handfasting if you like, so lots of couples now are having a sort of simple handfasting at the end of their ceremony, which is gorgeous, I love it. This couple had the full handfasting ceremony so that was interesting. I’ve got one coming up next year where we’re having a bit of a Harry Potter theme going on. 

Carly: [00:10:23] Oh wow. 

Tanya: [00:10:27] One half of the couple is very keen on Harry Potter. The other one tolerates it I think. So we’re not going full on, but we’re going to have little references throughout the ceremony. So I’m looking forward to putting that one together, that’s going to be good fun. I had one last year when I just started doing this on my own with a Star Wars theme. So again I had little lines put in that no one else would really recognise as anything. So it’s not a big you know, we’re not turning up as stormtroopers. Although you can if you want to. Some couples do do that with celebrants. They want the whole, you know, the whole thing where everybody dresses up. And I did go to one once. I wasn’t the celebrant, but where it was an Alice in Wonderland theme and everybody dressed up. It was fantastic. You can do that but lots of my couples, as they say, they want the traditional white dress, they want the traditional look. Throughout the ceremony we just put little… so the Star Wars one was brilliant because it was really challenging for me, and interesting just to drop those little lines in that they would recognise, and their friends would recognise, but no one else would know they’re there. 

James: [00:11:45] So Carly, Terry do you think you’ve got any questions that brides and grooms should be asking Tanya about… Why have a celebrant or how to have a celebrant, or how to choose a celebrant. 

Carly: [00:12:00] We probably have the same question because one of the questions I get asked regularly is “but it’s not legal is it”? And I think that’s still… Is quite a drawback for some couples. It was definitely one of the things that caused me to go abroad. I wanted… I didn’t want to have to go through it twice… Was my kind of thought process. So what do most of your couples do around that. Do you find that some do it before after, or… ? 

Tanya: [00:12:27] Ninety Eight percent probably do it before. And the way that they look at it, rather than thinking of doing it twice, their wedding day is, the day that I do, their wedding day, is their celebrant ceremony. The other bit, the legal bit is registering their marriage. So I always sort of liken it, as James will know, to the birth of a child, because I think the birth of a child, by law you have to register the birth in a register office.

How you choose to celebrate it is up to you. And I sort of liken it to that, that if you’re getting married you have to go and register the marriage. But how you choose to actually have your ceremony, is up to you. And most couples… It’s still as you say, it’s still relatively new in this country. But I married a couple in August, at the beginning of August that I met last year. I was recommended to them by a venue, which was lovely. And so I went to meet them for coffee and said to them “so what do you know about celebrant ceremonies?” And they said, “well not very much”. So I said well you know the first thing I have to tell you is, it’s not a legal ceremony. Now they didn’t know that. The venue hadn’t told them. So I told them that it wasn’t a legal ceremony, so I said to them, oh well you know, you’re probably here under false pretences then. But you know we stayed and had a chat anyway, and obviously they booked me anyway, and they really liked the idea of actually just doing the legal bit on their own. They just had a couple of friends as witnesses and then just having their ceremony actually was mostly in rhyme. Yeah. But they couldn’t have done that otherwise. And so I think, although it’s not a legal ceremony in that sense, for most people that’s kind of almost a minor consideration. Because as I say it’s going into the register office, it’s saying a few words, signing a piece of paper. That’s done and then having the day you want. 

Carly: [00:14:40] Yeah I have to say I think the funniest thing is, because I offer this kind of celebrant service as part of our elopement stuff that we do in the UK, and when I meet people at first, and they say “no, no my friend got married outside”. They definitely did and I say no, no, they didn’t. You might think they did. You might have been at their ceremony. And I think that’s amazing that people don’t get it. 

Tanya: [00:15:39] It’s making that distinction between the legality you know, but to them, yes they did get married under a tree because that to them, they were saying their vows to each other. That was their wedding day. Sorry I am yeah… I could go on. 

Carly: [00:15:56] No I love it. I think it’s really important. 

Terry: [00:16:01] I should think most of us could go on about the place that we’re in, you know, whatever it is you do. 

Tanya: [00:16:10] Exactly, yeah, that’s right. 

Terry: [00:16:18] I must admit when I did the question and answer thing for the “why is a wedding cake the most important thing at a wedding”. A lot of the things that I found out, surprised myself when I did a search on the Internet. But I am going to post it on Facebook so that people can read it because there’s a lot of information there. A lot of people don’t realise how far back it goes and how important it is. 

Carly: [00:16:47] In most cases and when I came to get married… No one in my close family, I come from a very small family, and no one else had got married for 20 odd years, and I didn’t really know where to start.

And I think when I speak to a lot of brides in a similar situation, you just go, I don’t know what I’m meant to do because you’re probably only going to do it once. You know and even if you’re doing it a second time, it’s probably changed since the first time you did it. I think there’s a lot of… A little bit like, you know when you first buy a house, and you think, I’ve no idea what I’m meant to be doing, you know, I need someone to guide me through the processes. 

Tanya: [00:17:28] And for us as celebrants of course, we’re still fighting, not fighting, but there’s still a lot of venues that don’t really understand about a celebrant, and how that works. And so quite often we find that couples will book their venue, because obviously that’s one of the first things on the list isn’t it? Then the Venue will say to them right, now you must go book your registrar. And they never even suggest looking at anything else. And as you say, people don’t know and would just go off and do that. 

Carly: [00:18:02] In my previous life I used to work in venues, and I used to get brides who would come to me and say, you know, I want this as my venue.

And I used to work in a stately home that had a beautiful chapel. Of course you can’t have a legal ceremony in a chapel. It’s a deconsecrated space. You can’t do it, and it has lots of religious icons in there etc. and so no. they’re not the rooms that you can be married in you know. I think again it’s that kind of disappointment of “Oh I didn’t realise that I can’t have songs with religious connotations. And I can’t have all this stuff that comes with not having a religious ceremony” and I think it just catches people out a lot, definitely. 

Tanya: [00:18:47] I think as well it’s people loosing sight, in a way, of what’s important. It’s their wedding day. I like to think, I know, obviously, I’d like to think that the ceremony is the main thing isn’t it? You know the reason they’re there, the reason everyone’s there is they’re getting married. And I’d like to think that the ceremony was actually quite important to them. Yeah I think sometimes people forget about it in the midst of everything else. They’re picking everything else and they forget sometimes that they do have a choice, or they don’t know that they have the choice. 

Carly: [00:19:24] The other thing of course is that you sometimes don’t have a choice of registrar. 

James: [00:19:28] That’s right. 

Tanya: [00:19:28] No you don’t at all. 

Carly: [00:19:36] Even if the venue recommend them. 

Tanya: [00:19:39] I shouldn’t say this really, but you can, if you happen to know a registrar, because obviously I did have friends who wanted me to marry them, and I did. And because when you give notice, if you happen to know a registrar that you’d like to perform your ceremony when you give notice, and they are in the same area in which you’re giving notice of course, I couldn’t go and marry somebody in Yorkshire, but I could in Wessex. So you can when you give notice, if you know a local registrar that you’d like to marry, you can ask for them. No guarantee you’ll get them. 

Carly: [00:20:08] Yeah exactly. 

Tanya: [00:20:11] But you don’t know until the day who you’ve got. 

Carly: [00:20:19] I got married in a chapel in Vegas so we had no real you know, rehearsals because in ours, we said to them, we’re not really bothered about… We don’t want to do personal vows. I cry at anything so I was like, this is never going to happen.

And so we said look, we just want a really plain ceremony. Nice, but just no kind of lavishness. But this guy had such a strong accent when he married us that at one point I didn’t actually know what he said. And he was asking me to repeat it. We have a video of it and it’s actually hilarious. But you just think if we’d have had a rehearsal, this would have been fine. And we still say it to each other now because I thought he said “I’m a bear”. He did not say “I am bear”. But now me and my husband say it to each other. It’s hilarious but I had no idea what this guy said to me. And that sort of thing is so easily avoided if you just get to know the person that you’re dealing with. It’s quite important. 

Terry: [00:21:27] One of the advantages of you getting married in church, at least you do get a rehearsal. I did, and we cracked up. He made us face each other to say our vows. 

Carly: [00:21:38] I mean I didn’t know if I’d get all the way through it, I thought I’d either begin to cry or die laughing. I don’t know which. 

Terry: [00:21:44] I did on the day but he said just get that out of the way today. 

James: [00:21:49] Fantastic so any other questions for Tanya about wedding celebrants? 

Terry: [00:21:58] Nope I was going to ask the same question, but we got that answered. 

James: [00:22:04] Right. Well I suppose that’s all we’ve got time for today guys cos I’m starting to look like a deleted scene from The Blair Witch Project. 

Carly: [00:22:14] I’ve got all of your light. That’s what’s actually going on here. 

James: [00:22:18] You’ve stolen the limelight Carly. Well it’s been a very, very, very good Meet Up today. I think there’s lots and lots of great stuff covered there. Certainly a lot of good information for people so definitely, definitely, definitely some really great Weducation there. Thank you very much. 

Terry: [00:22:41] Can I just say one thing before we go. You did mention about the timescale for booking things. I did post on my Facebook page a list of everything that you need to do for the wedding, and when you need to do it. So it’s a good idea to go and have a look at that, so that people have an idea of when they should be starting and which are the most important things to do in the first place. And it gives you a timescale all the way up to the wedding. 

James: [00:23:14] That’s on your Facebook page? 

Terry: [00:23:20] That’s my Facebook page, yeah. I’ll repost it on there and then you can see it then. 

James: [00:23:30] Okay well if you’ve been watching, thanks very much for watching us, we hope you’ve learned some fantastic stuff there, we certainly have, some surprise moments. A huge thank you to my lovely hosts Tanya, Carly and Terry. Thanks for the time, and thanks for sharing your Weducation. I’m sure people will find great value in all of that. And so that just leaves me to say remember everybody that you are just one inspiration away and we hope to see you again next time on our next Wedding Espresso meet up. So bye from all of us. 

Carly: [00:24:00] Bye. 

Tanya: [00:24:00] Bye. 

Terry: [00:24:00] Bye. 

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