What’s a celebrant and why have one for your wedding? - Guest Blog from Celebrant in Cornwall
When we think about planning a wedding, let’s face it, the ceremony is often way down the list of priorities after the venue, the dress, the catering and the photographer! And even then, you will probably only consider two options – the church ceremony or the registrar option – whether that’s having your wedding ceremony in the register office or having a registrar visit your licenced venue.
There IS another option – and it’s one increasing in popularity – particularly this year when Covid-19 has forced couples think a little outside the box!
So what is a celebrant?
A celebrant creates and delivers personal, meaningful and totally bespoke celebratory ceremonies for those couples wanting a completely unique and authentic wedding experience. Currently in England this ceremony is not legally recognised, so it is an addition to the legal ceremony - which you can do quickly and cheaply in a 15 minute appointment at a Register Office - but we are hopeful there is legislation afoot which means independent celebrants may be able to lead legal weddings in the future!
Unlike a registrar, a celebrant is all about building a relationship with the couple from the get-go; I tailor the ceremony to meet the exact requirements of my couple, and I write in a deeply sincere style, which will fit with my couple’s values and lifestyle and reflects the individuality of their partnership. And part of my role is to bring new ideas and a fresh energy to the day, so it will be unlike any ceremony that guests have seen before!
So a celebrant ceremony is quite different to a legal wedding ceremony?
Absolutely. In the legal wedding there is a script, with set phrases and words you must state in which to be legally married. There are also limitations as to what can be included in the content of the ceremony, as well as when and where it can happen. The registrars are likely to be attending many ceremonies that day (I know, I used to be one!); you won’t meet them before the event, you won’t have established a relationship with them and they won’t have the flexibility of hanging around for the sun to come about, or to wait for Auntie Carol and Uncle John who are stuck on the A30.
I always say to my couples, and it’s very much my humble opinion of course, a wedding day shouldn’t be about standing quietly in front of a suited official, repeating the statutory wording and signing the legal paperwork. I don’t think it should be about rules and judgement, or be based on a script with limited options from which to choose the very words that bind you together. To me, that’s just wedding admin, and you can do that in advance of your celebratory event. A wedding day should be joyful, fun, flexible, creative and expressive - and truly celebrate love, commitment, friendship and family. And a ceremony led by an independent celebrant will give you just that!
So how can you personalise wedding ceremonies and maybe involve friends and family?
How this happens is very much up to the couple, but I am there to guide them with inspiration and ideas, including those for symbolism and ritual which they might not have previously considered, but will ensure their day truly reflects their personality.
These might include a handfasting – a simple but romantic ritual, dating back thousands of years, and from where we get the phrase ‘tying the knot’. The couple’s hands are bound together by rope, ribbons or even flowers, representing the binding of two lives together. Traditionally the couple would then stay tied together for the rest of their wedding celebration, but not many couples choose to do that these days!
It might include candle lighting - the couple have an individual candle which represents themselves. They can light it themselves or it can be lit by parents, close friends and passed to them. They then merge their flames to light the unity candle, symbolising their union in marriage and the coming together of families. Their own candles remain lit. The unity candle is then kept, and lit on special occasions or anniversaries.
It could include a sand ceremony - where family members each have a vial of (different) coloured sand, and one by one they pour it into a central vessel, where it layers in different colours, representing the coming together of individuals into one family. Or the family members pour the sand simultaneously, causing the grains to blend and create a new colour, representing a new stage in life. The same ceremony can be performed with water (or even better, wine!), blending to symbolise the unification of a couple or family.
A ring blessing is another popular ritual – the couple’s wedding rings are passed from guest to guest during the ceremony, receiving their well wishes and blessings along the way. They are then returned to the couple who exchange them as a symbol of their love. Alternatively, you can set up a table at the entrance of your ceremony venue giving your guests an opportunity to ‘warm’ or bless the rings as they walk in - to avoid any disasters, the rings are usually secured to a piece of ribbon and fastened to a cushion, or placed in a box.
The rose ceremony is another favourite - the red rose, representing true love, is most frequently used in this ceremony but you could use whichever flower you choose, or even a variety, or one which has particular symbolism to you. The couple each has their own flower, which they first exchange with one another and then place in separate vases. Family and/or guests then add their flowers to a central vase. The ritual is completed by the couple adding there roses last to the central vase, symbolising the joining of two people and their families.
And there are many, many other ways you can personalise the ceremony – my job is identify the ideas and actions which best represent the couple!
And will it still feel like a wedding day?
Well that depends. If a wedding day to you is about solemnly signing a piece of paper in front of an official you’ve never met and are never likely to meet again, then no, it probably won’t feel much like a wedding
If it’s about standing up with the one you love, with a celebrant who has got to know you and is fully invested in making your ceremony the best it can possibly be, among all those people who are important to you, taking part in a ceremony in which anything goes and should make you laugh and cry, involving your friends, family and even furry ones, then yes, it will feel like a wedding day – but much, much more so!
Lisa Flahant is Celebrant in Cornwall – a vegan celebrant who specialises in creating memorable and unique wedding ceremonies, written from the heart and delivered with warmth, personality and sincerity. You can find out more at www.celebrantincornwall.co.uk