Wednesday 21 September 2016

What Should You Ask a Celebrant ... BEFORE You Hire Them?

Now that the wedding season for 2016 is starting to slow down a bit, many couples are thinking about organising weddings for next year or beyond. And finding a Celebrant to officiate the ceremony is likely at the top of most lists.

Your ceremony is the most significant event in your life at this time and, in a way, you are asking someone to 'hold your heart' while they tell your story, which you hope will be in a beautiful, meaningful and passionate way.

What are YOUR questions?

Here are some of the things many couples wonder about when they research Celebrants and begin the process of enquiring about their services. Perhaps you'll find some of your answers here!

I want someone who will 'tell our story' in a meaningful way. How will you do that?

This is such an important occasion in your life and the person responsible to officiate must be able to do so with professionalism, with the right level of emotion, as well as with an understanding and an empathy for the story being told on your behalf. You might gain an idea of someone's style by speaking with them or meeting with them before you make a decision.

It is very important to me that I get to know both of you, and learn as much as I can about your family and friends before I write your ceremony. With this perspective, I can write in a style that will suit your personalities, as well as meet your expectations of what will be said in the ceremony on the day.

I would like someone with a lovely voice, clear and easy to listen to; someone who captivates our guests. What do people say about your speaking voice and how do you engage an audience?

Similar to the above response, you will gain a good feeling about a Celebrant by speaking with them, either by phone, by Skype, or in a face-to-face meeting. A Celebrant should always be willing to accommodate this request before expecting you to book with them. You will also want to have a sense for whether the Celebrant will be 'performing' or whether their personality and style will blend well into the ceremony.

My clients all tell me they love the tone of my voice. I have a soft American accent (Californian), which is very appealing in this British culture. I am told often that my voice is captivating and that it is a great style for story-telling - and let's face it! Telling your story is what will make your ceremony unique!

Why do you enjoy your role as a Celebrant?

This is a good question to ask because you likely want a Celebrant who believes in the joy, love and emotion of your occasion in the same way that you do. This is an extremely reasonable expectation, and while it may not be possible to fully know a Celebrant's background or current personal
   circumstances, a comfort level should come through
   during your initial contact and subsequent meetings. If
   you do not feel that the Celebrant you are interviewing has
   the level of empathy and/or emotion that you desire, then
   they are not the right person for you.

   I created my vocation as a Celebrant because I
   delight in celebrating occasions and special
   moments in life; I believe it is so important to
   mark our experiences especially when they are so

I want a Celebrant who is organised and who we can trust to be punctual and prepared on the day. How do you organise your clients and your workload, particularly during peak season?

Great question! How a Celebrant first contacts you, and what they say and provide as resources is a very good indicator of their general professionalism and organisation. A Celebrant should reply to your query within 48 hours or sooner; if they cannot reply in depth then at least an acknowledgement should be sent. Their reply email should be fairly indepth, attempting to answer some of your initial questions. Their reply should provide you with a good glimpse into how they run their business and how serious they are about wanting to take you on as a client. For example, the Celebrant should explain their process, what they expect from you in terms of payment schedule, offer insight into what you can expect when you work with them, and highlight any resources they will share with you when you book their services. Following on from that, when you pay a booking fee or deposit, the Celebrant should email you a 'receipt' straight away upon receipt of the funds. You should never have to chase a Celebrant for things like receipts, nor should you have to chase a Celebrant about writing your ceremony draft; they should be on top of that and should be communicating with you closer to the date.

I thrive on being prepared and early! I always arrive at the venue 30-60 minutes ahead of time, and I always prepare a playlist of the wedding music on my own iPad as a back up (there is nothing more stressful than someone forgetting the music on the day)!

I want a Celebrant I can trust and who will make my event a priority. What happens if, for some reason, you are unable to attend our occasion on the day?

A trustworthy Celebrant will be clear about their terms and conditions, and those should be printed on the booking form that you will sign. You have every right to know what alternative plans will be made should the person you hire not be available on the day. And the reason for a Celebrant to not be available should be dire (such as a severe illness, an accident preventing them from travelling, a family emergency, and so on). The Celebrant you hire should be able to offer you alternative plans as assurance that your ceremony will take place despite their presence. Fortunately, by the time the day of your ceremony arrives, your ceremony will have been written, approved by you and finalised. So, the first alternate plan is for your Celebrant to arrange for another Celebrant from their organisation to fill in on the day. If that is not achievable, then the Celebrant should refund the final balance, with the understanding that you find another Celebrant, or you can secure a friend or family member to officiate the ceremony for you.

I network frequently with other Celebrants and I have my own list of Celebrants who have a similar style to my own, and whose intentions and ethics match my level of working with people. 

We want our ceremony to be very traditional so our guests feel they are attending a Civil Ceremony. Will a you be able to create a ceremony so that everyone thinks this is the 'real' legal ceremony?

This is one of the most common requests. Couples are warming to the idea of completing their legal ceremony at the register office ahead of the wedding ceremony, but often couples want their guests to feel they are attending the actual legal ceremony. A Celebrant-led ceremony is not a legal event, however most components of the legal ceremony can be included. This is a perfect option because couples can have a 'traditional' ceremony, while personalising it with more romance, with more of a focus on the couple, and with any religious or non-religious content they desire. The Ceremony can also include readings, singing (if desired), symbolic gestures, vows (traditionally repeated or spoken to each other), ring promises, and so on.

We want our ceremony to be non-traditional, laid back and unique to us, without the standard components of a civil ceremony. Will a Celebrant be able to create this?

This is an equally common request. Many couples see a Celebrant-led ceremony as an acknowledgement of their legal ceremony. Some refer to this as a Marriage blessing or a Commitment Ceremony. In this case, the couple decides which components of a ceremony they wish to include, plus the addition of any symbolic gestures they desire (e.g.  Sand Ceremony, Marriage Box, Hand-Fasting, Ring Warming, Candle Lighting etc.).

I have never been short on ideas! I am an excellent resource for ways to make your ceremony special and unique!

Some of our family are quite religious. Is there any way to include something that can honour their beliefs without compromising our preference for a non-religious ceremony?

I am often asked to write special prayers or blessings that can be offered during a ceremony. Sometimes I am asked to include standard prayers from the couple's faith. In a Celebrant-led ceremony, you can include anything that you desire. The decision is yours and your Celebrant should honour those wishes without hesitation. I have officiated wedding ceremonies with leaders of other faiths joining in by offering prayers (e.g rabbis, vicars, etc.) and wedding ceremonies influenced by various cultures (e.g. Hindu, Chinese, Spanish, Scottish, Korean, and so on). And at other weddings that have had a Buddhist influence, I have officiated a blessing to meet those beliefs.  Whatever the wishes of the couple, those can be honoured.

We would like to involve our children in some way. Is this something we can do?

Including children in a ceremony is lovely and there are many ways this can be achieved. Many of the symbolic gestures that I will share with you can be adapted to include children, particularly one like the Sand Ceremony where each person in the family can have their own unique coloured sand to blend together with the others. There are many ways that children can be included so be sure to explore those ideas with your Celebrant.

Do our guests need to know that we had our legal ceremony on a different day? We'd prefer to keep that private.

No need whatsoever for your guests to know when you completed your legal ceremony. The wedding ceremony will be officiated as a traditional Civil Ceremony if that is your wish. While I am present as a Celebrant and not a Registrar, there is no reason why the wedding ceremony cannot mirror a traditional ceremony on the day.

I want to include a new tradition. Is that something we can do?

Absolutely! The beauty of a celebrant-led ceremony is that you can include any new traditions or existing family traditions in the ceremony. This is the perfect occasion to start a new tradition or to blend cultures if that suits your family.

I was brought up Christian but not do not go to church any more. Can we still have some prayers in our ceremony?

Yes, as mentioned above, I am often asked to write special prayers or blessings that can be offered during a ceremony. Sometimes I am asked to include standard prayers from the couple's faith. In a Celebrant-led ceremony, you can include anything that you desire. The decision is yours and your Celebrant should honour those wishes without hesitation.

What do you generally wear to officiate ceremonies?

I always check about any theme or particular colours that the bridal party will wear because I want to be sure that the colours I choose on the day complement the general colour scheme. I tend to wear outfits that blend in well, the sort of outfits I might wear to a wedding as a guest. I personally prefer not to wear suits as it is not my particular style.

Can we have our wedding ceremony outdoors? In a field or at the seaside? In the woods or in a park? In my family's garden. In a favourite pub or place of interest?

Yes, anywhere! You can choose to hold your wedding ceremony anywhere you like, and that includes all locations that are not licensed. Since this is not the legal ceremony, you are not restricted to following strict regulations. As long as the venue you choose is receptive to the idea of organising the space for a ceremony, then you can hold your ceremony there. The only advice that I will offer is that if you choose an outdoor venue (and many couples have their hearts set on an outdoor wedding), please consider alternative plans should the weather not cooperate. A small drizzle or occasional shower is fine, but if the day is blustery and stormy, then you'll want to be under cover. This can be achieved either by arranging with the venue to use a room on the day, or using a marquee for the ceremony, which can then be reset for the meal and entertainment portion of the day.

Can we have any theme we want for our Ceremony? Will a Celebrant cooperate or do we have to follow specific guidelines?

   Yes, of course! If there is a particular message or theme
   you wish your ceremony to portray, then the Celebrant
   should work with you to achieve that. And this can be
   written into the Ceremony script as well, especially if there
   are any passages or readings that are theme-oriented. If
   your theme includes fancy dress, then you can also
   ask the Celebrant if they would cooperate by dressing in a
   particular way on the day in honour of the theme. Most
   should be willing to accommodate that wish.

What questions do you have about hiring a Celebrant?

For answers to your questions about hiring a Celebrant, contact me and I'm happy to offer you some guidance! or

Saturday 17 September 2016

What Should You Expect From a Celebrant?

What Should You Expect From a Celebrant?

This is 'your' event, so always ask questions that are important to you!

~  Do they offer information and resources that are helpful in planning your ceremony? And do they provide a vast range of materials and informative documents to assist you in planning your ceremony, including a choice of readings, suggestions for music, an overview of various symbolic gestures to consider, and sample vows and ring promises?

~  Do they seem organised, professional and well seasoned as a Celebrant?

~  How devoted will they be? For example, will they book other ceremonies before or after yours? (This is important because life, being what it is, isn't always 'on time' and some delays are unexpected. You want a Celebrant who is devoted to your  occasion without causing you the added stress of having to be perfectly punctual.)

~  Do they include any little 'extras' in their fee such as a commemorative certificate, a beautifully prepared commemorative copy of your ceremony for your memory box, specially prepared cards with vows printed?

~  Do they arrive early, tend to your guests, and brief the bridal party on the day?

~  Will they make themselves available for a rehearsal ahead of your ceremony?

~  Will they liaise with the venue ahead of time?

~  Are they tolerant of various photographic arrangements and requirements?

A phone conversation with a Celebrant is a great way to assess their speaking skills and how they organise their thoughts on the spot. You'll get a good sense for their warmth, sincerity and professionalism, as well as how effectively they give you a strong image about what might take place on the day.

We all have certain expectations as well as many gaps about what a Celebrant can offer us, so your first interaction with a Celebrant is very important in either giving you a strong comfort level with their style, or it will raise some flags about how well they may (or may not) work with you.

Next at Ellen Bower Ceremonies: What Should You Ask a Celebrant before you hire them?

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