Sunday 10 December 2017

The Wisdom of Sorrow

I'm so pleased to introduce my debut as a resident blogger for The Celebrant Directory!

As a Wedding, Family and Funeral Celebrant, I am greatly privileged to be part of some of life's most meaningful and emotional moments with some of the loveliest people. Sometimes those moments are joyful and sometimes those moments are filled with sorrow.

This first article is born from such an experience and it is a personal story of mine about officiating the funeral by a stillborn baby who was otherwise fully healthy in the womb.

These words may trigger emotions, and if they do then it is my hope that those emotions take you further along the journey of healing.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Invite Your Guests to 'Bless' and 'Warm' Your Rings

Have you ever wished you could somehow involve your guests in your Wedding or Vow Renewal Ceremony, and in a way that was meaningful and tasteful? 

Many couples I work with like the idea of including a symbolic gesture in their ceremony, but they aren't entirely comfortable with anything too dramatic, wanting to keep the experience of their ceremony somewhat traditional but with a personal touch.

The perfect way to achieve this is through a suggestion I refer to as a Ring Warming or a Ring Blessing. If the couple is exchanging rings, this is the perfect way to involve guests. It is a very loving and gentle way for guests to offer their hopes, wishes and blessings for the couple's marriage, with very little fuss. 

During a Ring Warming ceremony, the couple's wedding rings are passed around to the guests, on a cushion or in a special decorative pouch or box. I instruct each guest to hold the rings for a few seconds, silently offering their wishes, hopes, prayers for the couple. 

I like to put the best man/best woman or another responsible person in charge of making sure the rings are back well ahead of when they are needed in the ceremony. By the time the vows are ready to be said, and the rings exchanged, the rings have made their way around the room amongst the guests, passed from row to row, and all of the loved ones in attendance have given their own personal 'blessing'.
Alternatively, in a space that is less structured with rows, such as an outdoor wedding in the forest, or at the seaside, the rings can be passed from guest to guest along ribbons or sections of string that are woven between the guests. The rings remain safe because they are 'travelling' through the ribbons from person to person so there is no danger of them sinking into the sand, the sea or the floor of the forest! 
If you like the idea of a Ring Warming, but do not want your rings passed from guest to guest, another option is to have the rings displayed at the ceremony entrance. As guests make their way to their seat, they can stop for a brief moment, hold the rings, offer their blessings, replace the rings, and then find their seat. With this option, I ask one of the ushers, or a family member or friend, to greet guests at the entrance and explain the request.
When it comes time for the couple to exchange rings, I remind them that not only are the rings precious because they are a gift that the couple are exchanging with each other on their wedding day, but they are made even more precious because the rings now contain the heartfelt wishes and blessings of every guest in attendance.
It is such a lovely way to include guests, and an even lovelier way to add sentiment and meaning to an already beautiful ceremony!
Check out my profile on The Celebrant Directory, a new resource for helping you hire the perfect celebrant for your ceremony! While you're there, browse through the fantastic articles and inspirational ideas!  The Celebrant Directory

Thursday 6 July 2017

Amanda Found Her Dream Venue (But It Isn't Licensed!)

"Everything is falling into place so perfectly!", Amanda thought with a certain element of excitement, And relief. Amanda had always wanted to be married in September, her favourite month of the year. She has already purchased her dream wedding dress, one she has had her heart set on wearing for ages. Her closest friends are all excited to be part of her wedding party; even her best friend,  her Maid of Honour, will be home from her overseas work assignment in time for the wedding. Her dream venue is available on the day that she and her fiancé wish to be married. It is an idyllic venue, a fabulous, rustic barn surrounded by acres of the most gorgeous and lush gardens. It was like something out of a movie set. Amanda almost couldn't believe how well her plans are coming together.

She visited the venue, intending to finalise her commitment and make the deposit. While walking around the grounds with the on-site wedding coordinator, discussing general ideas for the celebration, Amanda is almost overcome by how fortunate she is to be getting married here, at this stunning place. "The gardens are perfect for the ceremony, everything I imagined for a beautiful wedding", Amanda says with a great big smile on her face. "Where will we stand with the Registrar, at the top of the garden?" she asks.

"Oh", the wedding coordinator replied, "We're not licensed at this venue so you can't actually have a legal ceremony here".

Amanda felt as though her dream was crushed. She had her heart set on this location for the ceremony and the celebration afterwards. She absolutely loved this venue; she had been thinking about it ever since she got engaged. She felt drained of the joy that surrounded her just a moment ago. She just couldn't imagine starting the process over again in order to find another location. She wanted to be married at this venue, in these gardens, in that barn.

Completely upset, Amanda called her Maid of Honour. Kate was the perfect friend to talk with right now, she always had a sensible approach to things. Amanda was in such a state of despair when she told Kate about this sudden glitch in her wedding plans.

"Amanda, stop worrying! You can still have your wedding there. Just hire a Celebrant to write and officiate a personalised ceremony on the day. You can schedule a brief legal ceremony at the Register Office a day or so beforehand, and then on your wedding day, you can have the wedding ceremony of your dreams with a Celebrant officiating!" Kate sounded so certain about all of this but it was complete news to Amanda and her head was spinning a bit with Kate's words. She had no idea that this option even existed in the UK. Every wedding she had been to was either in a church, or a Civil Ceremony officiated by a Registrar at licensed venue.

"But that feels a bit odd, getting married beforehand and then getting married again at the venue. Is that even legitimate?", Amanda asked, still intrigued by Kate's idea but unsure how it all worked.

"It's not odd at all", Kate replied, "and it's completely legitimate! I know a lovely couple who got married in a Celebrant ceremony a few months ago, and it was such an amazing ceremony. In fact, I'm sure they'll be happy to talk with you and pass along the details of the Celebrant they hired. They were thrilled with the idea that they could co-write the ceremony exactly as they wanted it to be - there were no surprises on the day because they got to edit the whole ceremony. They even included a beautiful symbolic gesture after their vows and ring ceremony - it was so lovely and emotional - and the Celebrant did a beautiful job of personalising the ceremony to make it completely about them. They were even able to write their own vows and choose exactly the music and the readings they wanted to include. You won't find that sort of personalisation and flexibility in a civil ceremony."

"Wow, I had no idea", Amanda said, thoughtful for a long moment and then added, "But did it seem like an actual wedding, you know, with all the traditional aspects of a civil ceremony? I don't want it to just be like a party, I want it to be like a proper wedding. I want my guests to feel they are attending a real wedding".

Kate jumped in quickly. "Amanda, it was exactly like a civil ceremony, only better I think, because it was a traditional wedding that was so personal to the couple. Everyone who was there couldn't stop talking about how lovely it was, and how sentimental and personal the words were, and how it was the most beautiful wedding they had ever attended. You won't be disappointed and it will be a day that will be remembered by everyone as something very special and memorable."

Amanda was getting excited now, and the despair she was feeling only moments ago had ebbed. "Okay! So what do I have to do then?"

Kate had all the advice Amanda needed to start the process. "Well, you know that you can book the venue because you know it's available on the date you want, so talk with the coordinator there and tell them that you want to have a marriage celebration beforehand, some people call it a marriage blessing, and you'd like the garden to be arranged for that. As long as they aren't expecting you to hold the 'legal' ceremony there, they'll be very happy to accommodate you - it's a win-win for all of you", Kate said.

And that is exactly what Amanda did. She and her fiancé booked a small, private legal ceremony that was held at their local Register office a few days before their wedding ceremony at the venue. They brought their parents along as witnesses and then had a lovely lunch out together afterwards. They didn't even exchange their wedding rings on that day because they wanted to save that as a special moment in their wedding ceremony.

They had to choose from standard vows for the civil ceremony, but for their wedding ceremony, they could write their own vows to each other. Amanda wanted to include a reading as well, and she was able to choose anything she wanted without being restricted by the content. She and her fiancé also decided to include a 'Ring Warming' and their rings were passed around, tied onto a little white cushion, from guest to guest during the ceremony. Each person held them in their hands for a moment and silently put their love, blessings, wishes, prayers, and hopes into the rings for the couple, before passing them along to the next guest. It was such a lovely choice and their guests were delighted to be able to be part of the ceremony that way.

Amanda and her fiancé did, in fact, have an absolutely beautiful personalised wedding ceremony, on the day of their choosing, at the venue they desired. And they had their legal ceremony as a quiet affair just days before. They had the best of both worlds!

And. It. Was. A. Perfect. Day.

Amanda's story highlights a rapidly growing, and very popular trend developing in how couples are choosing to design their wedding ceremony. No longer is it expected that couples must adhere to strict rules and perspectives imposed by others around when and where they can hold their wedding ceremony.

Interestingly, when a child is born, their birth is not legally registered on the same day of their birth. When someone passes away, their death is not legally registered on the day they died. So, it stands that when a couple has a wedding ceremony, that does not need to be on the same day that they completed their legal paperwork.

A wedding is not an occasion that comes along frequently in life, so it stands to reason that a couple should be able to design their special day according to how 'they' wish it to be, not around restrictions and guidelines that are influenced by outsiders who aren't personally invested in the couple. The greater portion of a Wedding Ceremony should be about the couple, the love they share, the strength of their relationship, their intentions in honouring their marriage, their ambitions as a married partnership.

Some couples will arrange to have a quiet legal civil ceremony in a church or temple first, rather than with a Registrar - it depends on their personal preference. Either way, the legal portion of a marriage is properly completed and then a couple are completely free to plan a celebration of that marriage in any way they wish, and in a way that honours what they believe, as well as taking their personalities and their expectations into consideration.

As a celebrant, my job is to work with you to write, design and officiate a bespoke, personalised, completely meaningful, beautifully orchestrated wedding ceremony - precisely how you wish it to be on the day. I provide you with a wealth of comprehensive wedding ceremony planning resources and between us, we will create, literally, the perfect wedding ceremony for you!

You get to tell me how you wish the ceremony to be -  not the other way around. Do you want the ceremony to be more traditional? Or, do you wish it to be as simple as possible? Do you want your ceremony to be unique to your personalities, or do you want to create a special theme for your ceremony, perhaps based on a favourite pastime? Do you want to include any family traditions or cultural gestures in your ceremony? Perhaps you want a blend of all of those options? You can include symbolic gestures, or not. You can include spiritual or religious elements, or not. Your Wedding Ceremony should be designed entirely with your wishes at the forefront.

And most important, you can hold your wedding ceremony absolutely anywhere you wish ~ in a family garden, at a national park, at the seaside, in a pub or restaurant, at an historic home, in a field, on a mountain, at a lakeside, atop a landmark building, in a barn, in a teepee, at a campsite, in an orchard, by a river, at a waterfall, on a boat, in a forest.

The beauty of a Celebrant-led wedding ceremony is that you can choose anywhere you wish for your venue. As it's not the legal event, you are not restricted in any way as to content or location (though some public locations might like you to let them know if you plan to have a ceremony in the area).

For more information, visit my website at Ellen Bower Ceremonies! If you'd like more perspective on how a bespoke ceremony can be arranged, completely without obligation, get in touch via my website. Or visit my Facebook Page.