The beauty of a Celebrant-led wedding is that you can have exactly the kind of ceremony you want – in exactly the same way you choose how to dress, what to eat and who to invite. You are able to break free from the confines of what is (and isn’t) permitted as part of a religious or registrar-led service.
By way of an example, I was honoured to officiate the wedding for the delightful Toni and Joe on the edge of the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex.
Everything about the space was personal to the couple.
The venue, Nutley Edge, was the wonderful 17th century farmhouse – and not-for-profit enterprise – where Toni worked.
The marquee was supplied by Mid-Sussex Marquees, a business owned by Joe.
The decorations were created and set up by Toni with the expert help of her mother and Joe's, including 200 metres of homemade bunting!
The ceremony space overlooked the 11-acre site which, at the time, was home to the couple’s own flock of sheep.
The ceremony was equally personal and, like every service I write as an Independent Celebrant, was entirely bespoke to them and included lots about how they met and fell in love:
Walking down the aisle, Joe was accompanied by his mum and Toni by her dad…between the hay bales to the flower arch altar.
A commemorative certificate was signed to the unconventional love song "Birds", by Kate Nash.
There was a simple hand-fasting to symbolise the couple“tying the knot" after the exchange of rings and vows, with the pronouncement, "You may kiss the groom", as opposed to the traditional invitation to “kiss the bride”.
Oh, and lest I forget, the couple’s sense of humour and love of animals also shone through when it came to the presentation of rings.
The accompanying music was, "You’ve Got a Friend in Me" by Rex Orange County (the theme tune to the Toy Story movies).
The ring bearer was Bob “La Pecora”– a friendly and very behaved member of their own flock! And if that wasn’t enough, he was escorted by the best man – Shaun. Yes…Shaun and the sheep!!
It was the perfect balance of a traditional country wedding and a heart-warming ceremony, injected with the couple’s personal story and a generous helping of their fun-loving humour.
For me, the icing on the cake came from one lovely guest who asked how long I had been friends with the couple because, he said “the service was so warm and reflected them both so well.”
That’s the best compliment you can receive as a Celebrant. Acknowledgment of the time spent with the couple talking about their relationship and weaving it into something that feels like it has been written by a close friend.
Discussing the staging and rehearsing the ceremony with key players – not least Bob the sheep – also paid dividends with everything running smoothly on the day.
So, as you plan your big day, don’t reduce the personalisation of your ceremony to colour of the flowers and a few post-it notes on the officiant’s standard script. Remember that with a Celebrant-led wedding you can include whatever and whoever you like in your special day…even your favourite sheep!
Photographs by kind permission of Claudine Rosendale
Karen Abi-Karam is an Independent Celebrant who conducts bespoke and heartfelt wedding ceremonies for couples who want their personalities to shine through…and care about the words they use.
Read Karen's profile here
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