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Time to shine: Carly Petracco

Posted by Debbie Skyrme on Monday 27th April 2020
Time to shine: Carly Petracco

The second in our series of interviews to shine a spotlight on Celebrants around the world, focuses on a team of 11 multilingual Celebrants led by American born Carly Petracco in Portugal.

1. ‘We all have our own reasons for starting up one of the best businesses out there! What inspired you to start your celebrant business?’

I actually never believed in marriage and even told my now-husband this on our first date. He isn't the kind to give up easily and when he asked me to marry him three years later I said yes. But the thing is, I am American, he is Portuguese and we were living in London at the time. We didn't know how to include everyone, so we decided to have 3 weddings in three countries. (I don't actually recommend this solution!)

We did the legal bit at Westminster City Hall then went to the pub with our friends.
For our next two weddings, we decided that we still wanted to have ceremonies, but we didn't know how to go about combining our languages, cultures, and personalities. We started from scratch and had to figure it out.

Once that was over I realized that I had a lot of knowledge that other, multilingual and multicultural couples could benefit from. So the year after our weddings I started Your European Wedding Celebrant. It was initially just something on the side of my job as a consulting economist. Then in 2018 I decided to go all in. My team now includes 10 other celebrants from 8 different countries, all bilingual and living multicultural lives here in Portugal.

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2. ‘What do you love most about being a celebrant?’

Stories. At its core, our job is to tell stories and to do that well means we have to be able to listen, ask questions, and read between the lines of stories. I have heard beautiful tales of romantic proposals, heart-breaking stories of time spent apart, personal tragedies overcome, and belly-achingly, funny accounts of first encounters. All of these stories I deeply cherish, along with the implicit responsibility that comes with having a story shared and then sharing that story on someone's behalf.

Photo by Tiago Silva min2

Photo: Tiago Silva

3. ‘There are so many exciting ways to personalise a ceremony. What are your favourite elements to include?’

I love when couples come to me and say they want to include a ritual in their ceremony, but they can't stomach the idea of having their friends watch yet another sand ceremony or handfasting. That is the moment when I start to salivate because it means we get to work together to create something entirely new!

For example, I had this incredible couple, Tania and Ken. Tania from Canada and Ken from Belgium, they now live in Switzerland where they are agents for football players. They told me all about their life, which is made up of very strong familial connections, friends who are family to them, and enjoying life to the fullest, usually in the shape of a shot of Jager.

When we got to talking about their ceremony they mentioned that they wanted to include a part where glass got mixed together. They liked this idea because they adored hand-blown glass art. We could have just done a variation on the sand ceremony, with the two of them mixing different colors of glass together. However, given how important all of their guests were to them, I thought it would be fun to include everyone. Below is the description of the set up for the ceremony and then the script that I read around the ceremony.

At the entrance to the ceremony, there was a small table with a large, empty vase, around that were shot glasses filled with broken glass of different colors. Myself and the wedding planner were there to greet the guests and invite them to pour a shot of the broken glass into the vase. We promised all would be revealed during the ceremony, which had everyone intrigued. Once all the guests were seated I proceeded to the ceremony space with the vase full of broken glass, along with two more shot glasses. When it came time, this is what I said...

"Tania and Ken, before I pronounce you married, there is one last thing we must do. Upon everyone’s arrival, you were asked to pour a shot of broken glass into the container that now sits beside T & K. You may have wondered what the devil was going on or why there were no jaggerbombs in those shot glasses, but worry not, your efforts were not in vain.

As I said before, everyone here is part of the life that Tania and Ken have built together and so it seems appropriate that all of you are now part of the art that Tania and Ken are creating. I do not use ‘art’ in the abstract, but in the very literal sense. At the end of this wedding ceremony, this vase of glass will be sent to a local glassblower who will take these broken and fragmented pieces and turn them into a work of art that will take a place of pride in Tania and Ken’s home and forever remind them of this day.

I think this is a beautiful analogy for life. Times come when everything around us feels broken and unsure, but with a little love (and a very hot furnace), something beautiful can be made. Tania and Ken, it is now your turn to pour the last bit of glass into this container. And I ask you, when your finished piece of art arrives to your home, that you promise to always look back on this day, remembering how, just like your art, it brought a little piece of everyone here together."

Photo by Instante Fotografia min

Photo credit: Instante fotografia

4. ‘I bet a few ceremonies just stand out as your favs. Can you let us know what one was and why it was so fabulous?' 

Marta and Edi's day takes the cake for the best ceremony location: in a hot air balloon near the Portuguese border with Spain. On a beautiful day in early November during the Portuguese Balloon Festival the three of us, plus our photographer and two cameramen from local news outlets ascended above the rolling hills of the Alentejo region of Portugal. High above on a cloudless day we floated through the sky while I delivered a ceremony that was inspired by adventure. That day still gives me the chills when I think about it.

5. ‘You write your ceremonies from scratch from your couple or families personal stories, right? What was the most unusual story you’ve had to tell?'

Karen and Neill are this amazing Irish couple that I had the privilege to meet and learn their love story. Their first meeting was pretty normal, they met in a pub when Karen bumped past Neill on the way to the bar and he noticed her accent. They were soon booted from the pub, but started talking and decided to meet up the next day. I'll let this excerpt from their ceremony explain their second encounter...

"What you talked about during that second encounter, we will never know, but that wasn’t important, what was important was that you talked, and you talked, and you talked. You both spoke of how easy it was to be with each other and to talk to each other, even from the very beginning. Neill you confessed to me that at the second meeting you discovered that Karen was even more beautiful than you remembered from the night before, so there was no doubt about your answer when she asked you to walk her home.

Though romantic in plan, that walk home turned out to be a little misguided, when almost to Karen’s place she remembered that she had moved out of there a little while before and was actually living a couple of miles up the road. No matter, because as you waited for the cab, kindly flagged down for you by a local prostitute, you had your first kiss under the moonlight."

Photo by The Framers min

Photo and banner credit: The Framers

6. ‘If you could give one piece of advice to a couple when it comes to planning their ceremony, what would it be?'

Don't worry about making your family happy! If they really love you, then they will be happy if you are happy on your wedding day. I'm not suggesting you go out of your way to offend people, but I see couples who are preoccupied with the wrong things. They wonder whether their ceremony is religious enough for their parents (even though the couple isn't religious) or that it will be too different for their grandparents to understand. In every case when a couple worried about these things, after the ceremony they agreed that it wasn't important. Instead they were glowing from the compliments about how everyone loved the personal nature of their ceremony. Remember that your happiness is the focus of your ceremony and your day.


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Featured Celebrant: Carly Petracco

Featured Celebrant: Carly Petracco

Born in the United States, Carly came to Europe a decade ago as an Economist for the United Nations. After meeting her Portuguese husband in Italy, her views on marriage changed and she had not one, but three wedding celebrations. Since then Carly had been officiating wedding ceremonies across Europe from her home in Portugal. Since its founding in 2015, Your European Wedding Celebrant has grown to a team of 11 bilingual wedding celebrants from 8 countries, who have conducted ceremonies in Portugal, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Croatia. Their mission is to create wedding ceremonies as unique as the love of each couple.

Read Carly's profile here

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