EXPERT ADVICE

FAQs and expert advice about celebrant

Here is a selection of Q&As from Your Surrey Wedding magazine whether it be about flowers, hair and makeup, fashion, wedding themes, health & beauty, cakes, stationery, legal advice. If you would like your question answered by our experts, please email it to editor@yoursurrey.wedding

The Story Of Us

The Story Of Us

Q What is your advice on taking the first steps in wedding planning?
A Janet Shell says: Many couples start by looking online or reading a wedding magazine, such as Your Surrey Wedding, so you've already come to the right place to get some specialist ideas!

Depending on your timescale, you'll want to decide on a venue and book in with the person who'll officiate the day for you. Options here include a religious ceremony, which you'll know about; a civil ceremony performed either at the local registry office for a small fee but with limited time and no spiritual elements; or a civil ceremony at the venue of your choice, generally for a much larger fee with the same scenario. In each of these cases you are legally wed but there are restrictions on content and time.

There is another option, which some venues don't make clear. That is to have the legal bit carried out a day or two beforehand and ask a celebrant to perform the ceremony for you on the date you booked to celebrate at your chosen venue. You can then include all the things you wish from great auntie Nellie doing cartwheels, to the music, words and readings you envision. You can have your own vows incorporated into the story of you and with a familiar face who you'll have liaised with already. There's no set scripts as yours will be individually crafted by your celebrant to celebrate you.

Janet Shell, Janet Shell Ceremonies

Bespoke ceremonnies

Bespoke ceremonnies

Q My partner and I have different backgrounds and cultures, how can we incorporate this into our wedding ceremony as we're feeling limited with the conventional offering from a registrar?
A Karen Dapson says: A celebrant-led ceremony can include absolutely anything that you want and there are no limitations to what you can do. Therefore this would be the ideal option in order to give you the freedom to include elements from your respective backgrounds in your very own, personally designed bespoke ceremony. A celebrant will strive to incorporate all your requests to fulfil your wishes by creating the perfect wedding day for you to remember forever. The only point that you will need to consider is that if you wish your marriage to fulfil the legal requirements required by law, then you will also need to organise a separate ceremony performed by a registrar.

Karen Dapson, Bespoke Ceremonies by Karen

Hop into spring

Hop into spring

Q My wife-to-be and I want a customised service for our spring-themed wedding and are thinking of booking a celebrant. Do you have any ideas on how we can incorporate our theme and make the day personal?
A Helen Noble says: Having a theme for a wedding can sound crazy to some as the wedding itself is the theme, yet having been in business for over a decade and planned my own wedding, trust me, a theme or baseline makes planning so much easier.

Spring is an excellent theme. The magic of a celebrant is that we get to celebrate your love through a bespoke script. We can talk about how the spring theme was a real inspiration, how this is a new chapter of your life, and we can tailor-make your choice of readings and music to reflect that exciting energy.

You could even rewind to Henry VII's days when he had Morris dancers to awaken the spring energy with their bells and sticks – whatever takes your fancy! Incorporating your theme to make the day more personal is precisely what having a celebrant-led ceremony is all about.

Helen Noble, Helen Noble Celebrant of Surrey

A perfect day

A perfect day

Q Our friends suggested we hire a celebrant to officiate our wedding, but we're not sure what to expect. What does a celebrant do?
A Rebecca Douglas says: Having a celebrant officiate your wedding is a great way of creating a personal and bespoke ceremony. It provides you with the freedom to choreograph something meaningful and individual to you, as well as being engaging for your guests as they won't have seen a ceremony like yours, even if they have been to other celebrant-led weddings.

When looking for a celebrant it's important to find one that shares your values, vision and possibly even your style. If you like modern and romantic, it would be pointless going for a quirky celebrant and vice versa.

Most suppliers should offer a free chat so you can see if your ideas flow and you like how they work. I like to work closely with my couples, meet them a few times and get to know them. I find the information I need by chatting with them, but some celebrants may send out questionnaires.

Find out if your celebrant is able to conduct a ritual for you, if this is something you want, as some do and some don't. They should have lots of ideas on how to help you create something that you and your partner will look back on for years to come and cherish.

Rebecca Douglas, RD Ceremonies

Love is all around

Love is all around

Q We're thinking of hiring a celebrant for our upcoming wedding. What should we take into consideration before booking?
A Helen Noble says: Treat your search for a celebrant like you would for your make-up artist or florist. Celebrants come from all sorts of different backgrounds, and it's their energy and style that are important. Once you like them and connect with them, the next step is checking the evidence. Do they have testimonials or blogs? Have they been in any media or publications? Do they have a YouTube channel? If research isn't really your bag, then dive straight in and give them a call. This is the best way to decide whether you should book them or not. Like a lot of wedding suppliers, we are creative people, and we are fuelled and driven by the clients we serve, so it's important you feel a connection before booking.

Helen Noble, Helen Noble Celebrant of Surrey

Just the two of us

Just the two of us

Q How can a celebrant make our ceremony extra special?
A Rebecca Douglas says: Having a celebrant write and deliver your ceremony means it has been created especially for you as a couple. Each of my ceremonies are completely bespoke and choreographed to fit your wishes. To legally marry in England and Wales you have to say two very simple statements which are very boring and unromantic. That means every civil ceremony sounds almost identical and has very little in terms of personalisation or flexibility. With a celebrant, you can marry anywhere and have your ceremony at any time.

You can include elements that are special to you, this could be nicknames, your love story, other members of your family, a keepsake that you always have with you, your children, or even your pet. The list can go on as there are no limits other than your imagination. A celebrant-led service is also special as you help to create it. You will work closely with your supplier to plan something that is both important and meaningful to you. You can choose to include any of the ceremonial aspects of a civil ceremony that you wish or if one doesn't suit your style, then there is no need to include it.

You should build a good relationship with your supplier through the several meetings you will have. They will be able to offer advice on different ways to make your wedding individual to you and will talk you through the day, helping to get rid of any performance anxiety that you may have. It's a fun experience to help create your own wedding ceremony, I did it and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Rebecca Douglas, RD Ceremonies

Sing for love

Sing for love

Q We want to incorporate our love of musicals into our ceremony. Do you have any ideas of how we could do this?
A Janet Shell says: A celebrant-led ceremony is the perfect way to incorporate your theme into your day. You could hire a singer to serenade the bride as she walks down the aisle or find a local barbershop quartet to sing during the signing of the certificate.

Alternatively, a harpist could play a medley as you both exit or it may be worth asking your celebrant to perform as a few of us are trained professional singers. I have been known to sing One hand, One Heart from West Side Story during a hand-fasting ceremony, and I'm planning to sing a bride down the aisle to I'm Kissing You with a string quartet accompaniment.

Do any of your guests have musical talents? If so, it's an ideal way for them to be a part of the day and create something memorable.

You can decorate your venue with musicial-inspired décor or have the bridesmaids and groomsmen dress in a particular style such as 1940s glamour. There are so many options, so if you're stuck for ideas, ask your celebrant for some suggestions.

Janet Shell, Janet Shell Ceremonies

Personal touches

Personal touches

Q We've just started wedding planning, and I'm slightly confused about what a celebrant does! Can you help?
A Rebecca Douglas says: It's not uncommon to feel confused when planning a wedding as there are so many choices. The main part of the day should be the ceremony, without it you would just be having a big party. There are several options available when it comes to your service if a religious venue isn't for you. A registrar, for example, will marry you in a licensed venue, but the ceremony is very prescriptive and doesn't allow much opportunity for personalisation, and any content you wish to add is heavily restricted. This can prevent including elements from your culture which may be important to you or your family as any religious content is not allowed. This is where a celebrant comes in. With an independent celebrant you can get married anywhere (obviously permission is needed from the owner), including a forest, a theatre or onboard a plane.

Your supplier will make the ceremony more personal and tailored to you and will be able to include any religious content. You can also include rituals, friends and family into your vows or even include your pet. There is much more freedom to make the ceremony about you.

A celebrant ceremony isn't legally binding, however, so you would be required to go to your local registry office to officially get married, but this is a small price to pay for the ceremony of your dreams.

Rebecca Douglas, RD Ceremonies

Treasured memories

Treasured memories

Q We're having a celebrant-led wedding and want to do something a bit different that will keep our guests talking. Do you have any suggestions?
A Janet Shell says: Each ceremony is as individual as the couple involved, so think about what you both what on the day. Here are a few suggestions:

As the guests arrive, have your rings available, and ask them to take a moment to hold the rings and imbue them with their love and wishes for you. Remember to keep the rings in a small pouch and pick somebody reliable to keep an eye on them at all times!

During the ceremony, a traditional handfasting is always a talking point. The celebrant talks everybody through the choices of colours, symbolising different qualities such as steadfastness, passion and honesty, and the couple can even say their vows while bound together. You could involve any children at the ceremony by having them bring up the ribbons/bindings/material one by one and presenting them.

Another fun thing to do is create a selfie at the end of the service with your guests in the background – this may be something your photographer can help facilitate.

Leading up to the ceremony, the celebrant can ask key guests to prepare a few words on what makes the couple special.

You could even abandon the traditional seating arrangement and go for a semi-circle to create a more informal feel.

Ask your celebrant if they have any ideas, and remember the only limit is your imagination.

Janet Shell, Janet Shell Celebrant

Especially for you

Especially for you

Q What questions should we ask a celebrant before booking?
A Rebecca Douglas says: Choosing a celebrant for your wedding will allow you to create a personal and bespoke ceremony, giving you the opportunity to include elements that are unique and special to you. There are many suppliers available and it's important therefore that you find one who you connect with, as they will be responsible for creating, what I consider, to be the most important part of your day. Without a ceremony, you are basically having a party in a very fancy frock! I would always suggest speaking with a celebrant before booking as this will give you a good insight into whether they have the same values as you and can see the vision you wish to create.

Find out what style they have, as some celebrants have a particular image. For me, however, the most important questions would include how do the celebrants work with their couples? Will they meet you before the ceremony or plan multiple visits? How much involvement can you have with ideas for the ceremony? Do they work from a script, or will what they write be personal to you? Find out if they can include any religious elements or rituals as some celebrants will do this and others may not.

The best advice I can give before you arrange a call with a celebrant is to decide, as a couple, what the most important parts of the ceremony are and what tone you are hoping to create. When chatting with a celebrant you will soon see if you're compatible.

Rebecca Douglas, RD Ceremonies

Just the two of us

Just the two of us

Q My hubby-to-be and I are looking for a celebrant to make our ceremony fun and personal. How do we find the perfect supplier?
A Rebecca Douglas says: To ensure you get the celebration you both want it's important to find a supplier that shares the same values as you. There are several ways to find a supplier, for example, search engines, wedding magazines, websites or The Celebrant Directory. I advise reading bios and visiting the websites of those you like so you get a feel for their style and how they work with couples. Each celebrant will differ in how they work or the style in which they conduct the ceremony. Some offer specialities such as rituals, outdoor weddings or a particular theme. Once you've looked at enough websites, organise a call with your top three and see who you click with best. It's important to have a good rapport with your supplier so you can be open with them. I meet with my couples after the initial phone call as I think it helps build the relationship, and I like to keep them involved when I am writing, so I can ensure I get everything spot on. One bride who contacted me used the same words to describe how she and her fiancé wanted their ceremony as I used to describe mine to the celebrant I chose, so we just clicked automatically. Whoever you choose though, I wish you a wonderful day and a lifetime of happiness.

Rebecca Douglas, RD Ceremonies

The love of my life

The love of my life

Q We want to write our wedding vows. Can you offer us any tips?
A Tony Dunne says: Writing your own vows can be daunting, but if you follow some simple guidelines, then it can be the emotional highlight of your ceremony. It's important to discuss your vows with your partner before you start composing them, so you can agree how long they should be, whether you would like them to include humour or to be traditionally sentimental.

Remember to be yourself. If you're a romantic person, then this is the time to be as affectionate as you wish, and don't forget to tell your partner what you love most about them.

Read your vows out loud a few times before the day to ensure you're very familiar with them, as you may be nervous on the day.

Finally, keep your vows secret from your partner until you're declaring them at the ceremony. This will heighten the emotion and love felt by both of you and your family and friends.

Tony Dunne, Stylish Celebrant

Planning SOS

Planning SOS

Q We've just started wedding planning, and I'm slightly confused about what a celebrant does! Can you help?
A Helen Noble says: The ceremony is the heart of the day, and a celebrant will set the vibe, tone and energy for the rest of your nuptials. A celebrant-led ceremony allows you to make it personalised, heartfelt, silly or fun. We bring your vision to life. We can weave your words and songs into a tailormade one-of-a-kind service. There are no rules, regulations or limits to what you can and can't include.

Your supplier will explore what you're about as a couple. What your hopes and aspirations are, so you can begin married life feeling happy and excited about your future. They will rehearse with you so you can manage your anxiety, get the timings right, support the reader as they share your readings and make sure you're both 100 per cent ready for the day.

Usually, as a celebrant, my couples would have done their marriage license ahead of the ceremony, but occasionally the registrar kicks off the ceremony with the legal details, introduces me, then leaves, and I take over. Sometimes I conduct the ceremony, then whilst the guests have canapés, the couple register their marriage and join us afterwards.

Helen Noble, Helen Noble: Celebrant of Surrey

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