Tradition with a twist…Celebrant led ceremonies that really stand out!
For me, one of the best things about working in the wedding industry is the people I get to meet. I’m not just referring to the couples who book me to shoot their wedding; but the people whose paths cross with mine during the course of our work – Vicars, Florists, Videographers, Hotel Staff, DJs, Musicians etc…they are all from a variety of walks of life and I want to hear their stories; I love to speak to the people involved in the wedding industry, I like to hear what makes them tick.
A couple of weeks ago I met with Liz Thompson of Unity Civil Celebrancy – that’s her at the top of the page. Liz is a Manchester based professional celebrant who I’ve met before at various events but I’d never really had the opportunity to speak to her properly, I really liked Liz and I wanted to find out more about her role and what she does to make her customers so happy. So, I invited her to meet me in Manchester city centre for a drink and a chin-wag. Read on to find out more!
Tell me something about yourself and what led you to becoming a Celebrant?
I’m based in Manchester which is great because my location means that I am well placed to work across the North West of England. I became a family and funeral Celebrant because it’s something that I wanted to do, so when the training came up I went for it. Before becoming a Celebrant I worked for many years in Social Care. My main skills being social inclusion and person centred practice which in a nutshell means working with people from all different backgrounds, supporting and enabling them to improve their lives. I love working with people, hearing their different stories and bringing them to life by working with them to create personalised ceremonies that are beautiful moving and unique, that honour and respect people’s lifestyle choices, values and traditions.
Many people haven’t heard of a Celebrant, what exactly do you do?
A Celebrant such as myself is someone who writes meaningful and personalised ceremonies and officiates at ceremonies that mark significant life events for people who might want a ceremony that is a bit different or creative. Celebrants are becoming increasingly popular for all sorts of personalised lifestyle ceremonies such as weddings, vow renewals, relationship blessings, conversion ceremonies, house blessings, naming and welcoming children to the family (a non-religious alternative to a traditional Christenings) and funeral services that respectfully and sensitively celebrate a life well lived.
So how does your service differ from the usual style of ceremony?
Have you ever been to a wedding, christening or funeral that could have been and probably was, written for just about anyone and everyone? What can you remember about it? At a guess not very much, which is a shame. When people book a standard ceremony they are in fact booking a ceremony that has been written for the masses, with very little choice over content or opportunity to vary from the script, with rules about which music you can have, photographs, the vows will be pre-written and not personal at all and your ceremony will be over and done with before you know it. The venue would need to be licensed and the fee goes up considerably depending on day, time or public holidays, there is very little room to include your own personality or opportunity to meet your registrar because they work to a rota.
It is possible to make your ceremony beautiful, personal and unique; I will work with you and be there for you throughout the whole process and take you through the ceremony during your rehearsal. More and more people are voting with their feet and choosing to have a ceremony that reflects their beliefs, values and lifestyles, you’d be amazed at how creative people can be with their ceremonies when they realise that they don’t have to stick to the standard format. This is when their personalities really shine and all because their celebrant has taken the time to get to know them, their personal stories as individuals and as a couple and the shared history that has brought them to their wedding day.
What type of people do you work with?
Anyone at all, I always know that people who choose a celebrant are going to be a little bit different anyway. I use the term ‘tradition with a twist’, a short way of saying that anything goes. Couples choose to include elements of tradition or none at all. I am a secular Celebrant (not to be confused with Humanists who are atheist) so I am happy to include a religious prayer or reading, symbolic elements, unity candles etc. Or something else that says this is us…this is who we are. Guests are often surprised when they witness something so completely unique that it blows them away and that for me makes my work so worthwhile.
So what can people expect from you?
My service is so much more than a bog standard ‘off the peg’ service. I feel that it is vital to establish a relationship with people. I meet with the couple or family either face to face or by Skype if they live far away, abroad for example, and are travelling to the UK to have their ceremony. We talk about their personal journey, their relationship, how they met, about who they are as individuals and as a couple. This helps them to relax and gets them used to talking about themselves. For a naming ceremony I do the same with the child and family.
I can help to write vows, choose songs, readings and poems. We talk through the choreography for the day, their scheme or theme if they have one. I then begin by constructing the ‘bones’ of the ceremony using the couple’s personal information. Sitting down and writing the whole thing from beginning to end to ensure that I have included everything and that it ‘flows’. This means that their personal story is woven throughout. I send a draft for approval as it is their story and they need to be happy with it. I have only had one couple ask for the whole ceremony before the day as most prefer to hear it fresh on the day.
Then, together we go through my ceremony planner to record the logistics of the day, who is going to be included etc. It might be that there is someone that cannot be at the ceremony for whatever reason and there are ways of including them that are beautiful and meaningful. This is known as a symbolic part of the ceremony, another one that you may have heard of is a Handfasting which is an age old custom where the saying ‘Tying the Knot’ came from and it is becoming popular again today as people are experimenting with new ideas and meaningful ways of celebrating their union.
So what has to happen to make a marriage legal?
The legal part of any wedding must take place at a registry office or an approved venue. The whole process usually takes about 10 minutes, most couples do this a day or so before their real, personalised ceremony. From the 10th December 2014, in the UK it is legal for lesbian and gay couples to convert their civil partnership to a marriage and I will be offering blessing and vow renewal ceremonies to celebrate their relationship which is especially important if people have had a standard ceremony in the past and now wish to have something more meaningful.
What advice would you give to people who are considering booking a Celebrant for their ceremony?
You don’t get another shot at the perfect wedding or any other ceremony and not all celebrants are professionally trained so do make sure you check out their credentials. A good celebrant will be happy that you have checked that they are up to the job. I trained with the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants who are a national and widely respected organisation whose members have public liability insurance. Also have a look at their testimonials and if you are still unsure ask to speak to people who have used their services.
Can you give me an example of someone who has used your services?
Yes, Kate and Ryan Price had this to say about their wedding ceremony:
“We first met Liz last year when we had never heard of a celebrant before and didn’t even know it was possible! We thought she was lovely from the initial meeting and booked her for our wedding. Liz worked so hard, she had regular meetings and contact with us whilst she was preparing our ceremony. Her attention to detail is amazing and I would most definitely use her over a regular registrar any day! Everybody commented on how different and personal the ceremony was and it was very emotional. It was nice to have her there on the day, rather than a registrar, because she knew us, our likes and dislikes and we knew her. I am so happy we had Liz perform our ceremony and we feel so lucky that we met her that day. She’s a treasure. Thank you so much, we will remember it forever”.
Every ceremony that I write is different because people are individuals with their own unique history and story about how their journey brought them to be marrying their partner. So, why not contact me for a no obligation chat? Leave your pre-conceptions at the door, relax and look forward to a great personal experience that will stay with you and yours forever.
I’d like to thank Liz for her time, it was really interesting to hear her story. If you’re interested in employing the services of Liz you can contact her on 07969 063 805 or via her website by clicking here. Alternatively, why not check out Liz’s social media (links are below) to find out more about what she can do for you.
All photography copyright Steve Grogan Photography.