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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.


Twitter @LizatUnity


Linked In

Google Plus

All photography copyright Steve Grogan Photography.


  • Very interesting! This sounds like a lovely idea…and yes I have been to too many ceremonies of all kinds that I would say sound generic. It made me quite sad…so I love the whole idea of An Independent Celebrant.

    • Steve Grogan says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read, Jacqueline. I think people these days go to great lengths to personalise other aspects of their wedding day so why not the ceremony itself?

    • Hi Jacquie, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post on Steve’s Blog page. I love being a Celebrant, mainly because it gives me the opportunity to meet so many people who are all so different. And it’s their difference that makes my work so interesting and varied and it’s great to hear when others find it interesting too. Happy New Year for 2015! 🙂

  • This was a very interesting post. I didn’t know what a Celebrant was. I know the rules around wedding ceremonies are a little different in the U.K than in Canada. I’ve been to weddings in traditional church settings which have been quite personalized. Outside of clergy, in Canada marriage commissioners are licensed to perform weddings, but I’m not sure many go to as much effort to personalize the service as Liz does. As far as I know, we have no allowance for independent performers of other rites, such as funerals. Interesting concept.

    • Steve Grogan says:

      Thank you Donna, I must admit, before I met Liz I didn’t know much about independent celebrants myself. But that’s why I was keen to discuss it with her and document it on my blog, as kind of an educational piece for the industry. Thanks again for commenting, it’s great to know that people find it interesting.

    • Hi Donna, Thanks for your comments, it’s always interesting to find out what is happening in other countries. Personalising ceremonies is second nature to me and my main aim is that people come away feeling listened to and that their ceremony or service is special and unique to them. I must admit I do go the extra mile but that’s because I’m so passionate about ensuring people have the best that I have to offer. No second chances so it has to be right. Happy New Year for 2015 🙂

  • I love this post! I’ve never heard the term Celebrant, but I love the concept. We have a version of that service in the Islands where I live because there are so many “blessings” – weddings, 1st year birthday, new homes, etc., The same people often conduct “cleansing” which stems from the host culture for the purpose of clearly the bad stuff left over from the past. It’s a lovely practice and I can see how that might be beautifully combined with what a celebrant does. Inspiring!

    • Steve Grogan says:

      Aw thank you so much, Marquita. That’s interesting to hear that there is a similar service where you live. I agree, it’s a wonderful practice and one which people will get a lot of comfort from. I know that Liz has also done a house cleansing ceremony for someone who lost their partner and was struggling to move on, Liz’s service really helped them recover as part of their grieving process. Thank you so much for taking the time to read the post and comment. Best wishes from Manchester. 🙂

    • Hi Marquita, It sounds like your local services are very similar which is great. I also love house blessings and recently helped someone in a ceremony that combined cleansing his house and letting go so that he could move on from a significant bereavement. It was a beautiful, uplifting and poignant ceremony. Rites of passage whatever they are create opportunities to really bring in people’s personalities and spirit, and don’t get me started on Naming ceremonies, love them! Happy New Year for 2015 🙂

  • andleeb says:

    This is a nice post. I love the idea of Independent Celebrant. I was unaware of Celebrant before. It is always amazing to know about different cultures and traditions. All pictures are beautiful.

    • Steve Grogan says:

      Thanks very much for reading. Yes I agree, it’s great to read about different traditions and cultures; it’s better than fighting wars eh? Best wishes to you for the new year from Manchester. 🙂

    • Thank you Andleeb, one of my specialities is working with people from all different cultures and backgrounds, I often blend different traditions and customs with modern trends to craft completely unique ceremonies that really ‘speak’ to people. Happy New Year for 2015 🙂

  • My son and his wife were married by an independent celebrant. She put together a very personalized service and it was lovely. It’s a great system. Often people aren’t wanting to use a religious person and don’t want the impersonal touch of a justice of the peace.

    • Steve Grogan says:

      That’s great to hear, Beth. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog post. I got married 10 years ago but if I had the time again I would definitely use a celebrant. 🙂

    • Hi Beth, thanks for taking time out to comment. As a Celebrant I feel that it is important for people to be able to have choice and control over what after all is one of the most important of life’s occasions or rites of passage. Crafting personalised ceremonies with as much input as possible from the couple is vital to make them beautiful and unique 🙂