Lessons from an Alternative Wedding Celebrant

I now have a Wedding Planner and Celebrant Facebook Page!

I’ve been a registered New Zealand wedding celebrant for nearly a year now, and I’ve been thinking it would be a great idea to write a post reflecting on some of my experiences being “front and center” at the weddings of friends and acquaintances. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned about weddings and marriage from being a celebrant:

I am a firm believer that couples should write their own wedding ceremonies rather than follow a template or service they find online. A wedding ceremony is a highly personalized thing, and it should reflect you and your partner’s ideals about love and commitment and friendship – not someone else’s. Your celebrant should be able to work with you to write and tweak your ceremony. For example, all the couples I’ve worked with have sent me basic working and an order of service, and I’ve helped them elaborate them further. After a few rounds of edits we have a ceremony that’s a perfect reflection of the couple’s personalities.

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A secular wedding ceremony will be over very quickly. VERY quickly. Your stomach will probably be so tied up in knots or your emotions all a flutter that it will seem even faster. It can be worthwhile adding readings or songs to the ceremony to stretch it out a bit, just so you don’t feel as though it was all done too soon.

If you or the person in charge of it forgets the marriage license – which has happened at some stage during every wedding I’ve performed at, including my own (and one of them was my fault – bad celebrant) – don’t panic. It’s always worked out ok. The worst case scenario is that we go ahead with the ceremony and you sign the register later on when someone can go out and pick up the license from where it was left.

Don’t let an 18-month-year old near the marriage license. They will chew it up.

Involve your friends and family in your ceremony and in your wedding plans. They may not be as caught up in table decorations and favor boxes as you are, but their presence makes the day that much more special. In the weddings I’ve performed I’ve seen friends and family read poems, perform songs, dance, release butterflies, MC, design dresses, bake cakes, create decorations, paint nails and take photographs. If your friend has a talent you’d love to utilize, just ask! I bet you they’ll be flattered.

Don’t try and memorize your vows. Unless you are some kind of circus performer in everyday life, you will be nervous, and you will forget. Let the celebrant say the vows for you to repeat.

Your vows are the most important part of your wedding ceremony – even more important than the signing of the register (which is the legal bit). The vows are the promises you make to each other – the way you articulate your commitment and your life going forward. When you say your vows, speak to your partner. Look them in the eye. Speak only to them. Don’t worry about the people watching. Your celebrant will pronounce everything loudly and clearly so your guests can hear – it’s your moment to make your promises to your husband/wife, so relish it.

If you really want people to dance at your wedding, book a live band. You cannot beat that atmosphere. If you’re not fussed about dancing, think of other ideas for reception entertainment – maybe you could have board games on each table, or fire dances, or a bonfire and marshmallows to roast. Most people are happy to sit around and catch up with relatives or friends they haven’t seen in a long time, so don’t be disappointed if people aren’t dancing.

Seeing people in love and families gathered to celebrate is beautiful. I get choked up every time, even if I don’t know anybody involved. Thank you to all those who’ve allowed me to perform such an important role in their joining.