I met with the lovely Nicola and Denise from Cornish Celebrants recently who packed their passports and crossed over the Cornish border (3 miles away) and came to Devon.
Between them Nicola and Denise have nearly 30 years experience as Registrars for Cornwall and they recently set up their own business as independent wedding celebrants, forming the Guild of Cornish Celebrants along the way.
I first came into contact with Nicola and Denise when a couple who were booked to marry here later this year were let down by their booked celebrant and were looking for someone to step in on a few months’ notice. Nicola and Denise came to the rescue and will be coming here to perform the wedding ceremony later this summer – a happy outcome!
I talked to Nicola and Denise here at Ever After and asked them about their business and about the advantages for couples of hiring a celebrant to conduct their wedding ceremony.
Here’s an extract from part of our conversation:
Now that Registrars travel to wedding venues to perform legal ceremonies, why would couples need a separate wedding celebrant?
Denise: It’s very common on the continent for couples to marry legally at the town hall or equivalent and then have their own personal wedding ceremony. This is exactly what George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin did when they got married recently, they popped into Venice city hall to get legally married and then had their own ceremony the next day. That’s how it’s usually done abroad and after George Clooney’s wedding, that’s how I explain it to people here – ‘remember when George Clooney got married? He and Amal had their legal ceremony with almost no guests and then had their own celebrant do another wedding ceremony when all their guests attended.’ So we suggest that couples have a legal service in front of a few guests or even just two witnesses and then either the same day or later on, they can have the ceremony they really want, when, where and how they want with a wedding celebrant.
What are the advantages to having a celebrant conduct the ceremony?
There are lots of advantages; first of all there are still restrictions in England on where you can get legally married so even if the Registrar comes to your licensed venue, you still have to marry in a ‘permanent covered building’ you still can’t get married outside. With a wedding celebrant you can be married outside. So at this venue for instance you could be married in the garden, in the orchard, in the woods, by the banks of the river, by the ponds, on the terrace – there are lots of possibilities.
Also there are no time restrictions. Registrars are often conducting several weddings a day, especially on Saturdays in the summer. They only have a limited time to spend and if you’d like to wait to see if the rain might stop so you can have your outdoor ceremony, that’s fine with us, we only do one wedding a day so we can rejig the timetable at the last minute if we need to.
One of the main advantages has to do with religion. Registrars can’t allow any religious references in a civil wedding ceremony whereas we have no restrictions, no religious readings and no religious songs. It’s particularly useful for interfaith marriages where parties might want a bible reading or a religious blessing or a reading by a rabbi, an iman or a vicar. Celebrants can integrate the various religious aspects into the ceremony exactly as you want.
Can couples write their own vows?
Absolutely! Couples can write mirror vows where each of them makes the same vow or they can write their own, maybe even keeping it a secret until the ceremony! The vows can be as long or as short as you like.
If the couple is not religious but want to have some other kind of ceremony like hand-fasting, can you do that?
Oh yes, we do hand-fasting ceremonies where the couple are bound together symbolising the joining of the couple and then untying the cloth to symbolise the two individuals. We also have unity candles, two candles sometimes held by a member of each family lighting a single candle to signify the joining of two people and two families. The candle can be passed round all the guests and each guest can light a candle from the flame to join all the guests together with the couple. We’ve had water jugs poured by families into a single cup symbolising the same thing – there are lots of different things you can do or we can suggest.
Can we introduce something completely new to our ceremony that no-one’s done before?
Yes, we love something different! We had one couple who wanted a Game of Thrones ceremony which was a surprise for all their guests – the possibilities are endless!
Can we have pets?
Yes you’re welcome to involve your pets by prior agreement with the venue of course! Pets can be a very important part of peoples’ lives and they want them included on their special day. We’ve also had weddings with the rings flown in by an owl from a falconry company.
How long is a celebrant wedding usually?
It all depends on the couple but generally it’s about 30-35 minutes.
Do couples sign a register with a celebrant?
Yes we have a leather bound book which couples sign and we issue a commemorative gold-blocked certificate.
Thanks to Nicola and Denise for coming down to speak with our couple and go through the details of their day and also for their general advice on how celebrants can help and what they can add to your day.
For more information about the service Nicola and Denise can offer, visit their website at Cornish Celebrants.