Your marriage ceremony shows the world and your loved ones just what this day and your love really means. Humanist wedding celebrants Susan and Gerrie are here to help shine a light on you both and your love and commitment, so they’ve gathered all their top tips for your wedding ceremony, and the good questions to ask your wedding celebrant – read them below!
In Scotland there are only 7 words needed as the legal requirement, which leaves plenty of scope for you to choose other words that show what love and marriage mean to both of you. Ask your celebrant for as much help or ideas as you need. This is such a sentimental moment, this next step in your life together as a married couple. Your ceremony is about everything that unites everyone in the room – and what more unites us than love? The love between you two! You can also celebrate the love you have for all your family and friends and your joy at sharing your special moment with them. Again, lots of ideas to involve them if you would like to do that.
The central part of your ceremony is that wondrous and magical moment when you face each other, reach down to the depths of your heart, and say the words that mean “You are everything to me, my past, my present, my future. Our lives are like one life, not interdependent, but enriched because we have each other, someone who is there for me and who accepts me and loves me for who I really and truly am.”
Your ceremony can bring smiles, laughter, tears, deepest devotion and love. Even sadness can be present. Perhaps there are memories of people who cannot be with you to witness this point in your life. This is a very natural thing and can be acknowledged and respected without interfering with the joy of your wedding day. Rather we accept and integrate all your emotions, life issues and celebrate the complete you. It’s all about balance, so tears and cheers all welcome!
All of this is why the right ceremony and the right celebrant for you two is so very important. When you face each other to say your vows, there is a space between you that words can’t fill, but it is precious, even sacred.
Here are a few tips to help you to luxuriate and bathe yourselves in love from the moment you walk into your ceremony space where your love is waiting:
Talk to each other about what significance the ceremony has for you
Do you want a quick in and out and sign the paperwork? Do you want a ceremony that reflects your beliefs about life and love? Is it important to have a religious ceremony where prayer or scripture is included? Do you want a personal ceremony that reflects what your relationship is about? Do you want humour included? Do you want to say as little as possible? Do you want to design your own bespoke ceremony with some support to make sure it is all legal?
Decide on what kind of approach to your ceremony is best for you two
In Scotland you can choose a Registrar or a Faith/Belief celebrant to conduct your ceremony. For example, you could choose a Registrar to come to your wedding venue or at their premises, a Priest or Minister in their churches (some will come to your venue), or a Humanist celebrant or other ‘belief system’ celebrant. Some Humanist groups ask for a membership fee on top of the fee whilst others do not. Some churches require you to attend marriage classes for several weeks. There are also Interfaith Celebrants who can deliver religious or non religious ceremonies.
One Humanist group respect humanist and spiritual beliefs which is great for those who have family members who would be happier with their spiritual values being respected during the ceremony. Such a big choice in Scotland!
In England and Wales it is not possible for Humanist celebrants to ‘solemnise’ marriage, that is, sign the legal documents on their own. Many people do that the day before at the Registrar’s office the morning of the wedding or sometime before, and a Humanist celebrant will deliver your bespoke ceremony on your wedding day.
Book Your Celebrant as early in the preparations as you can
Many couples forget that Celebrants get booked up many months, sometimes years in advance. As your ceremony is a crucial element of your day you should make this critical decision very near the start of your preparation. Some celebrants are in very high demand, although July and August for some reason can be the last to book up! Don’t be shy to phone or visit as many celebrants as you would like to. We are used to people phoning round to get a ‘feel’ for who would have the right vibe for their wedding. To get the very best ceremony for you, it is brilliant if you feel you get on with your celebrant and you will be able to feel confident about sharing your love with them.
Check logistics with your Celebrant in your first email
Are they available on your date? Do they travel to your venue? What would be the travel costs? What would be the total cost including any compulsory memberships or ‘donations’? The average cost for a humanist ceremony in 2019/20 is around £450. Registrars vary depending on the venue and they are easy to check online. Ask if a deposit is required and when the balance is due.
Ask if they have any other bookings on your date or do they only do one wedding in a day. It is your decision if you want to use a celebrant who only ever takes one booking. Many ceremonies start very late so this can cause a logistical issue if a set time is important to you. For some people, they may be going for a relaxed evening wedding and are happy to wait for their choice of Celebrant to arrive after an afternoon one or a long journey. It’s all about negotiation and what suits you two.
What is their approach to your ceremony?
Ask if they include a sermon or talk on e.g. humanism in the ceremony. Can you include a prayer or blessing if you want that? Can you say words like ‘soulmate’ or ‘spirit’ if you want that? Ask to see their ‘belief system’ statement which they had to submit to get authorisation to make sure you agree with what they stand for! This is important. Ask to see an example of a typical ceremony. Do they include ‘symbolic gestures’ like handfasting? Do they have ideas on how to include children or family members?
What do they include in the preparation with you both?
When do you meet? What happens when you meet up? What resources or ideas or examples do they offer you? How many drafts do they exchange with you? This will be more if you want yours to be truly personal. Your Celebrant can suggest many elements for you with associated words but only you can fill in your personal stories and feelings on love and marriage. Can you Skype/Facetime/Whatsapp if you are far away during the preparation time?
Tips for your ceremony on the big day
Breathe! This is about you two! Your wedding ceremony will be one of the most precious, most amazing, most personal moment in your lives together. The people that means so much to you are all there loving you and supporting you. You want to know you can trust your Celebrant to be there for you, to support and guide you gently through any nerves and emotions and to make sure that you have a wonderful personal start to your marriage celebrations.
An interesting thought from us Celebrants is that we have come to understand that contrary to what most people believe you are NOT the complete focus of attention 100% of the ceremony time! Instead it is the space between you, where your love is almost visible in that moment that becomes the focus. Your guests are loving you and supporting you and also thinking about their own experiences of love and marriage and wedding days. Some will be hoping that they will be married in such a special way one day and may be even wondering if witnessing yours will inspire a proposal! SO many thoughts and feelings from so many different perspectives.
If you feel nervous or anxious, make sure you have chosen an experienced, calming, reassuring Celebrant that you trust. Someone who will be totally present for you in every way during that time. Someone who will ‘hold you’ both safe and secure and happy and focussed for that short, pivotal moment in your lives together.
Biggest Tip of all
Marry someone who loves you for who you are. Remember how much your partner loves you and how much you love them. Capture that moment in your mind and your heart. As you make your grand exit you are entering into your married life together. Congratulations and all the love in the world to you both! These words below are for you….
Find a love that ignites self worth, never someone who dims it.
Find someone who is gentle with you, but does not treat you like
you are fragile. Someone who sees the magic within you, knows
the capacity of all you are capable of, and celebrates these pieces
of you – never someone who is intimidated by your strength. Find
the person who can watch you transform, and love you along the
Marry your best friend. I do not say that lightly. Really, truly find the
strongest, happiest friendship in the person you fall in love with.
Find someone whose chest heaves with pride when they speak of
you. Find someone who makes you laugh the kind of laughs that
make your belly ache – the embarrassing, earnest, healing kind of
Extract from N’tima Preusser