What does a celebrant do? We chat to Judy of Cherish Ceremonies
Celebrant weddings are becoming more and more popular – but how is a celebrant different from a registrar? To answer all our FAQs, we spoke to Judy Mansfield of Cherish Ceremonies in Warwickshire…
What does a celebrant actually do? How are you different from a registrar?
A celebrant designs and delivers ceremonial events such as weddings, baby namings, vow renewals, and some also carry out funerals or memorial services. Most celebrants will research and write a ceremony that is unique for each couple, on that is about them and for them, and which reflects their personalities and their love for one another. Generally, I only do one wedding ceremony a day, so I have all the time in the world for the ceremony without worrying about the next one in my diary.
A registrar is employed by the local authority. They have to ensure that a couple is legally able to marry; and also satisfy themselves as to a couple’s identity and so on.
Whilst there is a little scope for personalising a registrar wedding ceremony with readings, poetry and music, there are regulations to be followed, particularly regarding venues, and also the content of the ceremony – no religious content is allowed for example.
A celebrant has none of those restrictions, as we are concerned only with the ceremonial elements, which includes walking down the aisle, being ‘given away’, the wedding vows and exchange of rings. We can also include any religious or cultural content a couple may wish, from Catholicism to Pagan, although of course, a Humanist Celebrant would not include religious content.
Why do your couples choose a celebrant?
My couples generally want something that is about ‘them’; something a bit more than a registrar is able to offer them. Maybe they are from different cultural backgrounds and would like to pay homage to that; I can do that, and even blend different cultures by weaving them in: Irish and Polish, Hindu and Catholic, French and Canadian, Australian and English are all examples of recent ceremonies.
Another reason is that couples have married overseas at a destination wedding, and coming home for a reception. Having a homecoming blessing before the party starts is a great reason to wear the wedding finery again, and means that relatives or friends who couldn’t travel abroad for the wedding will still be able to be part of the wedding blessing.
Outdoor weddings are a huge part of why a couple will choose a celebrant. They love the idea of a forest, a beach, a nearby farm, or even their own garden to say their vows – and of course, if a venue isn’t licensed for weddings, and doesn’t have a fixed roof, there’s no way a registrar will be able to do the ceremony. That’s where a celebrant can help perform a ceremony.
How do you go about writing the ceremony for your couples?
I meet with my couples either by Skype or Facetime, or face to face. We talk through all the options available, they tell me their story, how they met, the proposal and so on, then they tell me how they envisage their wedding day unfolding. I take copious notes, then I go away and research and put together an outline ceremony. We then build it up with readings, poetry, music, their vows (I love it when couples write their own vows!), and any symbolic content. These little rituals can include anything from Ring Blessing to Sand Blending, or Handfasting, a Tree Planting or a Loving Cup…there are so many different things we can include to bring depth and meaning – and that wow factor!
You’re based in Warwickshire – where are some of your favourite Warwickshire venues?
I am very lucky to live in a part of the country which has so many beautiful venues. Compton Verney is a gorgeous art gallery in a stately home set in magnificent parkland with a lake. It also has its own chapel, which means there is great flexibility for where the ceremony will take place.
Warwick House in Southam is another beautiful venue; a gracious country house which is light and airy, and you get exclusive use for the event. There are beautiful gardens for those outdoor weddings too.
For something very different, Stratford upon Avon is awash with wonderful venues, including the Theatre, and how about Twycross Zoo? For grandeur, Ettington Park Hotel is part of the upmarket Handpicked Hotels group, and I’ve done many ceremonies here, in so many areas of the venue; both indoors, outdoors, and in their beautiful chapel. Ragley Hall and Warwick Castle are both incredibly special too.
But of course, anywhere is a potential venue with a celebrant-led ceremony!
Do you have a minimum size wedding, or can you do smaller events?
The smallest wedding I have done was for the bride, the groom and me! ‘Micro weddings’ are becoming increasingly popular – this is another trend from the USA that is becoming more widespread here in the UK.
Do you have any exciting weddings coming up?
Depends on what you define as exciting! I consider all my ceremonies ‘exciting’.
I’ve just done a ceremony at a venue on the banks of the Grand Union Canal in the village where I live; the rings were flown in by owl, which was delightful. I have a very special hand-fasting coming up in October, which will involve all the guests and another wedding at the end of the year which I will conduct mainly in French… that one will keep me on my toes! I am also shortly doing the very first wedding to be held in the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square – very exciting!
If you want to book a celebrant wedding in Warwickshire or beyond, drop Judy a line today.
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