by Michael Gordon, Civil Celebrant and founder of 'Vows That Wow' - dedicated to creating unique and unforgettable, wedding ceremonies
Now you’re engaged, you may already have begun thinking about what kind of wedding you want - there are so many choices and locations open to you these days.
As a Civil Celebrant I have probably come across most of them in my time, but a wedding ceremony is not something that you will be doing every day, so I hope it will be useful to share some thoughts.
KEEPING EVERYONE HAPPY
How do you keep everyone happy?! Probably an impossible task, as I remember from my days as a teacher. But this dilemma is not unique to the classroom. If you aim for universal happiness in any circumstances, let alone your wedding, you will probably end up keeping no-one happy.
As with a lot of the wedding planning, give-and-take is necessary. You'll probably be struggling over the invitations already, so you may well be getting proficient at compromising.
RELIGIOUS OR SECULAR
As soon as religion enters the mix, you are faced with questions: if you are of different faiths, which religion? Should you opt for a full, religious service? Is that what you and both your families want? What about a secular or humanist service, or no religion at all? You can bet that someone is not going to like that.
You could go for a partly-religious ceremony. However, that runs the risk of satisfying no-one, although it may depend how the service is constructed and presented.
THE JOY OF COMPROMISE
Given that you are highly unlikely to be able to keep everybody sweet, should you aim for the majority? Or should you placate parents? Dare you go your own way?
The first option risks being a bit wishy-washy. A mixed-faith service needs to be compiled and presented very professionally for it to work.
As for parents, even if they are financing the whole event, they should understand that it is still the couple’s big day. That should be the bottom line. There's nothing wrong with you including a religious element or two by way of compromise, but the ceremony should not be High Church (or equivalent), if both of you aren’t comfortable with it.
I have only ever experienced one parent who steamrollered the whole wedding to the extent that she threatened to boycott the event (and take quite a number of her relatives with her) if her choice was not respected over the couple's. It takes all sorts ...
GOING YOUR OWN WAY
If you decide to go your own way on your big day, you should be able to do so with a clear conscience. But if it is possible to put in something that includes those of different convictions, then it would be a nice gesture. That's the beauty of celebrant-led weddings: the couple has the choice to create their ideal ceremony. You get to include everything you really want at the start for what will be one of the most important days of your lives together. The celebrant will have plenty of experience to help and guide you in your choices.
THE BEST OF ALL WORLDS
This is a story of one of my couples:
I recently conducted a ‘Handfasting’ for a lovely couple, Karl and Martina. A Handfasting is a pagan ceremony that is the origin of our expression “tying the knot”. Martina wanted a church wedding, but Karl preferred a Handfasting so they decided to compromise - an encouraging start for a lifetime together!
After the traditional church service, everybody moved to a wonderful barn for the Handfasting, which I was to lead. The ceremony was nature-based, and required a few explanations for most guests.
We charged the circle (or space) - making it spiritually pure - before asking Air, Fire, Water and Earth to bless the couple. We drew down God and Goddess before blessing the couple with divine qualities. The actual Handfasting (binding together the couple's wrists) took place before the pair drank to their past, present and future happiness, in the Quaich, or loving cup, Ceremony. Then we concluded in a more traditional way.
To judge by the comments and atmosphere, the ceremony was really well-received and didn't appear to offend anyone. Whether we managed to keep absolutely everybody happy, I can't say, but I think we may have come close to achieving the impossible!
I think that's wonderful - don’t you?
Michael Gordon started 'Vows That Wow
' after receiving his Celebrancy Diplomas in 2013.
'I create and conduct unique ceremonies that will never be forgotten. My passion is to help couples end up with the tailor-made ceremony that reflects their personalities and beliefs and is everything they want it to be.'