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  • Writer's picturePetra Tayler

What happens in a celebrant-led wedding?

I know when I first started planning my own celebrant-led wedding, I panicked a little. My husband and I knew we wanted a personal ceremony that told our story, but we had no real idea of what that would look like. We knew we wanted something different, but a ceremony that still definitely felt like a wedding.

Our celebrant did a phenomenal job, but as I've worked on weddings with my couples, I've realised that it would have been really helpful for me to see a structure written down before we started on the ceremony script itself.

Now, I'm not going to give away all my secrets, but I am a firm believer that knowledge is power. How do you know what can be tweaked, moved or scrapped entirely from your ceremony if you don't know the options?

I should give one caveat here: with a celebrant-led wedding, literally anything is possible. There are no 'musts', 'shoulds' or even a specific list of options to choose from. That total freedom can in itself feel overwhelming - like looking at a menu and not been able to order because there are too many options. Where do you start when you can do whatever you like?

A good starting point is that generally, most couples want their ceremony to be recognisable as a wedding - even if it is very non-traditional. I like to share with my couples a skeleton of main components I often include that gives us a talking point. We can then can work together to create the authentic, brilliant ceremony they've been dreaming of knowing they've really considered their options and gone with things that speak to them.

So today I'm sharing with you the big-hitters; the main components that work brilliantly in a celebrant-led ceremony and some ideas for how you can make these work for you.

  1. The entrance Of course we kick off the ceremony with entering the space, but what does that look like? Will one of you be waiting at the end of the aisle? Will you enter together? Surrounded by family? Will you roar up on a motorbike, parachute in, perform a dance routine with your wedding party down the aisle? Let's not forget that you don't have to have an aisle at all! What speaks to your relationship and makes the most sense for you?

  2. The origin story One of the joyous parts of a celebrant-led ceremony is that we get to hear your love story - how this all started and what your hopes and dreams are for the future. I adore writing and delivering this part of the ceremony, but this doesn't have to be my voice - I've seen a particularly brilliant moment in a couple's story where two members of the wedding party read out early dating app exchanges to much raucous laughter. It all depends on the tone you want to set for your ceremony as to whether this is romantic and wistful, realistic and sincere, or light-hearted with a healthy dose of silliness. This is perhaps the one element above all others that I strongly encourage couples to include. Your guests want to hear how you met and fell in love and the journey you've been on to get to marriage. Indulge them!

  3. Different voices This usually comes in the form of readings from your wedding party (I usually recommend two), but if you have a musician or singer amongst your friends and family then they could take centre stage. Having your guests join in can also be absolutely glorious if you know, by and large, people will be up for it - there's nothing worse than a half-mumbled, lacklustre sing along!

  4. Symbolic element There are so many different mini ceremonies couples can incorporate into their wedding that I've written another blog post about this that's coming next week. This could be a handfasting, a tree planting, a ring-warming, a unity candle ceremony, a sand ceremony, or rose ceremony. Essentially - any moment of pause that allows you to celebrate your love in a way that speaks to your souls. You certainly won't find these in civil ceremonies!

  5. Commitments & vows These two terms can cause great confusion - what is the difference between commitments and vows when in reality they are synonyms of each other? Typically, it is at this point in the ceremony that the couple stand forward and face each other, holding hands. I will ask the couple individually whether they agree to certain commitments - this is the part in traditional wedding ceremonies known as the 'I dos'. We can work on this wording together based on your values, or you can go for something more traditional and familiar (such as for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health). The vows then follow on. Again, these can be traditional promises, but most couples like to write their own and come up with something that is really meaningful for their relationship. It is a beautiful moment where we get to hear directly from the couple themselves. I always offer my couples 1-1 vow writing and delivery coaching (included in my fee), but if you hate the idea of public speaking then this doesn't have to be shared in public. Speak to your celebrant to make sure you find something you are really comfortable with.

  6. Ring exchange With a ring exchange comes ring vows. I write these for my couples based on their values, or sometimes couples choose to write these themselves. Traditionally, these are the joint promises you make (where you 'repeat after me') as you slide the rings onto each other's fingers. Again, this is one of those real 'weddingy' moments, but it isn't essential. A handfasting or another symbolic element may feel more your style, particularly if you don't intend to wear rings.

So there you have it, those main elements that can be incorporated into your celebrant-led wedding. Which ones are must haves for you? Are there any you want to do without, or shake up completely? I'd love to hear about your plans in the comments.

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