What’s it like to work with a wedding celebrant?

If you’ve recently got engaged (yay!) and you’re planning your big day, you might be pondering the idea of hiring a celebrant like me to create you a bespoke wedding ceremony of your dreams. Here are a few reasons why this might be the best decision you ever made…

But even though celebrant-led ceremonies are becoming more and more popular, and you may have been to a wedding conducted by a celebrant, you might still wonder what actually happens behind the scenes.

Because there’s so much more to what we wedding celebrants do than the time we are standing up at the front, delivering an awesome wedding ceremony!

So… fancy a peek behind the curtain? Come with me…

Our first contact

First of all, you’ll need to find a shortlist of celebrants who appeal to you both. Here are some tips for how to do just that.

Our first contact might be through an email, a listings site, a social media message or even an actual, unscheduled telephone call (though these are rarely sighted in the wild nowadays). Generally speaking, you’ll have seen something about me that piques your interest and you’ll probably be wondering about any or all of these three things: 

  1. Whether I’m free on your date (I’ll check and let you know).
  2. Whether I feel like a fit for you (you might want to check I match my website copy – you might be surprised how many people don’t!)
  3. Whether I fit your budget (£850 for 2023 weddings, so maybe that’s one ticked off your list!)

Or you might have something else on your mind of course. 

Either way, if I’m free on your date and float your boat so far, our best bet is to schedule a call with you and your beloved!

Our first call

I just love, love, LOVE the first call with couples. Even after seven years in this job, I can’t resist getting super excited with you about your plans and dreams. So you might want to have plenty of tea and biscuits handy as we’ll probably be nattering for ages (one couple on an evening call actually got through a whole bottle of wine between them during our chat!) We’ll talk about what you’ve got in mind, you can ask any questions you might have, and I might suggest some ideas you hadn’t thought of before. I’m also partial to a bit of juicy gossip as to how you two got together, who asked who to get married, and to hear all about your bonkers uncle or the dogs you’re planning to have at the ceremony. Bring it ALL on!

This first meeting is completely free of obligation and there will be zero hard-selling tactics from me. It’s super important that you both feel I’m a great fit for you. Any supplier who will be there on your big day has to be someone that you actively like – and especially the celebrant who’ll be standing close by as you say your vows to one another!

As I often say:

you both need to feel 100% ‘hell yeah’, as any amount of ‘meh’ is not good enough for your wedding day.

After our meeting

Choosing the right wedding celebrant for you isn’t always easy, and I realise you might want to talk to one or two other candidates. So after we’ve had our first chat I’ll send you an email going over some of the things we discussed, with links to things I think you might like and a quote and terms and conditions to look through. You’ll have first refusal on your date for a week whilst you make up your mind (though, no pressure, but many couples book me by return of email!) Of course, during that time you can ask me any questions that bubble up (but try to keep them on the subject of your wedding ceremony if possible – I’m rubbish at maths homework or Pop Master – but I’m game to give it a go if you want me to!)

We want you to be our wedding celebrant!

Hooray and hoorah, we’re a match! (Though if we’re not, please let me know so I can release your date back into the wild.) So what happens next?

I’ll send you lots of wedding goodies to your inbox, including a vow writing guide, a selection of awesome readings and your (drumroll please)… wedding homework!

By the way, once we’ve sealed the deal, yours will be the only wedding I conduct that day. There’s no way you’re getting me rushing to or from another wedding – your names are the only ones in my diary on your date.

Wedding homework?!? I didn’t sign up for homework?!?

What’s it like to work with a wedding celebrant? ~ Sussex celebrant Claire Bradford of Creating Ceremony
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Ne fret pas – it’s a lovely kind of homework!

I send you both a questionnaire to fill out all about you and your relationship story so far. You can fill this in together or separately, whatever works best for you, but it’s important that I have both of your voices in it.

If you don’t like filling in questionnaires, you can go off-piste and make me a video or compile me a scrapbook… anything you like that tells me all about you two. What you’re into, what you geek out about, what drives you nuts about each other, what you’re looking forward to in your shared future… all that lovely stuff.

The more that you share with me, the more personalised your ceremony will be. One word answers to the questions will elicit a ‘D- see me’ from your celebrant! (Not really – but I will need more juice).

Hopefully, you’ll find the process good fun. I’ve had some questionnaires come back to me, printed out and filled out by hand with wine stains on the paper and little arguments scribbled down the margins (‘she’s such a control freak’, ‘no I’m not and now you’ve made a mess of the questionnaire’, ‘see what I mean??’)

I’m not looking for English essay style answers, I just want all the inside scoop on YOU! I’ll do the rest…

Oh, and (with your explicit permission of course) I might just be quizzing your friends and family about you too 😊

Wrangling your ceremony into shape

Once you’ve got your questionnaire answered and back to me, you can go about your business picking napkin colours planning the most awesome wedding celebration known to humankind. But you’re not completely off the hook yet – we’ll get to your vows in a bit!

I assemble the tools of my trade – your questionnaires, coloured pens, a big pad of creamy paper, my trusty laptop and a litre of tea – and get to work.

Since our first conversation, you two have been living in the back of my mind, your story being stirred and mellowing. OK, that sounds a bit creepy doesn’t it? But it’s true that I will have been working in the background on ideas and thoughts about how to make your ceremony really reflect who you are – just in a more wholesome way than I’ve just presented it!

I scribble all my thoughts down, get the notes from our first meeting, highlight your words that shine out, draw elaborate, colourful mindmaps and start writing.

That 30-minute ceremony you see? It’s the product of an hour and a half of conversation, an hour or so reading and making notes on your questionnaires, and around 4 or 5 hours of writing just to get the first draft into shape, not to mention all of that ‘brewing’ your story was doing at the back of my head in the intervening weeks!

By the way, during this time, you can email me, WhatsApp me, text me, call me, send carrier pigeons – any time you have a question or want me to remind you why the heck you thought this wedding was a good idea because now it’s turning into a circus and your stepmother-in-law-to-be is the ringmaster – I’m here for you. Although my dog might eat the pigeons unless they’re really fast.

The first draft of your wedding ceremony is ready!

Once I’ve wrestled your personalities, interests, beliefs and love story into a wedding ceremony shape, we’ll have another meeting (this is usually a few weeks before the big day).

This is the meeting I get most nervous about because it’s when I read you the first draft of your script. I like to do this instead of sending it to you in written form because you get to hear it in my voice and I get to see how you react to it. If I have one or both of you in tears, I normally know I’m onto a good thing! Any hint of ‘meh’ and it’s back to the drawing (writing) board for more wrangling. 

It’s all up for edit, so we can get about beating it all into the most awesome shape so it’s ready for the wedding of the year.

Yay! So we’re done then?

Er, not quite. There’s also the little matter of your vows.

What? *gulp* Do we need to write the vows ourselves?

Well ideally, yes. These are the heart of the ceremony after all. 

However, if you are the sort of couple who throws up in their mouths at the very thought of saying stuff (especially heartfelt stuff) in front of everyone, we have options. There is no rule that says you have to have vows at all, and there are ways of saying vows that are much less stressful than you might think. I can fill you in on any of this. The important thing is – don’t panic!

If you’re up for saying vows, I can help you as much or as little as you’d like. I have a comprehensive vow writing guide to help you, and I can also hold your hand through the whole process (not literally of course, as that wouldn’t really help at all when you’re writing…) I’ve also got lots of ideas up my sleeve to make your vows very ‘you’ and not at all formulaic.

You’ve got this. I’ll help you. It’ll be awesome – I promise!

What about a wedding rehearsal?

Wedding rehearsals can really help put you both at ease so you know where you’ll be standing, how you’ll come in, go out etc. They are a good opportunity to check in with me a day or two before the wedding too, which is generally when you’ll be suddenly thinking of questions you’d not had before, and you might be feeling anxious.

Some couples are setting up at their venue a few days before the big day, and this is a great time to meet up and go through things. We’re not talking about a full-on rehearsal like they have in America – it’s mostly just you two and me having a bit of a walkthrough and me giving you some last-minute calming tips and making sure you’re happy.

If your venue doesn’t permit this, don’t worry. We can go through things together, even if it’s just over Zoom if you’d like to.

The big day is here!

Your wedding day is finally here! How blooming exciting!

The day before, I’ll have prepared your script, charged up my PA system if we’re using it, printed out your vows and mounted them on pretty card, made sure my outfit is ready (and won’t clash with your colour scheme), packed my ceremony bag with all the ‘just in case’ stuff (I’ll write a whole other blog post about that one day!) and planned my route meticulously.

I’ll arrive at your venue around an hour before the ceremony and make sure everything is set up as you want it. I’ll test my equipment, or the venue’s sound system, make sure there’s a couple of glasses of water discretely to hand if either of you get dry mouths, and come and find you if you’re there. 

I’ll make sure you’re happy, your readers (if you have them) are happy, and anyone else involved in the ceremony is happy. I can help to rearrange chairs, go through speeches with nervous speech givers, fix floral headdresses, pin on buttonholes… you name it, I’ll be there for it if you need me.

If one or both of you are arriving just before the ceremony, I’ll come out to you and check you’re ok rather than striking up the entrance music and hoping for the best. In short, I’ll be looking out for you and for your guests. We all want this to go swimmingly, after all…

Once I’ve delivered the ceremony exactly as we designed it, and you’ve skipped off happily together towards a celebratory glass of fizz and a quick snog before the party begins, I’ll help your photographer herd your guests to where they need to be, or lend a hand in any other way I’m needed. 

I won’t leave before giving you two a congratulatory hug and taking a quick cheesy selfie of us if you’re up for it. 

Then you’re off to party the night away and I’ll leave in a puff of smoke (should probably get that exhaust seen to), having left you with a beautiful presentation copy of your script nestled amongst your friends’ cards and gifts.

I drive home, normally with a stupid grin on my face all the way, a happy heart and singing your exit song over and over in my head. And I make sure I raise a glass to the pair of you that night, along with my family (who have never met you but join in with me anyway, just to humour mum…)

See what I mean when I say I have the best job in the world?

Like the look of my behind the scenes? You’re going to love it when we’re ‘on stage’ together! Why not get in touch to see if I’d be a good fit for your big day?