I remember the first time I spoke to Kerry very well. She’d phoned me up to see if I was available on her wedding date (I was!), and we got chatting about what she had planned so far. When she told me that they had found a cornfield to get married in and the farmer had agreed to clear a space for the wedding and leave the rest of the corn waist-high, my heart skipped a beat – how romantic did that sound?!? We arranged to meet and I drove over to see them.
The wedding preparation
Kerry was a wedding-organising machine – a heady combination of highly creative and hugely efficient. The pair had been busily renovating their house for the past few months, and so they were well practised in getting things done. But they were still really relaxed and keen to throw ideas around about their ceremony.
One of the things they wanted to do was have everyone sing. They are not at all religious though, so they ended up plumping for Ben E King’s Stand by Me. I loved this idea and was keen to see how it would work – would people sing? Or would they do that thing that people do at school or at church and just mouth the words, hoping that nobody will notice? I hoped desperately the former would be the case – I didn’t fancy singing a solo as well as conducting the ceremony!
Another thing that was important to the couple was making a reference to Kerry’s dad, who had died recently. They wanted to do this in a way that honoured him but that didn’t bring the mood down. There are lots of ways of gently remembering people who are no longer with us in body within a ceremony, so we discussed a few ideas. She decided that her mum, Valerie, should walk her down the aisle and I would say that she was representing both of Kerry’s parents, and how proud her dad would have been of her now. We also talked about how Ben and Kerry’s friends could be involved, and we discussed some reading ideas.
The second meeting, when I went back to see Kerry and Ben with the first draft of their wedding ceremony, I knew I’d got it right, because Kerry was in tears most of the way through it (happy ones, that is – she wasn’t crying because it was awful, honest!) I think its when people hear their story read back to them that it feels very poignant. I’d included the tale of them being best man and maid of honour at their friends wedding just before they got together, and it was beautiful that the couple who were getting married then were to be Ben and Kerry’s best man and maid of honour in turn!
The big day
Well the cornfield was breathtaking, flanked by trees and with a sweeping view over the Downs. The weather was promising, if rather windy, and the hay bales had been set up facing the rippling corn and a beautiful flowered archway. All was set. Thanks to a complicated chain of phone calls, we learned that Kerry was on her way and the guests sat down, full of expectation.
A few minutes later, Kerry arrived, walking down the aisle with her mum and positively glowing with happiness. Valerie gave her blessing to the marriage and the pairs friend read some thoughts from Bob Marley. Then it was time for the much-anticipated singing bit! So, did they sing, or did I do a solo?!
I’m pleased to say that everyone joined in heartily and singing together really brought everyone closer in to the ceremony itself. It was a true joy – people were smiling and laughing as they sang, and the atmosphere became relaxed and happy. This was the perfect state for people to be in as I told Ben and Kerry’s story – there was lots of laughter and a few tears for good measure. This was followed by a reading from their friend Charlie before we went into the part where they exchanged vows and rings (my favourite bit every time).
Kerry and Ben wanted to sign a certificate, so I created one for them and they signed it, despite the wind doing its best to make off with the piece of paper! All that was left then was to introduce the new Mr and Mrs Hopkins and for their friends to cover them liberally in confetti as they made their way down the aisle together and into their new married life.
What they said:
“Claire was amazing from start to finish. After meeting her, we pretty much decided on the spot that she was perfect for our wedding. She has such warmth and infectious enthusiasm – very switched-on and knowledgeable.
Claire really took the time to get to know us as people and what would work best for our service. She was open to feedback at every stage (not that we changed anything she wrote!). Even our guests commented it was the best service they had ever been to!”
All of these gorgeous pictures of Kerry and Ben are by Laura McCluskey of LM Weddings.