Special Days in
Independent Family Celebrant
From The Wedding Factor Magazine - March 2016
For some couples, a standard wedding service just does not cut it. Hotels and manor houses offer some fantastic packages in stunning surroundings – but what if you’re after something a little off-piste? Perhaps you should consider a wedding celebrant.
“The main difference between a celebrant and a registrar is that a registrar conducts a legal ceremony, and a celebrant does not,” explains independent celebrant Debbie Merritt, of Special Days in Special Ways. “Registrars are limited to working at a licensed venue, and within a registry office at least, they are limited with time, and style. In a registry office the ceremony cannot have prayers, hymns or religious music.”
A ceremony conducted by a registrar would include a short statement about your marriage, without any religious words.
“For many couples who have a spirituality or faith this ceremony is a legal necessity, but they choose to have that ceremony at some time before (or after) a ceremony that I will conduct,” says Debbie. “I have no restrictions as to where I can work, as my ceremony isn’t legal, so I have worked in woodlands, on beaches, stately homes and everywhere in between.
“My ceremonies are bespoke and created with the couple, often involving family members and friends, and have no time limit. I only conduct one ceremony a day, so my couple have my undivided attention. I’m not clock watching, so if things aren’t going exactly to time, it doesn’t matter. My ceremonies are, for these couples, their ‘real’ wedding.”
Although it means your special day will not be legally binding – many couples will opt to go to the registry office before or after to ‘officially’ tie the knot – it means you can have the ceremony of your dreams, with no restrictions.
Debbie adds: “I work with people of any faith or no faith, and mixed faith, to create ceremonies that are meaningful to them. I can also combine ceremonies, such as wedding blessings and baby namings, and wedding blessings and family joinings, which can be very emotional.”
Debbie has seen a variety of different occasions, from intimate vows on the beach to fun affairs where the whole family joins in.
“Some of the more unusual ceremonies I have conducted have been a vow renewal at Newquay Zoo, on a green area between the Red Pandas and Red Macaws, which was slightly surreal when we realised the animals were watching,” says Debbie. “Another was a handfasting (commitment) ceremony, which is not legal in England, at Three Wishes Faery Festival at Mount Edgcombe Country Park. All of my ceremonies are very special in their own way; at the heart of them is the person/couple I am working with.”
Debbie recommends sitting down together and talking about what your perfect day would entail. “I often find, when I am talking to couples that they haven’t discussed this, and I just love it when they have, because I would much rather work with their ideas than mine, it’s all about them after all,” she explains.
“However much you would like an outdoor ceremony, this is England, we have ‘weather’, so ensure that there is an indoor venue as a back up. Remember that not all of your guests may be up to walking on uneven surfaces, or uphill. One venue that I have worked at had all of its paths laid with tiny gravel. It caused no end of problems for ladies wearing heels, and for a lady in a wheelchair, as it was almost impossible to push the chair on the gravel.”
And her number one piece of advice? “Don’t settle for second best if you can help it. Hopefully you will only do this once, so don’t have any regrets that you didn’t include something. I don’t mean go for the most expensive, rather go for what is right for you.”
Debbie Merritt is an independent celebrant, based in Holsworthy, who has been conducting ceremonies for many years, including weddings. She has a background in Christianity and later Spiritualism and Paganism, and believes in tolerance for all.