What’s in my celebrant “bag of tricks”?

All you need is love and … a bag full of essentials.

So those of you who have met with me, in my capacity as a wedding celebrant, and have had me officiant your wedding day know that I lug around a huge black shoulder bag. It’s my bag of tricks. It has everything that I or possibly the bride or groom could need for the before and/or during the ceremony.  This is a carefully curated list/bag of items that has been collected and added to over previous weddings.

Here’s a list of what’s hiding in the big black bag.

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1 Rescue Remedy – If you haven’t heard/used this before, it’s awesome. It’s a homeopathic spray that you spray on your tongue to help calm you down. Works perfectly for anxious grooms.

2 Wipes – Perfect for hands and for men’s suit/shirt shoulders, which always get make-up on them from all the hugs and kisses they get before the ceremony starts. Helps smarten them up for photos.

3 Lipstick – For me not, the groom.

4 Water bottle – I get a dry mouth when I know I have to do a lot of speaking, so water is essential. Have also had nervous grooms take a swig as well. Side note: it is definitely water and not vodka in there. Yes, it is a sponge-bob square pants bottle!

shannon and sean
Shannon and Sean

5 Heart shaped rocks – For holding down the paperwork before and during the signing if there’s a breeze.

6 Vehicle Log Book – for recording the km’s for yucky tax.

7 Business cards – you never know when an opportunity exists.

8 Hand cream – dry hands make rings harder to slip on.

9 Tissues – I always have at least 2 tissues in my pockets, for either the bride or groom during the ceremony.

10 Compact mirror – to make sure I look presentable before everything kicks off.

11 Matches – just in case someone forgets the matches for lighting a candle of remembrance.

12 Spare battery – for the microphone.

13 Comb – kinda goes with the compact mirror and lipstick.

14 Microphone – so everyone can hear all the lovely words, the couple say to each other. I always have a spare in the car, just in case.

15 Pen – for signing the paperwork, in case the couple don’t have a special one they want to use.

16 Cellphone – the cellphone is loaded with the couple’s playlist for their ceremony, and is definitely switched onto meeting mode during the afternoon.

17 Red folder – the meeting folder, this contains the couples file, with all their contact details.

18 White folder – the folder I use during the ceremony. It holds the ceremony and the couples vows and any readings they are having.

19 Lollipop – used to give to flower girls and/or ring bearers when they have made their walk down the aisle and are about to take their seats.

There is a lot in there (believe me, I have to lug it around) but it is everything I could possibly need for a wedding ceremony, to make sure the groom looks and feels his absolute best (I spend more time hanging with the groom and his boys on the actual wedding day than the bride)  and to make sure I perform the best ceremony I can.

Unity Ceremonies? Do I need one?

All you need is love and … a unity ceremony?

 

A unity ceremony is an act you can incorporate into your wedding ceremony which symbolises the joining of two separate lives, the idea is that as individuals you are both special and just as important separate, but when joined together you create something unique and beautiful. A unity ceremony  can also be used to symbolise the joining together of two families, if one or both of you already have children, either together or separately.

You do not have to do a unity ceremony, and you should (in my personal opinion) only include one if it is something that absolutely speaks to you.

There are a few different options, that I’ll outline below, and by no means is this the complete list, and there may be a suggestion on this list that sparks an idea with you and your loved one for something completely original.  Go for it I say!

Wine/Beer Ceremony – You each choose a wine (red and white work well), but obviously two that work well together, and you each pour a small amount from your individual glass into a centre glass and then both take turns taking a sip (or a gulp) from the center glass. This also works extremely well with beer if you’re not a wine fan.

Love Letter and Wine Box – You choose a bottle of favourite wine (or beer) and both add love letters to each other (that you have previously written) into a box, to be opened on your one year anniversary.  It’s a nice reminder of what you were both feeling on your wedding day.

Elephant Toothpaste – It’s a funny sounding science experiment, involving you both adding chemicals together to create a pretty spectacular explosion of types.  Awesome to add for a bit of drama to your ceremony.

Unity Candle – Use a large candle and then both the bride and groom light the candle using their own individual candles. This is probably the most common unity ceremony performed at weddings. Important to remember to use hurricane lamps if you are having your wedding ceremony outside, to protect your flame from going out.

Reverse Candle Lighting – The reverse candle lighting ceremony starts with the bride and groom lighting their individual candles from a single/joint one and then proceeding to then light candles held by their bridal party, who then help to light each guests candle.  You would end up with a beautiful sea of candle light, each lit from the same candle.

Sand Ceremony – Both the bride and groom (and children if they are being included) pour different coloured sands into a central vessel, creating a pretty pattern. Each different coloured sand represents a different person. If both the bride and groom are from different areas, you could use sand from your hometown beaches.

Hand Fasting – Hand fasting is a Celtic tradition which involves binding the hands of a couple with ribbon or cord either before, during or after reciting your vows, it is used as a way to symbolise your commitment and devotion to one another.

Tree planting – All about the environment and everything green? Then you may want to include a tree planting as a way of symbolising your union.  You can choose any type of plant/tree you like, and then the tree can be displayed in your home afterwards.

Unity sandwich – You like peanut butter, and he likes jam, perfect, use these two spreads (or any other favourite sandwich fillings) to create the perfect sandwich.

Jumping the broom -Jumping the broom is a time honoured tradition where the bride and groom actually jump over a broom.  The act symbolises a new beginning and the sweeping away of the past.

Hand washing ceremony – You and your groom wash your hands in a large bowl of water. The washing of your hands symbolises the fresh start that you are embarking upon in your marriage, while having your hands dried by your spouse symbolises the act of being vulnerable to each other, and letting yourself be cared for by another.

Mixing Oil and Herbs – If you’re both foodies, then you could mix herbs and oil together as part of your unity ceremony.

Creating art together – Purchase a large canvas, and then each of you choose a colour that represents you, and then you create a painting together using the two different colours. The upside is you now have a meaningful piece of art work to display in your home after.

Lock unity – Each of you choose a lock with a key, you both place your wedding band on the lock and use the key to lock it before the ceremony.  This symbolises your separate and individual lives, during the ceremony, you use the keys to open the locks, exchange your wedding bands and then entwine the two locks and lock them together, symbolising your commitment forever.

Unity hour glass – Very similar to a sand ceremony, you use a decorative hour glass to pour your separate sand into. Plus side is that you now have a useful item to use in your home.

Brand – For those of you farmers, or those getting married on a farm, you could have a brand made of your initials, either as two different brands that you could join together on the day or one brand with both your initials together, that you can brand a piece of decorative wood together. It would be a pretty impressive part of your ceremony.

Fishermans Knot – The Fishermans knot is also know as the ‘lovers knot’ It is made from two cords which represent you as individuals, as you fasten the two cords together this act represents the joining of your two lives in marriage. Once the knot is completed then this represents your future strong, and only becoming stronger under pressure.

As you can see there are a multitude of different options if you are thinking about including a unity ceremony as part of your wedding ceremony, and maybe this list may spark some ideas for something original to you as a couple.  The options are endless.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s a Ring Warming Ceremony?

All you need is love and … maybe a ring warming ceremony.

 

You may have heard the term ‘ring warming ceremony’ before, or you may never have heard it described before, and are unsure of what it is, and whether it’s something you’d like included in your wedding ceremony.

What is a ring warming ceremony?

A ring warming ceremony is a special and simple way to include all your guests in your wedding ceremony.  A ring warming is when you give all your guests the opportunity to hold and imbue your wedding bands with a silent wish, blessing or prayer for your marriage.  The rings are passed among your guests during the ceremony for each of them to touch, hold and essentially ‘warm’ before you exchange them with each other.

Why have a ring warming ceremony? 

A ring warming ceremony is a really unique and nice way to include all your guests in your wedding ceremony. My thoughts are that it is best suited to smaller weddings, with less than say 50 guests, only because if you have a large amount of guests the rings may not get around to everybody during the ceremony and then you have the awkward situation of not everyone getting their turn, or having to pause the ceremony while you wait for everyone to get their turn, not ideal.

I have incorporated this concept into numerous more intimate ceremonies and it has been very successful. You can see the look on the guests faces as they hold the rings and say a silent wish, many of them closing their eyes while they do so.  Very sweet

And the rings are actually very warm when they get back to the couples ready to be exchanged. I encourage couples to tie the rings together with a piece of ribbon, matching the colour scheme of the wedding or in a small bag, that way everyone can actually feel and hold the rings.

How do you incorporate a ‘ring warming ceremony’ into our ceremony?

Each time I have peformed this ceremony, I prep the ring bearer or who ever will have  the rings on the day, (at the rehearsal, another reason to have a rehearsal, there are many more reasons explained here Rehearsal? Hells yeah!! ) so they know what’s going on. At the beginning of the ceremony, after the initial welcome I explain to the guests what’s going to happen, and then the ring bearer or best man hands the rings to the first person and then they start and then we start the ceremony, generally everyone will have their turn before the ring exchange part of the ceremony and then the last person who is holding them gives them back to me. Simple and lovely and very meaningful.

How does the celebrant explain the ‘ring warming ceremony’ to my guests?

I start by inviting the guests to take part, by using these words, or similar ones:

“Today I invite you all to take part in the ring warming for Brad and Angelina. Please hold their wedding rings for a moment, warm them with your love and a silent wish for Brad and Angelina. When the rings are exchanged they will contain in their precious metal, that which is more precious, that which is pricelss – your love.”

A ring warming is just another way you can infuse more of your personality into your wedding ceremony.

 

It’s all about me!!

All you need is love and … a little bit about me.

Here’s the ‘about me’ post.

me

I probably should have done this post at the very beginning, but I guess I got too carried away with providing you readers with great wedding inspiration and advice, and since I almost always get asked by my couples why I’m a celebrant, I thought I’d give you all a run down on me.

  • I’m 41 years old, which in celebrant circles is quite young, and I find in alot of cases this works in my favour.
  • I’ve been married for 16 years.
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My wedding day 17 July 1999
  • I had a very small wedding on the beach which you can read about here, in a post I prepared earlier: All you need is … my real life wedding
  • I have a 9 year old son, Max, who occassionally is my assistant/ bag carrier at wedding rehearsals.
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Max
  • Tristan (husband) and I are originally from Auckland, we moved to Dunedin about 13 years ago, not knowing anyone.
  • Pre Max (the 9 year old) I was a Store Manager for Countdown, I still work part time for Countdown.
  • I am an absolute magazine addict, nothing beats that feeling of a new issue in my hot little hands.
  • I became a celebrant nearly 3 years ago, after offering to MC a friends wedding (which you can read about here Real Life Wedding – Helena and Michael) I really enjoyed the process of putting together the speeches,  and co-ordinating the day, and thought to myself afterwards, ‘how can I do more of this?’
shannon and sean
Here’s an action shot of me, doing my thing!
  • My favourite things: Husband and Child, cheese and shoes, in that order.
  • I love my job because: there’s not many jobs where everyones happy. People may be stressed out and nervous before hand, but there’s nothing like that first smile exchanged between a bride and groom on their wedding day.
  • I have a Type A personality, which tends to drive the husband crazy, but is perfect for being a celebrant. I am extremely organised, and will have solutions to problems that you didn’t even know where problems.
  • I am calm, (probably because I’m so organised) which is great for re-assuring nervous grooms before the bride arrives, and for leading a couple through the the entire wedding ceremony planning process with humour and care. Couples always say to me afterwards “Wow! That was easy” which means I’ve done my job well.
ellie and phill
Here’s some lovely words from Ellie and Phil
  • One of the best parts of my job is: the fact that only a small part of the ceremony has to be done (legally) so couples are generally surprised with what they can include or exclude in their ceremony, making it completely about them, the best kind of ceremony in my opinion.
  • I’ve married all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds in all sorts of locations, and that’s one of my favourite things about the job, you never really know what you’re going to get when you knock on someones door for an initial meeting.
  • I could not do this job without my support crew, the darling husband, and the village of friends who help out with love, childcare and laughter.  These people I’m lucky enough to have in my life, who allow me to continue to do my dream job.
  • I have just celebrated my 50th wedding. It is an absolute honour to be a part of a couples special day.

Feel free to hit me up or get in touch if there’s something I haven’t answered that you’re dying to know about.

What does a celebrant do?

All you need is love … and a good celebrant!

Being a celebrant is, in my eyes the best job ever! I get to meet many different couples, each wedding is different, just like each couple is different, and it is my job to make each ceremony a reflection of their love story and their personalities.

My journey with a couple usually begins when they contact me, to ask if I am available for their planned wedding date. These enquiries come either by email, my Facebook page or by phone, from that first contact I will check whether I am free on their wedding day, and then organise a time to visit with the couple, usually at their own home (I know how hard it can be for couples, especially with small children, to find time to meet with wedding vendors). Almost every time I  visit a couple for the first time, they always say:

“We haven’t done this before and have no idea where to start”

which is where I come in, kinda like ‘Super woman’ It’s my job to help a couple make their wedding ceremony perfect.  I know the legal bits we have to do, and I have tons of information about what else we can include to suit a couple, e.g, info about including children, remembrance pieces, unity ceremonies, readings.

My first visit with a couple is non-obligational, which means that it’s just a informal chat about what they have planned and what I offer, it gives us all a chance to suss each other out and decide if we are all on the same wavelength. I always take copies of two different ceremonies I have written, a job description (so nearly-weds know what my role entails) and all my contact details. I tell couples at that meeting that I will message them the next day to make sure they still want to book me.  It’s a bit unfair/awkward to expect couples to make a call when I’m sitting across the table from them, and they haven’t had a chance to chat in private about how awesome I am!

After they go ahead and confirm they want to book me, I book them in for their wedding date, and send them an invoice for my services. I require a deposit to be paid within 7 days of agreeing to use me as their celebrant, and I give information on how to pay the deposit.  I  then let  them know that  I will be in contact about 2-3 months out from the wedding date to start the next step of writing their wedding ceremony. In the mean time they are to think about anything they want to include in the ceremony/vows.  I tell couples to make notes of anything they see, read, hear that they like, and we can use that info to craft their ceremony.  I also recommend pinterest and  offbeat bride website.  I like to keep an open dialogue with a couple leading up to the wedding, so encourage them to contact me if they have any questions about the wedding ceremony or the wedding day.  Because I have contacts in the wedding industry I can offer information or recommendations for other wedding vendors.

A week out from the next scheduled meeting I will email them some homework, it is a list of questions which I ask, which gives me a better understanding of their personalities and how their relationship works, it’s very interesting what the answers reveal. The more information I gather from these homework questions and the subsequent meeting, the better the wedding ceremony.

From that meeting, and armed with all the ammunition I can get from the meetings, I sit down and write a draft ceremony for the couple.  I pride myself on making a ceremony as personal as we can get it.  When that is completed I email it to the couple to have a look at, making sure they are aware that we can absolutely change anything they don’t like.  We play around with the ceremony until it is completely perfect, then it goes into the folder to wait until the wedding day.

I give a couple information on obtaining their marriage licence (an absolute necessity for the ceremony to actually be legal) and will continue to ‘nag’ them until they contact me to tell me they have it. When they finally get it from the courts, I tell them to let me know and I will come and collect it from them, that way they have no chance of losing it before the big day, and it goes into the folder with the ceremony until the big day.

Then it’s time for the couple to work on writing their wedding vows (if they are choosing to write them themselves) I contact them regularly to ensure they are on track, and to see if they need any help with writing their vows.  I know they can be tricky, and some people are vowely-challenged.

Once I receive the vows, I print them out onto a personalised nice piece of card, (and I have the vows the wedding day, so no chance of a bride and/or groom forgetting them on the day) I put everything together, so it is ready for the rehearsal. At the scheduled rehearsal  we go over the logistics of the ceremony, who’s going to stand where, what’s going to happen when, music (I create a personalised playlist for each couple on Spotify) and have this on my cellphone which plugs into my PA system and the music and microphone runs through this.  It’s one less thing for a couple to think about on their wedding day.

I arrive at the wedding ceremony at least 45 minutes early, to ensure everything is set up, to calm the groom, and to chat with the guests.  Then its ceremony time, the fun part. I guide the couple and guests through the wedding ceremony, make sure the legalities (sign the paperwork) are all taken care of. Congratulate the couple after the ceremony, take a #celebrantselfie and then quietly leave the couple and their guests to enjoy the rest of the day.

I always provide couples with a package on their wedding day, in it is a copy of their ceremony (it can be hard for a couple to remember what was said on their wedding day, because of all the emotion going on, so it’s nice to have a copy to look back on), the package also includes the couple’s vows cards as a momento  of the day, their marriage licence, and a little feedback form.

I follow up with the couple the next day, via email, to ensure they had a great day, and don’t have any questions, and post away the paperwork.

I love what I do and are always blown away that I get to do this as a job, and I take what I do absolutely seriously, but that doesn’t mean we can have a little fun with it.  I am always honoured to be a part of a couples wedding day, it’s definitely a privilege.