So Many Awesome Wedding Photographers and Only One Wedding!
Choosing a wedding photographer can be a really tough decision – primarily because there’s so many of us. And bearing in mind that most of my friends are wedding photographers too, I know that they are flipping awesome! This has the advantage that we now live in a world where many weddings are being beautifully photographed, but the disadvantage for the people doing the choosing is that it can feel pretty overwhelming when you first scratch the surface. But fear not – I want to help guide you through how to choose your wedding photographer! While I am a wedding photographer it’s worth saying that I’m not right for every wedding. It might be me, it might not be me! In this series of blog posts I’m going to take you through the things to think about when choosing your wedding photographer.
First up, you really need to think about what you both want.
The Different Styles of Wedding Photography
Firstly think about the style of photography that you like. Have a solid scroll on instagram and see what’s available out there. Do you want things very relaxed and informal? Or would you prefer the photos to be more editorial and posed? How a photographer captures your day will be reflected in the style of their photographs. Some photographers like to create beautifully posed scenes like you find in a magazine – this is sometimes called an editorial or fine art style of wedding photography. Other photographers will be more in the habit of just capturing what happens before their eyes – documenting your wedding as it unfolds. This is the kind of wedding photographer that I am! You might see it referred to as documentary wedding photography, informal wedding photography or relaxed wedding photography.
Secondly think about how you want the images to actually look. Taking a photo is only half the work when it comes to photography, there’s so much magic that can be created with the editing. And the editing style of a photographer is as unique as their shooting style. Do you like photos that are brightly coloured? Or something more neutral and muted? Is light and airy your jam? Or maybe something dark and moody? With so many flippin great wedding photographers now available, there is literally one to suit everyone’s personal taste. So be sure to book a photographer because you love the way they capture photographs and their signature editing style.
Bearing this in mind I would suggest to completely avoid booking just any photographer and telling them how you want them to take the photos and edit them. It would be very difficult for a photographer to change their style to accommodate your needs in this way, as much as they’d love to. Photographers want to capture the best photos for you and be as helpful as possible, but it’s really hard for us to change who we are creatively. So always choose the photographer because you love the way they capture the picture and how they edit the photos. That way you are always going to be happy with the end result.
Wedding Photography Packages
Next, you want to think about which parts of your wedding day you want captured. Photographers offer lots of different types of packages. Some photographers will just have a single day rate on offer, others will work by the hour. From my experience, the average wedding lasts approximately 8 hours from just before the ceremony through to the first dance. So when you are allocating your wedding budget to the photographer – think about how much of the day you want photographed. If you want photos of you and your team getting ready through to the mega fun party, then you will need to allocate a healthy budget to accommodate that.
Now You Know How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer
Finally you want to think about what you want from your photographs after the wedding. This is the super exciting bit! You’re paying a lot of money for someone to create your images – make sure that you get to enjoy them afterwards. Most photographers will offer you your images edited and delivered to you via an online gallery where you can download and share the photos. I would recommend that you want to ensure that you chosen wedding photographer will provide you with high resolution images without any watermark as standard – this means that you can print your photos without any funky logo on them. This is what I provide clients with and I know lots of my photographers friends do too. However some photographers may not, so it’s always worth asking.
Sometimes you can order a printed album or slideshow, or have the image files on a USB stick too. Take a look at what a photographer offers after they have photographed the wedding, and what will fit with your budget. It’s very common for clients to opt for a digital package to start and then add in print products at a later date. I have some clients ordering their wedding album two years after they get married.
Whatever package you choose – always always print your wedding photos! You cannot enjoy them on a memory stick or hard drive!
Want to know more about me? I'm Rowan, AKA Parrot & Pineapple Wedding Photography
Hurrah you’ve started planning your wedding! Right now you’re probably just starting to look at what you’re going to wear on your wedding day, but I’m guessing that the only thing that you know that you want is a unique wedding dress?! WELCOME you’ve come to the right place because I’ve got a fine selection of TWENTY real brides showcasing how they absolutely smashed their wedding outfit with something that was beautiful and perfectly unique.
Elegant Fit and Flare Column Dress for Clean Lines
This beautiful dress is a fit and flare cut with a bateau neck line – and if you look closely you’ll see a very subtly sexy see through panel on the very side of the dress. Perfect if you are going for a very simple and elegant vibe. Read more about this red hot summer London pub wedding here on my blog. Dress by Sottero and Midgley
Pink Iridescent Sequin Wedding Dress with Cape
This amazing sequin wedding dress was made bespoke by The Couture Company in Birmingham. The v neck cut front gave the illusion of being a wrap around dress finished with a pink satin bow at the waist.
Bridal Jumpsuit with 70s Styling and Lace Detailing from Whistles
When is a wedding dress not a dress? When it’s a jumpsuit! I absolutely love a bridal jumpsuit and I’m very pleased to say that I’m seeing more and more now that major retailers are jumping on to the jumpsuit trend. This bridal jumpsuit had a super cool 70s style with wide leg trousers and cape sleeves. Available here from Whistles.
Small and informal city weddings lend themselves perfectly to a bit of fashion experimentation with your bridal outfit choice. This 70s styled silk bridal jumpsuit had super flared trousers and a plunging neckline for a touch of luxe boho.
Kimono Style Kawaii Themed Sequin Wedding Dress
For the ultimate alternative bridal gown why not pull together all your favourite creative inspirations and have your dress made bespoke? This sheer kimono style dress with sequins and a kawaii embroidered belt was made by The Couture Company in Birmingham.
Original Vintage 1970s Bridal Jumpsuit
You know your wedding outfit will be truly unique when it’s a vintage bridal jumpsuit. This slinky silk one piece has flared sleeves, a wrap top and a high waist for the original 70s style.
Beaded Column Wedding Dress with Chapel Length Veil
Column dresses give a simple and chic silhouette, so beading detail around the top and waist are a subtle way of adding a dash of pizazz.
Embellished Backless Wedding Dress
If you fancy a backless wedding dress but want the security of wearing a full gown, then illusion panels are a brilliant solution. Even more so when those illusion panels have been embellished with diamanté!
Autumnal Jumpsuit with Faux Fur Collar
Looking for a wedding dress alternative? What about this sumptuous silk bridal jumpsuit made bespoke by Joanna Roberts Bridal. The wrap around effect was perfectly complemented for Autumnal warmth with a faux fur detachable collar. See more from this amazing Asylum wedding on this blog post.
Lace Detailed Wedding Dress with Flowing Skirt
The perfect partner for a brightly coloured festival inspired city wedding is an alternative wedding dress – and the best place to go for that in London is Heart Aflutter Bridal. Cecilia and her team have the most amazing range of alternative and untraditional bridal gowns for brides wanting something a bit special and unique.
DIY Wedding Dress with Sequin Stars
If you’ve got the know-how why not create a truly unique and alternative wedding dress by making your own?! The bride, Rose, bought a neutral coloured slip and made her own sheer dress embellished with sequin stars.
Lace wedding dresses are romantic and classic, but a fit and flare lace wedding dress adds a touch of sass. Paired up here with a scallop edged finger tip veil – both purchased from Davids Bridal in Birmingham.
Bardot Sleeved Wedding Dress
Bardot sleeves, named after the iconic Bridget Bardot, are simple and sweet. See more photos here from this city slicker bride and groom getting married at Islington Town Hall and The Tab Centre. Props to bride Grace for wearing her glasses – as a fellow specs wearer, I LOVE a bride in glasses.
Embellished Boho Vibes
Home garden weddings are the perfect place to embrace your inner boho queen, and this beaded and detailed dress bought the boho vibes to a classic silhouette.
Bridal Bomber Jacket
If you’re getting married in the winter you may want to think about accessorising your unique wedding dress with something to keep you warm. This super cool bridal bomber jacket with silver and teal detail kept this bride warm and snug for her Marylebone Town Hall Wedding.
Tasseled Bridal Jumpsuit
Simple bridal jumpsuits can be personalised with a dash of your personality by adding floor length tassels.
1930s Style ASOS Wedding Dress
Laid back and informal city pub weddings are my bag! And this bride bought a touch of glamour to her pub wedding by wearing a 1930s inspired ASOS bridal gown. Knee length, flowing and three quarter length sleeves made this alternative wedding dress perfect for striding through the streets of London.
Bespoke Made Unique Wedding Dress with 1940s Styling
And to round up this amazing collection is this bespoke made 1940s style wedding dress from The Dress Maker in Essex. The full length sleeves and slinky silhouette were paired up with a stunning cathedral length veil with ribbon edge.
Ready to step up to purchasing your wedding dress? Read this cracking blog choc full of golden advice from dress makers and bridal boutique owners on how to approach wedding dress shopping.
Want to know more about me? I'm Rowan, AKA Parrot & Pineapple Wedding Photography
If you were to believe every rom com you’ve ever seen, you’d believe that wedding entertainment was subpar and pretty poor, wouldn’t you? Embarrassing, balding DJs with whiny voices introducing songs for lovers to empty dance floors, or awkward bands comprised of middle-aged men who always wanted to be a rockstar but never quite had the pizzazz. Well, now that you have that visual – get rid of it. BIN IT. KONMARI THAT RUBBISH AND GET IT OUT OF YOUR LIFE. There are so many ace wedding bands and DJs out there nowadays that this is a thing of distant past and unnecessary future – you just need to know where to find such fantastic beasts. That’s where I come in. I’ve asked a couple of my favourite wedding entertainers to chat through the process of finding and booking wedding entertainment, both from a band’s side and a DJ’s side…
What different types of wedding entertainment are on offer?
There’s loads of different types of wedding entertainment available out there – variety is the spice of life, after all – but they tend to fall into two main categories. These two main categories are bands and artists, and then DJs. They have similar effects – an amazing atmosphere, a throbbing dance floor and loads of energy – but they’re quite different vibes.
DJs play songs as you would listen to them on the radio, but mixed expertly and with the killer playlist compiling skills you can only dream of. (See below why it’s NOT just like creating your own playlist on Spotify!) They tend to play for the majority of the evening do, staying until they play the last song – mine would be the dirty dancing song (complete with an elbaorate lift), if you’re wondering – although this isn’t necessarily always the case. For example, if you have a cocktail hour in between ceremony and reception and you want to keep things fun, DJs can provide a super cool rooftop bar vibe.
In comparison, bands cover songs live on their instruments. As Charlie from Heavy Beat Brass Band, a New Orleans style brass band, explains, they come in all sorts of varieties. “There are standard function bands that can play your favourite Funk, Soul, Rock and Pop tunes almost identical to the record. Then, there are more unique performers who try to stand out and provide an alternative to the standard wedding band. We’re the latter – as a New Orleans style brass band, we can play all your favourite tunes, but entirely on brass instruments. It’s all familiar music done in a fresh way.”
Although they aim for 2 x 50 minute sets in the afternoon or evening (with a break in the middle), bands are just as versatile and flexible with timing requirements. “We offer anything from the ceremony to the late night party.” Charlie says. “We can parade the bride down the aisle at 11:00am, then have her dancing on the bar at 11:00pm!”
What should couples be looking for when they’re booking their entertainment?
The Best Men, a Midlands-based wedding DJ collective, start off with some sound advice regardless of whether you’re leaning towards a DJ or a band. “It’s good to make sure your own tastes are catered for and that you avoid the cheese,” Arthur explains, “but also bear in mind the demographic of your guests and what will work for everyone too.”
If you’re looking for a DJ specifically, he then goes on to say, “A good DJ listens to the couple and plays to the room. We always sit down with each couple and have a long chat about their likes and dislikes to tailor their night to suit them, but the set is never pre-planned. The DJ should be able to think on their feet and read the room and shape the night as it goes on.”
Charlie has a hot tip on how to find an incredible wedding band, too. “When you’re looking for your wedding band or artist, you want to get someone who’s fun, engaging, unique and professional. Our top tip is to keep an eye out on smaller stages at festivals for some of the most interesting performers.” (Can booking festival tickets count as a wedding expense? I think it can!)
What are your top tips for getting people on the dance floor?
The Best Men pride themselves on being a non-cheesy DJ service whose purpose is to entertain the crowd and keep the dance floor packed all night – so I thought they’d totally be the men for the job. I was right! “We want to make sure your tastes are covered, but always make sure the songs are floor fillers.” Arthur says, “Having the skills and experience to read the room and adapt and steer the night to keep the dance floor packed comes from years of experience in mainstream alternative clubs. First and foremost we’re all music fans so we like to treat the wedding like one of our club nights, and not sticking to a rigid wedding playlist that seems to occur at lots of weddings.”
What do you wish all couples knew?
“Deciding not to have a DJ and make your own playlist can seem appealing on paper, but a set you pre-plan for your kitchen or car does not always translate to a diverse room full of people, and you have no capacity to adapt and change.” Arthur warns. “The last thing you want is frantically trying to make a new playlist on the night or people skipping songs on your device. Having someone with experience to shape the evening curated to your tastes is the key to success.” As personal curation is key, they also don’t offer out sample playlists. As no two weddings are the same, no two playlists should be either: “We are all about consultation, communication and listening to your needs. We cater for all sorts of tastes, funk, soul, indie, rock, metal and so much more so we firmly believe that there is no “one set fits all” playlist.”
And once you’ve booked them – look after them! Charlie says, “If you look after the band, they will look after you! Sometimes after long journeys to exotic wedding venues, a bacon sandwich can go a long way to keeping our energy at 110%.”
The Best Men are not your average wedding DJs – in fact, they’re about as far away as you could get. They’re a Midlands-based wedding DJ collective providing a bespoke, non-cheesy service for couples who love music and want their floor firmly filled. They’ve DJed alongside some super impressive names (hello Jarvis Cocker, Jamiroquai, Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys) – check out their website for more http://www.thebestmen.co.uk/
Heavy Beat Brass Band are a New Orleans style brass band, remixing modern Jazz and Pop with the sounds of a roaring Mardi Gras Band. Find their full repertoire list as well as videos, photos and FAQs on their website, and check out their latest adventures on Youtube: https://www.heavybeatbrass.com
Are you just getting started with wedding planning? You can sign up to my exclusive Club Tropicana to get the low down on everything you need to know when planning a wedding. Plus the first bonus is a free super useful guide on how to choose your wedding photographer.
Want to know more about my informal wedding photography?
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There’s just something so exciting about a wedding ring isn’t there? Sure, they started as a visible sign of a dowry, but (thankfully!) since then they’ve evolved with the times to become a symbol of commitment, love, and over-arching joy. In line with this shifting sentiment, cool wedding band styles are now much more readily available too. Where once upon a time, there were few choices to be had and even fewer questions to ask yourself, there’s now loads of options for alternative, stylish wedding ring designs. If you’re struggling with how to select your wedding rings – this is the blog post for you.
That’s where Victoria comes in! She owns The Quarterworkshop, a studio based in the historical Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, where she runs – wait for it – how to make your own wedding ring workshops! Is that not just the most fun you’ve ever heard?! With such jewelled wisdom, I thought she’d be the perfect person to ask all my questions to: how to choose a wedding ring, what the different types of wedding rings are, and all the wedding band styles explained…
Do you have advice on how to select your wedding rings?
“Your wedding ring may be small, but it’s a pretty important bit of the whole thing – your wedding ring is the most lasting part from your wedding day, which you’ll see every day from that day onwards.
It will always be a reminder of the day, of your marriage, and of your partner, and to others it’s a symbol of your commitment to your partner and your marriage – so it’s important to get it right! For this reason, firstly I would say choose something that’s a true reflection of you and your own style. Often, when couples start looking in shops they are faced with a bewildering amount of choice, but they will often say to me that nothing really connected with them or felt right. Most of the rings in high street shops will have been machine made so they can seem a little soulless – that’s when they start looking for alternatives and find us!
Often, your engagement ring will play a role in dictating some of the details for the wedding band, such as what material it should be in – it’s best to wear the same carat and type of metal next to each other, as all metals have a different hardness.
Another really important thing to do it to try some on! If you have never worn a ring before or don’t know what will look and sit best next to your engagement ring, then the best thing to do is try them on, to see how they both look and feel. Also, have a look at images and what your friends have – it’s amazing how you can suddenly have feelings about how yellow you like your gold to be, or if you like very straight edges or softer curves!
It can also be a good idea to think about lifestyle as well. If you go to the gym a lot or work with your hands, it might be a good idea to choose a harder wearing metal. Alternatively, if you are going to take your ring off a lot, or if like the idea of it getting marked and developing a patina over time, silver can be a lovely choice as it will pick up lots of little surface marks along the way and grow to be full of character.”
“There are so many! In some ways a ring is so simple, but the variations you can get – especially if you are making it yourself with me – are endless. In the most simple of terms you have the following wedding band styles, explained:
A D shape is a very classic style of band, which is flat on the inside and curved on the outside.
A court shape, which is curved on the inside and outside, making it easy to take on and off
A Flat shape, which has straight edges and corners
Round or halo
However, if you’re making your own rings, you should think of these as just your starting shape. You can then sculpt, file or shape them, as well as leaving them how they are.
You also get a wide variety of metals for your wedding ring. At the Quarterworkshop, we specialise in precious metals: this means we use silver and the golds in red, yellow and white – both 9ct and 18ct.”
What should couples look for if they want ethical wedding rings?
“If you’re looking for ethical wedding rings, you can nowadays opt for fair trade materials to make your rings with – your jeweller will carry the symbol on their website. Alternatively, you can use recycled silver or gold to make your rings with!”
The Quarterworkshop is a studio based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, dedicated to sharing their craft knowledge to help couples make their own wedding rings together. They’re all about the hand made, and creating bespoke unique pieces using fine craftsmanship techniques. They’re the opposite of mass-produced, soulless bands – just like you’re the opposite of a mass-produced, soulless couple. https://thequarterworkshop.com
Are you just getting started with wedding planning? You can sign up to my exclusive Club Tropicana to get the low down on everything you need to know when planning a wedding. Plus the first bonus is a free super useful guide on how to choose your wedding photographer.
Want to know more about my informal wedding photography?
Picking out bridesmaids’ and groomsmen’s outfits is, in essence, a pretty weird idea. There’s probably no other scenario in which you would instruct your best friend, a fully grown adult, on what to wear, and especially no other scenario which is as emotional as this! You want to get it spot on, and I want to help you get it right to minimise your wedding stress (that’s the aim, and photography’s the game.)
But don’t worry. Firstly, banish any ideas of the horrendous scaremongering photos you’ve seen on instagram – no crinoline here, unless it’s what you want. Nowadays, there’s loads of amazing designers out there who are creating outfits which perfectly bridge the gap of bridesmaid with still being on trend. With that in mind I chatted to Joanna from Bowen Dryden – creators of the INSANELY HOT Badass Bridesmaid collection which will basically change your life – about how you should dress your bridesmaids.
How much should clients budget for their wedding party outfits?
“Wow, that totally depends on how much you have to spend! Firstly ,think about how many people you have to dress (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls and pageboys) and whether you are getting contributions from anyone else. Alternatively, are they paying for themselves?
I would also consider the kind of outfit you want to wear, as this will impact your overall clothing budget. Do you want to go bespoke and have a dress designed especially for you? Is there a particular bridal shop you have always wanted to experience? Ask these people their minimum charges and see if you are comfortable with the answers. If you are, then tell them a bit more about the way you want to feel on your day and what you need to wear to achieve that feeling. Similarly, if you have no idea at all want you want and need some help, then ask their advice. If they get what you are trying to achieve then they are your people. If not then thank u, next.”
And that’s a double whammy from Joanna – as all those questions you need to ask of yourself when shopping for your dress and setting your budget are good questions to ask re: bridesmaids’ dresses too. Do you want them to wear custom made outfits? (more on that below). Do you want them all to match? (More on that below too. God, I’m good to you.) Is there a particular shopping experience you want with your squad? How do you want them to feel?
Is there any expected etiquette on what you can and can’t ask your wedding party to wear?
“Not in the Bowen Dryden book! If you all like it then it is appropriate and probable pretty awesome too. Brides do not need to wear a white dress unless they want to. If they want to wear a black trouser suit or a bikini a la Pamela Anderson then do it. Feeling confident, beautiful and like the best possible version of yourself is the aim of the game, and it’s the same with your partner and bridal party – wear what you want!
But please, from all the bridesmaids around the World, consider the style of your party. If your best friend hates blue and wearing dresses, please be a babe and don’t ask her to wear a blue dress. Could she perhaps wear a green jumpsuit instead? She is going to enjoy your day so much more if she doesn’t feel self conscious and like her Mum has dressed her. There will be less crying emojis on the WhatsApp group too.”
This is SUCH an important point. Of course, your bridesmaid or groomsman will feel super privileged and honoured to have been asked to be a part of your wedding day – but that doesn’t mean they suddenly lose their own autonomy and owe you their life. You’ve asked them to be part of your close-knit team because you value them and everything they bring to your life, so your outfit should celebrate them by making them feel comfortable and confident! This may mean chatting to them about what they’re happy with, and letting them know what you’re envisioning to gauge their reaction.
What should you recommend if your wedding squad are all different shapes and sizes?
“Embrace it and celebrate the people you love and want in your bridal party. I love the eclectic look of people wearing what suits them and what they enjoy wearing at weddings! You could get your squad to wear different outfits in the same colour, or colour palette, or outfits of the same garment in different colours. It looks awesome! People will look and feel happy – this is why our Badass Bridesmaids collection was created. It is a collection of bridesmaids separates that allow each person to wear a style and colour that suits them and their shape and look amazing.”
What would you want all couples to know before they start thinking about their wedding party outfits?
“This is really important. Not everyone has to like your outfits (other than the people wearing them). It is impossible to please everyone, as you are not a puppy – not everyone will love your choice, but neither should they! Your Mum is unlikely to dress the same as you on all the other days of your life so it is unlikely she would choose the style of your dress too. Your best friend who dresses like Barbie and you who is partial to Tank Girl are unlikely to choose the same bridal look. AND THAT’S JUST FINE! Therefore please do not choose your bridal outfit by committee, as the choice should be your own. It does not mean that they all won’t cry or think you are the most beautiful creature in the World because they will. They are there because they love you and this will not change regardless of how you’re dressed.
You will all look beautiful. Keep to your vision and work in your magic and you will look amazing. Find someone who will work with you not against what you want and it will be fantastic.”
I mean, if Joanna ever decides she’s done with bridal design, I’m up for her going into politics with that rousing battle cry…aren’t you?
As we all know, I’m all about the boom of alternative and cool weddings that we’ve been enjoying in recent years. The rise of more personal weddings focused on the couple rather than age-old traditions which don’t resonate is something I feel super passionate about. And as well as often being the best styled weddings ever, they’re also a chance for couples to work with fabulous celebrants to make the ceremony a show-stopper – what’s not to like?
Although Humanist celebrants can’t conduct legal ceremonies in England (yet! Hopefully that will change soon – they can in Scotland) they can conduct meaningful, personal ceremonies full of symbolism and sparkle that will make your wedding go down in living legend. As well as conducting the ceremony itself, they can help you write it from start to finish, including your vows! I spoke to two of my favourites, wandering minstrel celebrant Zena Birch and London-loving wedding celebrant Katie Matthews, to find out more about the process of working with a celebrant to write your ceremony.
What does a celebrant do?
“A celebrant works with a couple to design and conduct a wedding ceremony that is totally personal to them.” Katie the Celebrant explains. “We get to know our couples as individuals. We find out what makes them work as a team and why marriage is an important next step for their future together. We ask all the nosy questions, basically. We DIG DEEP and, after we’ve pumped our couples dry, we spin all that gold into one hell’a ceremony that kicks their big day of celebrations off in style!”
Zena Birch continues, “A humanist celebrant has one of the best jobs in the world! After working closely with couples to find out what what their hopes and dreams are for the memories they will share with everyone on the day, we then work our magic. Our job is to find a way of expressing that in a perfectly personalised ceremony script which should in turn be full of love, laughter, tears and riotous applause. The process of working with a couple in the run up to their ceremony is often just as much fun and rewarding as the day itself.”
When should you source a celebrant for your wedding?
Katie suggests booking your celebrant about 18 months before the big day. “I start working with couples from about six months before their big day, but I usually get booked roughly 18 months before the date – in other words, it’s never too early! You’ll hear this everywhere but if you’ve got specific vendors, including celebrants, in mind then book ‘em quick cos the good ones get snapped up!”
Zena explains why they’re so important: “Just like venues, the demand for celebrants is increasing now that couples are starting to realise that they don’t just have to have a standard registry ceremony, but can make the ceremony itself just as reflective of their hopes and intentions, their voice and personality – as the rest of their day. So I would highly recommend finding the right celebrant for you and discussing all availability as soon as you possibly can, so that you can book your venue safe in the knowledge that you will be also able to book the celebrant you want.”
“I would say that sourcing your celebrant should be in the big three of your first decisions….Venue, Celebrant and Photographer (But I may be biased!) Not only that, but the work you will do with your celebrant is so helpful and informing to all the other things you might need/want on the day, we can be invaluable at helping you to clarify what is important and the overall feeling of a couple’s vision for their wedding day. It’s interesting, over the 8 years I have been working as a humanist celebrant I have witnessed that when you get the ceremony right, all guests suddenly have a deeper understanding of precisely why they are there, the meaning is clear. Instead of just having to endure the ceremony to get to the rest of the celebrations when you get the ceremony right it naturally becomes the reason for everything else, the feasting, the dancing, the celebration! Everyone should be enjoying the ceremony so much they don’t want it to end, but when it does – the rest of the day is like catching the perfect wave – stories and memories continue to be shared whilst making new ones, speeches make sense, because everyone is up to speed, the euphoria is infectious. I sound like I’m gushing, but seriously, I witness this over and over again!”
Is it ever too late to bring a celebrant in to your wedding?
“In spite of what I just said above, no!” Zena says. “One of the most special ceremonies for me was with a couple who found out their venue had lost their wedding licence three weeks before their wedding day. They found me in a panic. We worked super closely together over those three weeks, they were both wonderful at doing the homework I set them, we went out for dinner and talked for hours, I helped settle their fears that months of planning had gone down the drain and indeed we all decided it was the best happy accident that could have happened. The process which can usually take anywhere from six months to a year plus to develop was done at high intensity and we were rewarded magnificently for it. Their ceremony was a blast! Communal singing with a swing band, personal stories, poetry written especially for them, a huge swelling brilliance of them both – which they never would have had in their registry ceremony.
This kind of late instigation is totally dependent on what time of year you’re getting married in, though. Zena adds that luckily this couple were getting married in November, as August may have been trickier – and Katie agrees. “Good question! For me, yes, it can be too late – but that’s because of the way I work. I can’t just turn up and deliver a ‘standard’ wedding. I’m not here to slot your names into pre-written templates. I need time to get to know my couples and to spend time writing their personal ceremony. Depending on the time of year, I’d say anything less than a month before is too late to do all that.”
What advice do you have for couples writing their vows?
As a master of a good party and a lover of love, Katie always advises her couples to keep them a surprise from each other. “I love it when couples keep their vows a secret from each other so they can surprise each other on the big day. So – advice: agree the length, the structure and the TONE (that’s an important one, nothing worse than when one person takes a sincere approach and the other goes for THE FULL ON BANTS!) between you…and then surprise each other with the actual promises you make on the day.” And if this vow-writing terrifies you, don’t worry! This is something your celebrant can really help with, Katie explains. “I ask all my couples to send their vows to me in advance so I can steer them in the right direction.”
Zena agrees that discussing them beforehand is a good idea. “As these are the words you are going to work hard to stand by every single day of the rest of your married lives, it is vitally important that together you are on the same page about this! I try to remind couples that these vows will be what you celebrate as you stay true to them, but also what will help you to stay strong when life throws its inevitable shade in your direction. Once you have decided on these foundations – which must be able to shape shift and still be relevant in 5, 10, 15, 30 years time – then, you can go off and write them separately if you would like to. This is great because it means they will sound like you, have your own personal turn of phrase. You can also put in some little lines which reflect the twinkle in the eye you have for each other – they don’t have to be deathly serious, most peoples’ foundations need a good kick of cheekiness to them, but at least you know the fundamentals have been decided on together. I would also say, never try to learn them! Reading them will be fine, you have enough to worry about on the day without adding extra anxiety!”
What do you wish all couples knew about wedding ceremonies?
Zena wishes every couple knew how important the ceremony is – and not just because she’s biased! “It isn’t just about the day, it’s about the foundations you are forging, publicly, in front of people who really matter to you and who will hold you accountable. It has the potential to be one of the most unforgettable moments of your life – that sort of magic can’t be cheated and will carry through right into the marriage itself.”
There’s a trope of couples telling their vendors too much about their wedding plans, but Katie wishes that everyone knew that that wasn’t the case – especially when working with a celebrant. “The more you give, and the more open you are with your celebrant, the better the wedding ceremony is. I like to be BOMBARDED with information about my couples. I want to be OVERWHELMED with the minutiae of their lives together. It’s not that all that detail will make its way into their wedding ceremony – far from it – but I need to know them inside out to create something super special that will do their relationship justice.”
What do you think makes a fun wedding?
Life is a cabaret, and so is your wedding. Well, not quite, but Katie’s tips for a fun wedding are to focus on them being a celebration: “For me, weddings are CELEBRATIONS… and I love wedding ceremonies that reflect that. The best ones, for me, are fun and relaxed occasions, full of laughter, tears and LOTS OF SINGING. I also love dogs on ring duties and brass bands bursting out of the audience after the pronouncement (Love Actually style!).”
What can couples do to make their wedding informal and relaxed?
Other than book a fun and super relaxed wedding celebrant – ahem – Zena suggests keeping focussed on what you want as a couple. “If something in the planning is causing stress or becoming difficult stare straight at it, do you really need it? Is it really what both of you want? And if it isn’t get rid of it! Couples often make choices based on tradition without ever really thinking about whether that tradition is relevant to them or not. I know a number of couples this year who asked both their mum and dad to do a combined “father of the bride” speech because their dads were sick with worry, public speaking not being their strong point, especially when it carries emotional intent. So, why do they have to do it alone? They don’t. Having two people (especially the two people who brought you up!) share the load and enjoy reminiscing, teasing and celebrating you is a real joy to behold – so much better than someone who clearly looks sick with nerves. So I would say, challenge tradition, do what feels right for you and never, ever try to keep up with the Jones’.”
Zena Birch is a Hertfordshire-based wedding celebrant fully accredited with Humanists UK. She’s conducted ceremonies just about everywhere – including sunny California, atop snowy ski slopes (really!) and all sorts of spaces in between – and brings brilliance to every ceremony she works on. She’s all about the personal touch with her celebrancy: “My website is a good starting point, but I would say absolutely nothing beats the personal touch when it comes to a celebrant. I try to meet with my couples as much as I can and then am on hand constantly to answer any questions, to advise, distract or simply share a glass of wine with to let off steam. There is also a link to my instagram feed, which I so enjoy collating. There are rarely any filters, or even professional photos for that matter – there is enough of that all over the internet, it is simply a true to life documentation of the adventures I have with my couples and it makes me smile daily!” https://zenabirch.com/
If you don’t know Katie The Celebrant, get on that PRONTO. She’s a humanist celebrant who specialises in totally bespoke ceremonies for kickass couples and fun-loving families. After 10 years of journalism – meaning she’s very good with words – she retrained as a celebrant with Humanists UK, giving her the ability to channel her incredible energy plus her love of people and karaoke into wedding ceremonies. Check her blog out for more info on what Humanist celebrants can do, why you should pick her and what working with her is like: https://www.katiethecelebrant.com/