Who will lead your “I Do” in France, a professional celebrant or a friend?


Ok, full
disclosure here, I’m a professional celebrant! But I also have many friends! So
I hope I can give you a reasonably balanced answer to the above question, “who
should lead your ceremony, a celebrant or a friend?”

There’s a
lot to be said for having your bestie “up front and personal” with you on your
wedding day.

Why have your friend as your celebrant?

·       Perhaps you’ll expect the ceremony to
feel more intimate, it won’t be led by a “stranger”

·       Maybe it will feel easier to work
with someone you already know well

·       Then there’s the cost; your friend
will only hope to be repaid with love (and a great party after the ceremony!)

And this
could indeed prove to be the reality.

But I
personally have been asked more than once to rescue a wedding at the eleventh
hour because a friend has found the whole thing too stressful, or in one
instance because the bride and groom realised, three weeks out, that absolutely
nothing had been written by the friend in question!

Frankly, I
don’t blame those involved for a moment. After all, what your friends and
family will see on your celebrant-led ceremony is an individual standing with
you looking poised and relaxed as though what they’re doing is easy. Almost as
though much of what they have to say is off the cuff and discovered through
some sort of miraculous knowledge of you as a couple. In fact, it’s not
uncommon for people to ask me, after the ceremony, how I know the couple – they
think we were already acquainted!

But of
course, although we may feel as though we’ve known each other for years, this
relationship has grown simply through our working together on your ceremony. Good
celebrants are extensively trained in how to dig deep to create your
personalised ceremony, and on how to perfectly present it. We celebrants have
our own toolkit (as well as, very often a physical one in the car, wet-wipes,
safety pins etc!)

Your Celebrant’s “Toolkit”

The best
celebrants will have taken weeks to train including extensive “live training”
at a venue or online. They will come to you with the skills to learn valuable
information about you as a couple. You’ll spend many hours talking to your
celebrant, as well as those WhatsApp fact-checks! So by the time your ceremony
arrives they’ll feel like an old friend in any case! Your celebrant will also
advise as to how the ceremony will be conducted and what you may want to
include as “extras” such as symbolism and readings.

This cannot
be gained from the internet or from AI. It takes years of experience and
training, believe me!

How often
have couples asked me questions such as “how long should the ceremony take?” “Should
we write our own vows?” “Should we have music and readings?” If you don’t know
the answer, why would your friend? Correct, they wouldn’t, ask a celebrant!

As for “how”
to write your vows; will your friend have the tools to help you with that?

So much for
planning and writing your ceremony. That script, the story of YOUR love deserves
to be perfectly presented!

Professional Presentation

What do I
mean by “perfectly presented”? Not simply reading well from a script! It’s
being aware of everyone’s reactions as we follow the emotional journey that is
a wedding ceremony. And responding, when relevant, to those reactions. This may
be a subtle pause, such as unexpected laughter or happy tears from the couple
or their friends and families.

Most good
celebrants have had previous experience of writing and delivering information
to a crowd before training for their currant role. It gives us the confidence
to react to the unexpected.

For example
the time I referred to the groom being – in his words- “unartistic”. His
Grandmother took offence, interrupting (with a smile!) the flow of the ceremony
by saying she still had his cello at her house waiting for him to play, and
he’d been very talented as a youngster! This caused great hilarity with the
couple as well as those sitting nearby, but everyone shared the joke once I’d
relayed it to the crowd. This wasn’t a “big deal” for me, but it was my
experience in speaking at weddings (and other events if I’m honest) which made
it a moment of pure joy for all.

When I first
talk to couples making enquiries with me, I often mention the atmosphere in the
ceremony by the time we reach the vows. I call it the “gravitas” of the moment.
In my mind, this can make or break a ceremony, knowing that every single person
is tuned in to hear those vows being said. Even if they’re simple “I do” vows, that’s
why we’re all there! Will someone without experience be able to fully achieve
that vibe?

What do other wedding professionals think?

I don’t know
about all professionals, obviously, and it’s possibly irrelevant o the caterers
and the florists for instance. But I have had feedback from photographers.

I arrived at
a wedding in the Dordogne, a beautiful venue, the ceremony being held within a
picturesque pigeonnier. As I arrived, the photographer appeared and expressed
her delight that there was to be a celebrant running the show. She knew for
certain that there would be the full range of emotions, from happy tears to
smiles and laughter for those ceremony shots! She also knew that, on the key moments
such as the kiss at the close of the ceremony she’d have just the couple in
shot, no-one grinning between them having forgotten to stand clear! (Or maybe a
friend wouldn’t be aware of this no-no!)

You’ve paid
a great deal for your photographer, you want to be sure they’ll get the best
shots through your wedding ceremony.

I also noted
in a photographer’s blog that she referred to a celebrant as a “performer,
designer, creator and therapist” – phew!

Conclusion – ask a celebrant!

You want
everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy those 20-60 minutes (OK, maybe more if
you want), your bestie included. Asking them to conduct the ceremony puts them
under an enormous pressure, as well as putting you under pressure on their


Your wedding
ceremony should be – is – the whole point of your big day. It’s the reason
everybody is there. It’s unlikely that you’ll ask your friends to do the
catering, or to arrange the flowers. Why put the ceremony in the hands of
someone untrained? Don’t cut financial corners on this, one of the biggest in
your life. 

Written by Helen Williams – Treasured Ceremonies – April 2024

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