March 4, 2024 

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.

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 behalf.

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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