Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Civil Celebrant | The Civil Circle of Life | Part 2 of 4

Choices? Make them personal!


A Superhero Themed Wedding - Why Not?

More and more members of our society now live a secular life. Separated, disconnected and, most importantly, without a desire or need for religion and therefore, do not want to include it in the key moments of their life. It also has to be noted that with some faiths still frowning on same sex unions, portions of our society cannot find common ground, let alone comfort, inside a religious dominion.

Of course this is where the Civil Ceremony should step in and, as far back as July 1837 marriages in England and Wales could, for the first time, take place in a Registry Office and quite significantly for that era, could be conducted by a Registrar rather than a member of the clergy.

For those not wanting to work out the maths that is 178 years since anything significant has changed. 178 years is a long time and the restrictions that govern these Civil Ceremonies have not changed during that period.

The stagnation and in-flexibility of the core elements of the civil wedding service and now, as importantly for most contemporary couples, where it must take place, prevent many partners who are deeply in love, from committing formally to each other. If the legal dictates prevent them from expressing who they really are and how they want to celebrate their union, they prefer to remain unwed.

Over the past three years there has a been a change in thinking and, even though the law has not changed, the determination of a few beautifully brave brides and grooms, has revitalised the marriage ceremony and the way it is conducted throughout the UK, by turning to a Civil Celebrant.

It is now possible, after taking care of the legalities of registering the marriage with a Registrar at a Registry Office and in the presence of two witnesses which, usually takes around 15 minutes, the couple are free to hold a ceremony of their choosing. The venue, style and content of a ceremony, led by a Celebrant is without boundaries or limits! In 2013 a couple from London held their ceremony in a shark tank, others opted for a tandem skydive, more recently another couple decided upon a Game of Thrones wedding theme complete with an Iron Throne!

On a more romantic note the content of the service is personal; the vows are bespoke and written for each couple, the readings can be selected from any source or can be commissioned especially for the event.

For couples who have mixed heritage and customs, this option is the only way they can blend the most significant elements of their cultures together and offers them the best opportunity to celebrate all that is great about their combined ethnicity.

There is of course another bonus to this idea; it can mean that super low-budget weddings can be turned into the stuff of dreams! Without the need for a high-priced licensed venue you can decide exactly what to spend your money on. If that means preferring to buy some amazing plants for your garden that will bloom year after year on your anniversary, make some bunting out of pink gingham, fire up your barbecue, have your Labrador as Best Man and have the biggest garden wedding-party ever, then so be it!



Next Week | Part Three : Milestones

See Part 1 | Challenging Tradition

Thanks to Kim Greenacre | Civil Celebrant | Celebrant House

Kim is a regular contributor to several magazines and a published poet. Kim is also a member of the UK Society of Celebrants and holds the Diploma in Family & Funeral Celebrancy awarded to Civil Celebrants. For more details about qualified Civil Celebrants in your area please click here.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Civil Celebrant | The Civil Circle of Life | Part 1 of 4

Circle of Life
Part One - Challenging Tradition

Our lives and the world we live them in change everyday. Some of these changes happen so fast we hardly notice them until they have crept right up on us and suddenly, when we take a moment to look around, we find theses changes sitting, centre stage, in our lives.


There are other changes that manifest at a much slower pace; so slowly, in fact, that most people do not see the primary differences, let alone the complete transformation they bring during the average, four score and ten, lifetime. These lumbering changes, more often than not, have nothing to do with biological or physical evolution, the affect of weather, soil erosion or glacial melt; they are simply trapped in tradition.

The dictionary definitely holds clues as to why, that which is held in this seemingly impermeable membrane, sheds all attempts to alter its form the way a good macintosh wicks away a deluge.

Tradition: the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation

synonyms: historical convention, unwritten law, oral history, heritage; lore, folklore


Understandably then, anything connected to “historical convention” would take time and more than a little courage to transform but recently individuals, couples and entire families are challenging customs that have stood for centuries and are enjoying, not only the process of transforming them but more importantly, the outcome!

In my role as a Civil Celebrant I have the privilege to witness such changes. This relatively new profession is without doubt a product of such changes and allows me the honour of meeting people who, preparing for one of the key circle of life moments, make a committed and informed decision to move away from tradition.

These choices, and when they need to be made, are obviously connected to the most emotional occasions any of us will face in our lifetime; the birth of a new baby, a marriage or civil union and of course, saying farewell to a family member or close friend at a funeral. Instead of mimicking the well rehearsed and familiar actions of their parents and grand-parents these deliciously brave souls base their decisions on who they really are and how they go about the business of living today.

To be able to appreciate the gravitas of such decisions we really need to look at the history and longevity of the ceremonies in question.

The quintessential church wedding has long been considered one of the cornerstones of English life but, if more people were aware of how long the current format of the ceremony and the vows it contains have been in situ, perhaps even more of the population would agree that a re-vamp is long overdue.

A little digging in the historical records of our country proves that to find any significant changes in the ceremonial or legal requirements of the marriage act we must go back several centuries. Interestingly (and quite alarmingly) it was not until 1140 that the Benedictine monk Gratian, considered that consent of both bride and groom should be essential and formalised this aspect into church law with his textbook, Decretum Gratiani - before that date a person simply had to be present to be bound by the, then, inescapable bonds of matrimony.

The Marriage Vows, as couples recite them today during a Church of England ceremony, actually date back to Thomas Cranmer, the architect of English Protestantism. Cranmer laid out the purpose for marriage and scripted the current wedding vows nearly 500 years ago in his Book of Common Prayer. The book was revised in 1552 and again in 1662, but the integral ingredients of the ceremony were first laid down in 1549.

The words that most of us are familiar with and consider to be the warp and weft of a traditional wedding ceremony “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer” etc. can all be traced to that time.

So surely, the very first question a bride and groom should be asking themselves is “If we step into a religious dominion are we prepared to be bound by the rules and regulations that were written so many years ago or are we, the individuals that form this couple, a little more contemporary than that?”


Next Week | Part Two : Choices? Make them personal

Thanks to Kim Greenacre | Civil Celebrant | Celebrant House
Kim is a regular contributor to several magazines and a published poet. Kim is also a member of the UK Society of Celebrants and holds the Diploma in Family & Funeral Celebrancy awarded to Civil Celebrants. For more details about qualified Civil Celebrants in your area please click here.