Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Wedding Celebrant | Pop-Up & Flash Weddings

Many of you may have heard about pop-up weddings but not experienced one, however, once tried - never forgotten.

“You basically just show up. If you don’t want the stress and the cost of a traditional wedding, it’s perfect!”

So  “What is a pop-up wedding?”
Not all pop-up weddings are the same, but they do have a common purpose: to make it easy for a couple to get married, and to make it less expensive.

Pop-up weddings truly are perfect for couples who simply don’t have the cash to pull out all the stops on their wedding day. They are also ideal for couples with other priorities, such as travel.

And because not all of us like wedding planning, they are a great option for couples who don’t want to invest months orchestrating an event.

Some pop-up weddings are like fancy elopements with no guests. Australia’s The Pop Up Wedding describes their service like this:

“We find the coolest venue, the hottest photographer, really creative stylists and florists and a rocking wedding celebrant and put them all together so for one hour you can have your dream wedding with no fuss, no stress and a few guests.”

Perth Pop-Up Wedding, also in Australia, allows up to 16 guests, and lets you choose from eight different venues.

“We provide an incredibly stunning and romantic venue with three inspiring and uniquely styled ceremony options … a beautiful mini bouquet, Perth’s most awarded celebrant… , celebratory champagne and cake for you and your guests and photographs of your ceremony followed by a short portrait session as husband and wife with one of Perth’s most sought after photographers…”

Thankfully, you don’t have to go all the way to Australia to have a pop-up wedding. The trend is catching on here in the UK too.

A pop-up wedding is much like an elopement. A short & sweet ceremony usually consisting of the couple, their witnesses, a few guests & a wedding celebrant. Endless natural landscapes for backdrops & vintage neon signage are a favourite.  

Another variant is a "flash wedding", flash as in "flash mob", depending on the location, not recommended unless you are a brave wedding celebrant with an equally brave couple. I did a goth themed wedding on the steps of a well know and busy cathedral (handfasting & broom jump too). The Bishop was incandescent with rage - but it was all done and dusted before he could do anything about it.

Why are couples choosing pop up weddings?
Large scale weddings aren’t for everyone. A lot of the couples would rather spend money on their honeymoon, instead of a ceremony that isn’t really about them. Pop-ups are all about the couples & the love they share. It’s really a sweet & genuine & exciting moment.

What’s the cost?
How long is a piece of string? Having taken a straw pole of those of us who have done them, the costs have ranged from £1200 to £5600 All in - including the wedding celebrant. Much depends on the imagination of the couple and the skills of the wedding celebrant / planner.

For UKSOC Wedding Celebrants interested in this concept - speak to your Mentor.

Funeral Celebrant | Funeral Poverty

What if there is none?
“The Cost Of Pauper Funerals Is Rising”, proclaimed recent headlines, along with a simultaneous shining of the journalistic spotlight onto so-called ‘funeral poverty’.

The cost of funerals is always enough to cause dark mutterings, calls for government enquiries and heated articles in the tabloids. But in a world now obsessed with labelling everything as a pressing social issue, amongst ‘Islamaphobia’ and ‘Trans-gender discrimination’ we find ‘Funeral Poverty’ being tucked in to the lexicon of contemporary social problems. As usual, the reality is complex and riddled with inconvenient truths and it takes a brave soul to try explaining it.

So here we go...

In recent years, the cost to local authorities of so-called ‘pauper funerals’ has risen almost 30% to £1.7m. Public health funerals, as they’re properly known, are carried out by local authorities for people who die alone or without relatives able to pay. Although historically the preserve of people who’d fallen through the social net, the increase in public health funerals can largely be traced to people living longer and thus more likely to die alone. But the ever-growing number of marital breakdowns and fractured family relationships is in turn why more people find themselves alone in the first place.

Local authorities carried out 2,580 public health funerals in the 12 months spanning 2013-14, representing still only a small fraction of the circa 500,000 UK deaths each year. A no-frills public health funeral will cost somewhere around £1500 and although attempts are made to recover some of the costs from the deceased’s assets, the total bill to local authorities was still £1,719,329 - an increase of 28% in the past four years. So there’s your newspaper headline.

But hanging on the coat tails of that story is the sequel: ‘funeral poverty’ – the inability to afford a funeral. The average funeral now costs approximately £3,163 nationally, (£4,836 in London). People receiving benefits can apply for assistance from the DWP Social Fund, which will cover the necessary third party costs of a simple burial or cremation and up to £700 towards funeral director's fees. But there’s no guarantee an application will succeed and because you need a funeral invoice to make a claim, families & funeral directors alike are exposed to unacceptable risk of debt right from the outset.

The £700 funding amount hasn’t changed for over a decade - while funeral director’s costs have gone up year on year (we have wages, electricity, fuel and business rates to pay, just like everyone else). Meanwhile, third-party costs have risen way above inflation. Cremation fee rises are largely due to EU regulations; burial fees are high because, with burials accounting for only 30% of deaths anyway, cemeteries are almost always run at a loss and require constant subsidy. Conversely, some cash-strapped local authorities are choosing to privatise their ‘bereavement services’ (crematorium/cemeteries), transforming them into cash cows for raising desperately-needed revenue to fund other services. They subcontract their management to private operators like the big funeral chains, but inevitably with little downward effect on the fees.

Bereavement is of course often unexpected and so for people on low incomes especially, funeral & associated costs will inevitably far exceed their financial means. As a result, there’s now some anecdotal evidence that struggling families are washing their hands of responsibility altogether, in the hope their local authority will provide a public health funeral.

But here’s the Katie Hopkins bit: the desire to offload responsibility onto the local authority and obtain a public health funeral actually represents, a more honest approach. There always seems to be a proportion of families who cannot afford an elaborate funeral but still want one anyway. Cheaper funeral options are readily available, without any loss of dignity, but they’re often shunned because the deceased “deserves better”. One result is an identifiable trend now for funerals – particularly for youngsters - being paid for by online crowd-funding appeals “because he/she deserves the best send-off”. That always strikes me as rather backward logic and once again it illustrates how the label ‘poverty’ is often relative to spending choices.