We love choice!
Updated: Feb 21
Petite Weddings was borne out of a frustration at failing to find a wedding venue that suited the size and style of wedding we wanted to have when we were planning our own wedding. As Mark and I were both married previously, we did not want either a registry office wedding, like I had first time round, nor a bigger church/venue style wedding that Mark had previously chosen. We were very clear we wanted only our closest family, so a group of 12 of us in total, we wanted to exchange our vows on a beach in Cornwall and we wanted this ceremony to be followed by a celebratory meal in a private and beautiful place close-by where we could all stay. We failed to find what we searched for so took matters into our own hands…
We planned a wedding day around a ceremony on the beach. Our ceremony was the most important part of our day. Prior to our arrival our family worked together to create a stone circle and decorate it with the flowers. My eldest son and Mark’s brother each did a reading we’d chosen for meaning and feeling. Mark’s young daughter “blessed” us and all the guests with water from Sancreed’s ancient well mixed with rose petals. My younger son was charged with carrying the ceremonial sword, my daughter the witches’ broom. We jumped the sword and the witches broom: Jumping the sword symbolises cutting of previous ties (important to us as we were both divorced) and jumping the broom signifies being settled in a marriage relationship. To top it off, as luck would have it, a rainbow appeared out at sea just as our ceremony ended, that made us feel truly blessed.
Our wedding day meal was prepared by local chefs in a property we bought to let out for small weddings in the future. Cleary someone had to road test it! We ate, drank, danced and the morning afterwards we had a long lazy breakfast and time together as a family. These were our choices, but they won’t be everyone’s choices. Yet, choice itself is one of the driving forces behind our business. The choice to get married your way, where you want, with who you want and how you want.
Photography: McKinley Rogers, https://www.mckinley-rodgers.com/
After 6 years of helping couples find their ideal small wedding, we see the biggest remaining barrier to proper choice for couples wanting to marry is that the main law which governs marriage dates back to 1836. It has failed to keep pace with modern life. For example, all couples must have their wedding either in a place of worship or licensed venue, and cannot marry outdoors. If you don’t comply with the legal requirements your marriage will not be legally recognised. The law is currently being reformed and there is a head of steam behind this, with support from great change orientated organisations such as the “Give Couples Choice Movement”, a group that actively trying to influence these changes.
Fan the independent celebrant behind Fanfare Ceremonies is a great supporter of wedding law reform, and when we caught up on Zoom, we realised we had an awful lot in common, despite coming at the issue of choice from very different places.
Photography credit: https://www.venetianorrington.com/
What was your wedding day like and why?
Firstly Jane, thank you so much for inviting me to contribute to your blog. It was lovely to meet you and have a chat.
And so, to your questions. My husband and I were married in church 30 years ago. It was the happiest of days and here we are still together 30 years later. It was a beautiful spring day in April – a biting wind I recall and we froze to death having those oh so familiar formal pictures being taken!
To be absolutely honest there really was no question that I would be married anywhere other than in church. No one in my circle of friends or families had ever been married anywhere else. I never gave it a single second thought. We all just did. Both our parents had been. So, we did despite neither of us being particularly religious. I even agreed to obey – I’m not sure that would happen now!
If you were to have your wedding day again, what would you change?
Back then I wouldn’t have change anything really except for the obeying part! Boy I must have been naive. As I say it was the happiest of days and I have absolutely no regrets.
However, times have changed. These days couples are less inclined to just follow in their parent’s footsteps like we did. Millennials and the generations that follow are more enquiring, they know what they want or not want and welcome the chance of opportunities to express themselves and be creative.
Marriage now is not about ‘pleasing society’ it is more about pleasing the two individuals involved within the relationship. In my opinion this is a good thing. Fundamentally one should have a choice of where and by whom one is legally married. Sadly, at the moment there isn’t much choice.
Couples who use my services tend to come from a similar perspective. In other words, from quite a traditional background but want to express themselves within their ceremony. They don’t want to stray too far from the familiar format but personalisation, fun, informality and joy are key.
I think if I was engaged to be married now, I would most definitely be looking into having my ceremony at home in my parent’s garden with some religious content such as a reading and most definitely the odd hymn! Who could resist a bit of the ever-rousing Jerusalem?
Photo credit: https://www.venetianorrington.com/
Why do you think the majority of couples in England and Wales default to a registrar led wedding ceremony?
There are two reasons. The first and main is convenience. Couples want to be legally married at the same time as their wedding. This is not possible unless a Registrar officiates or at a church wedding.
This leads me to an important point. There is a little-known difference between a legal marriage and a wedding.
The marriage is the legal contract consisting of about 40 words plus the couples names and witnessed signatures to the register officiated by the Registrar. That is literally all. The wedding is the ceremonial celebration, religious or non-religious and can take place on completely different days, venues or even countries! Combining the two remains a priority to couples and ironically many feel that the wedding ceremony without the legal contract is not even real.
Conversely on the question of convenience a Celebrant can offer a very real solution from the point of view of availability and location. The registration services are incredibly busy. They have only so many slots and only so many registrars let alone the registers themselves! Throw the availability of the venue into the mix and it can become a massive problem for couples to have their wedding where they want it.
‘Conveniently’ most independent celebrants only present one ceremony per day and unlike the Registrars, are flexible on location, timings and dates. Once the couple have signed the marriage licence at the Registry Office we can offer a very real solution to wedding planning and availability issues. This is obviously particularly relevant now and will be for the months ahead.
Simply, the second reason is that couples do not know that there is a very real alternative. In the main they think civil ceremonies are conducted by Registrars and that is the only option they have. The services provided by celebrants are still little known and under-estimated.
How can couples have the authentic, personal and meaningful wedding ceremony they want and be legally married under the current law?
Currently the only way to have a truly personalised wedding ceremony that reflects a couples beliefs, no faith, mixed faiths, spirituality or cultural traditions and also their personalities is by fulfilling the legal requirements separately.
When the law changes, how do you think this will change the level of choice couples have?
Of course, we don’t know to what extent the law will change but with my positive hat very firmly on. Where do I start? Couples would finally crucially have the legal right to choose when, where, how and by whom they are married. They will be allowed to choose the content of their ceremony and the location of where that ceremony is held.
It would mean in essence that the officiant is licensed NOT the venue.
Photography credit: https://www.jamiedennyphotography.com/
How long do you think we need to wait for these changes to be fully accessible to all?
I’d love to tell you soon but realistically I fear a while yet. The Government currently has its hands quite full with a pandemic and goodness knows what other issues may arise.
The responses to the Law Commission consultation are now being analysed. A report will be published with recommendations to the government which is not expected until later this year. Then the new legislation will have to be drafted and have to pass through parliament and the House or Lords.
For the time being the important thing is to keep supporting the Give Couples Choice Movement and highlighting the importance of choice in legal marriage, to keep the momentum going and pressure on.
Wedding celebrants also need the continued support of venues, wedding suppliers and directories like Petite Weddings to educate couples on the massive benefits of celebrant led ceremonies.
Personalisation is the buzzword of all aspects of wedding planning and now more than ever we should highlight that this should and can include the ceremony itself.
Photography credit: Vaughan Stephens https://www.facebook.com/Vaughanstephensphotography/
So many couples have had their wedding plans scuppered by COVID 19 restrictions, what are the positives you have noticed when talking to couples?
All my couples who were due to be married last year have postponed and sadly a lot are postponing again. They were all hoping for weddings of 50 or more. So, on that front there has been little positivity.
That being said the enforced cancellations and postponements have shone a long awaited and much needed light on the archaic marriage laws and also demonstrated an evident shortfall of knowledge surrounding celebrant led ceremonies.
A fairer, less complicated and streamlined system would have provided flexibility and choice for couples which undoubtedly would have meant fewer cancellations during this pandemic.Furthermore, I do think Covid has made couples more reflective about what they want from their wedding. Their minds have been diverted from all the trappings of the party and back on to themselves, why they are marrying and what they both want. The ceremony has rightly returned to being the focus of the day rather than the reception and all the accompanying paraphernalia.
Photography credit: https://storyandcolour.co.uk
If couples would like you to conduct their wedding ceremony, how can they get in touch and find out more?
I have a beautiful sparkly new website www.fanfareceremonies.co.uk for them to have a look at and if they think my style and personality resonates with their own to give me a call or email me. I’d love to hear their plans for their wedding, explain how I can help and to start getting to know them.
Thank you Fan for your time, it was lovely to meet you over Zoom, and I hope that at some point in 2022 we might be able to meet up in person!
You can see Fan in action at beautiful Powderham Castle, Devon here: https://fb.watch/3OpwvW4mBm/