In the past, I have been in the fortunate position to have worked with some of the most amazing wedding suppliers in Suffolk and across the UK, with many of which becoming great friends. I know that many of my prospective and current clients check out my blog from time to time to see what I’ve been up to, which got me thinking. What better way to introduce some of my trusted vendor friends to my clients than to give them the spotlight for 5 minutes here on my blog where they could tell us about their business, their inspirations and what makes them tick. So here you have it, a new series of interviews has been born, I hope you enjoy them.
Ross: For those readers who may not have come across you before, please can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to become a wedding celebrant?
Linda: Well, I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother with a working background in local government. I was educated at Grammar School and the Open University, and have various management qualifications and an honours degree in Psychology.
I am fascinated by people and the way in which we all make sense of the world. It seems to me that the principles of rational enquiry, equality and mutual respect are more helpful than religious belief when it comes to understanding the world we share. I would say that the most important thing I learned in six years of studying psychology is that there are very many questions but no definitive answers when it comes to human relationships, but surely if we all use empathy and compassion we can make the world a better place for everyone.
I joined the British Humanist Association (BHA) when I found out that they offered training for Humanist Celebrants, underpinned by an Accreditation Scheme, Code of Conduct, and supported by a National Network of Celebrants. The BHA work on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical lives on the basis of reason and humanity. I took my first training course with the BHA in 2001 and have been working with couples since then to make sure their wedding ceremony is personal, unique, dignified and, of course, that it reflects their personalities and aspirations for the future.
Ross: Tell us a little about Humanist ceremonies. How do they differ from other wedding ceremonies?
Linda: The most striking difference is that a Humanist ceremony can take place anywhere; a beach, a castle, the couple’s own back garden or a grand hotel, and indeed I have conducted ceremonies in all of those places. Couples can chose their own readings, write their own vows, and have friends and family contributing a reading, some poetry or perhaps playing some music. They might want to include children from a previous relationship; the possibilities are as varied and interesting as are people! Exploring ways to make that happen is just part of my role.
I should point out that, at the moment, Humanist wedding ceremonies have no standing under the law in England, unlike our neighbours in Scotland who can be legally married by a Celebrant from the Humanist Society of Scotland. The BHA is working very hard at the moment to redress this inequality.
Ross: How long does a Humanist ceremony last?
Linda: That would depend upon the number of readings, pieces of music, and so on, but usually the ceremony would be 30 to 35 minutes long.
Ross: What kinds of personal touches have you seen couples include in their ceremonies during your time as a celebrant?
Linda: Every ceremony is different – in a way they are all composed of personal touches! The ceremonies usually include the story of how the couple met, what it is they love about each other (and what they tolerate about each other because they are in love!), and why now is the right time to make a commitment to each other. There would normally be an exchange of rings, perhaps a ring warming or hand fasting, or some kind of symbolism that expresses the fact they have come together of their own free will and will stay together of their own free will. I guess the most memorable ceremony I have conducted this year was in the Bandstand of Colchester Castle Park on a Sunday afternoon in August; it was a special place for the couple and the ceremony included five pieces of music played live. After the ceremony I was chatting to a lady who had been passing by when the ceremony took place, and she told me it had restored her faith in romance!
Ross: How far in advance do you suggest couples come talk to you about their ceremony?
Linda: I encourage couples to come to see me as early as possible so that we can get to know each other – it’s important that they are working with a Celebrant that they know they can get on with and who understands what they want their ceremony to be. We would then discuss a timetable to work to in the run up to their big day.
Ross: What advice would you give couples when choosing their celebrant?
Linda: I would say that you should choose someone who listens to what you want and who you feel understands your plans. If you don’t have any clear cut plans, you should choose someone who will explore a number of different approaches you could use to make your ceremony right for you. You should leave that initial meeting with her or him buzzing with excitement about your ceremony!
Ross: Finally, what's the best thing about being a celebrant?
Linda: I get to meet some truly lovely people! I get some wonderful thank you letters after the ceremony so I know I’ve made a huge contribution to their big day – it is a truly satisfying job.