Guest Blog by Jackie Warburton of ‘I Do’ Your Ceremony.

Thicket Priory excels in meticulous attention to detail to create a wedding experience that the couple and their guests will look back on as being simply perfect.

It’s those little touches that really matter – a bit like in a marriage, as Wilferd Arlan Peterson describes in his lovely poem, ‘The Art of Marriage’, in which he describes how, in a good marriage, ‘the little things are the big things’. So true.

I want to hone in on a little detail that doesn’t always occur to couples in their wedding planning, but which can make a significant difference to the way precious memories of their big day are captured.

What’s an ‘unplugged ceremony’ and why do I suggest couples consider it?

But first, a bit of background…

I’m thrilled to be recommended by Thicket Priory – I have bookings due to take place in the elegant Morning Room, the atmospheric Chapel, and the romantic Bandstand – I can’t wait! However, before there’s any commitment to book ‘I Do’ Your Ceremony, I have an informal ‘getting to know you’ chat with a couple so that they can make an informed choice as to whether I’m the Celebrant for them.

I carefully listen to a couple’s vision for what their wedding will look, sound and ‘feel’ like so that, from the outset, the ceremony we go on to co-create is as unique as they are. There is research which shows that people quickly forget what they hear or see (which is why wedding photos are SO important to preserve those memories – I’ll come back to that) but we remember much more vividly those experiences which touch us emotionally. Which is why I ask the question ‘when you look back on it, what do you want to remember most about your ceremony?’ Although the ceremony isn’t written for their guests, it’s first and foremost for the couple, a wedding is also a celebration of love shared with family and friends. It’s important therefore, to ask how they want their guests to fondly recall of the ceremony too.

By having this mindful approach, establishing their vision early in the planning process, I can tune into a couple’s personal ceremony style. Getting those foundations right means that during the script drafting process, the content and tone matches their personalities perfectly. As one of my lovely couples Valerie and Tim kindly reflected of their September 2020 wedding; “Our friends and family said that it was absolutely ‘US’ and was both moving and filled with laughter in equal measure”.

It could be that the bespoke style of a Celebrant’s approach is a little unexpected, When I was a Registrar, for instance, such personalisation was simply not part of the process. If a couple find it hard to describe what they envisage, it helps to start by asking for just 3 words that they’d use to describe a perfect ceremony for them – although when they get going, many more words spring to mind, which is fab!

These responses vary greatly from couple to couple and I never make assumptions. Any personal choice of words is equally valid, helping me hit the right tone.

The 3 words could include:

• ‘emotional’, ‘romantic’ and ‘relaxed’;
• or ‘serious’, ‘traditional’ and ‘religious’;
• or ‘quirky’, ‘unconventional’ and ‘funny’;
• or ‘intimate’, ‘personal’ and ‘tear-jerking’ (happy tears of course!)

– or any combination, according to the couple’s unique relationship.

There are no templates and there isn’t a drop-down menu approach to the writing of my wedding, commitment, vow renewal or naming ceremonies, as each is composed especially for the clients. The charm of a Celebrant-led ceremony is that in the most meaningful and special part of a couple’s big day – the heart of the day – it really IS all about you!

Just like Thicket Priory’s many thoughtful touches (like the amazing sewing room) in a Celebrant’s relationship with their client, it’s the small details that really make all the difference to getting the whole experience just right. Which brings me to the beginning of the ceremony and the couple having their wishes respected regarding the taking and sharing of photos. (I said I’d come back to this ……)

The ‘unplugged’ ceremony option – is it worth considering?

We’re all used to having technology at our fingertips now that we’ve been using smartphones for what seems like for eve but one thing tech can do is inappropriately distract us when we really should be giving our full attention to the proceedings, for instance, during a momentous occasion like a wedding. Guests love to take pictures and videos which they’ll then go on to share on their social media without thinking because it’s so much a part of life. It’s important to think through as a couple if you’re quite at ease with that, or perhaps it’s helpful to decide beforehand whether you prefer they didn’t.

When we discuss it, (and I find with most couples, the implications of guests taking photos during the ceremony hasn’t occurred to them) many decide the ceremony itself should be just photographed by the chosen professionals or designated guest, allowing them to capture all the emotion, smiles, and the shared happiness – without the technology getting in the way of the guests’ faces!
Many professional photographers, although highly experienced, find it difficult to capture those “once in a lifetime” shots whilst trying to avoid the mobile phones, iPads, cameras or guests standing up to get a photo (or standing in the aisle in front of the bride – trust me, it happens!) and obstructing the photographer’s view.

Because it’s so personal, a Celebrant-led ceremony will be deeply meaningful; with family and friends responding emotionally as the couple’s love story (so far) is perhaps told, before they exchange vows, rings – and maybe share a symbolic ritual too, such as a handfasting, a unity candle lighting, or ‘jumping the broom’ – to name a few! A specialist photographer or videographer, with their skills and specialist equipment will capture those unique moments in an unobtrusive, discreet and beautiful way.

If a couple decide to go ‘unplugged’ I can make a politely worded announcement just before the ceremony begins, requesting that guests switch their phones off for half an hour or so (nobody wants a mobile pinging when you’re in vow mid-flow, sincerely pledging your life to each other!) I respectfully ask that guests leave the taking of photos of the ceremony to the chosen person(s), so they can be fully ‘in the moment’ with the couple. It can make the whole shared experience much more intimate, regardless of the number of guests.

It’s personal choice of course – but that attention to detail and investment in learning exactly what is important to each individual couple is what being a Celebrant is all about and why it’s an absolute privilege to do what I do. It’s the happiest role ever!

Love Jackie