What’s it like working with a wedding celebrant?

A garden wedding in Essex.
The Groom watches as his Bride walks down the aisle, my wife beside him grinning as usual.

So what’s it like working with a wedding celebrant?

More to the point, what’s it like working with your wife when she happens to be the wedding celebrant. This is a question we both get asked on a regular basis, especially when couples are looking at booking us both, so I will attempt to answer that question by way of a real life example.


The Meeting: The Bride and Groom had noticed my details on Michelle’s website and, though they had arranged to meet with another photographer, asked if I could come along as well. They had a good look through lots of slideshows on my iPad and looked at several sample wedding albums I had brought with me.

They said they loved my work but, as they had already arranged to meet another photographer and thought it would be rude to cancel that appointment, said they would let me know in due course. About a week later and after they had met with the other photographer, they emailed me to let me know they thought I would be perfect for their day.


The Planning: As is always the case I took a great deal of interest in the planning of the whole day and gave helpful advice when necessary. When I work with Michelle, I am able to get a really detailed knowledge of what is going to happen during the ceremony.

With each ceremony being unique and designed with the couple so as to reflect their own personalities, this detailed knowledge is very valuable as it allows me to plan exactly where to be at the right time to get wonderful photos.

When working with a wedding celebrant I am able to attend the practice and really see first hand how things are going to flow on the day. I can work out where to stand to get great photos without getting too close or in the way and spoiling everyone’s enjoyment of the ceremony. When working with Michelle, I also have some input on where she should stand to get the best photos of the happy couple!

Most couples have an idea of the type of photography they would like for their day. This will often include some “formal” photos of themselves and their guests together with a lot of informal or “reportage” style photos. We will work out a plan A (for good weather) and a plan B (for wet weather) and identify locations in advance for the group and couple photos so that no time is wasted on the wedding day.

But I also want my couples to have something more than the photos “everyone has”, something different from the “norm”. To that end, I always encourage couples to also think a bit “outside the box” and perhaps have some photos that are taken “just for fun”. In fact, I have a dedicated gallery on my website called “just for fun”. These are the photos that usually raise the biggest smiles both during and after the big day.

A garden wedding in Essex.
A “Just for Fun” photo of the Bride and Groom with their friends.

The wedding day was upon us and I arrived early as usual. This meant I had time for a bacon butty and cup of tea whilst chatting with the bridal party and the Bride’s parents. I often find a good chat over a cup of tea helps put everyone at ease before I start clicking the shutter button.

Then I set about my work. The Bride & Groom will have spent a lot of time and effort, not to mention money, arranging not just the big things, but also the little details that go to make their special day exactly how they want it to be. The pictures I take now will help them remember all those little details for years to come. Everything from the seating plan to the strategically placed signs, from the Wedding Cake to the wine for the wedding breakfast, from the Bridesmaid’s dresses to the Groom’s “button hole”. All will have been carefully selected to form a small but important part of this most special of days.

Then there’s The Dress, The Shoes, The Perfume, The Jewellery, The Old, New, Borrowed and Blue. All to be recorded for posterity. The atmosphere as the Bridal party share a bedroom as hair and make-up are perfected. Then, when everything is just right, a few portrait photos of the Bride looking amazing!

The Groom and his party are not to be forgotten. It’s his day too, so some photos of him, his Best Man and friends when they are all done up to the 9s and looking their best.

The guests start to arrive. Some casual photos of them chatting, maybe catching up with old friends they haven’t seen in an age, and then making their way to their seats. Not forgetting some photos of the Groom with his Best Man as they wait patiently, and perhaps nervously, for the bride to arrive.

Then the wedding celebrant, my wife Michelle, calls all to order. She gives her introduction before leading on to the moment they have all been waiting for. All stand for the entrance of The Bride!

Photos are taken as the pretty flower girl leads the way scattering petals down the aisle. She is followed by the Bridesmaids all looking beautiful then, finally, The Bride looking amazing. I then turn to get a photo of the Groom as he sees her for the first time in her wedding dress. The look on his face says it all!

The ceremony goes brilliantly. Just the right blend of “the serious” with “the fun”. Big smiles and lots of laughter from everyone, including the celebrant. Exactly what a celebration of love should be.

As for me, I’m keeping out of the way so that I don’t distract anyone, but I’m getting lots of photos of smiling faces! Capturing those important little moments like the rings being placed on the fingers, the vows being exchanged, the first kiss and those knowing little glances the couple give each other. I can’t help but smile all the way through it all.

Wedding photography in Essex
One of those “knowing little glances” from the Bride and Groom as Michelle tells their story.

When the ceremony ends, it’s time for the confetti. I get the guests organised and tell them how confetti should be thrown. Then it’s time to get them organised for the group photos. It really comes in handy being married to the celebrant as she now sets about helping me get everyone organised.

Wedding photography for Essex
The Confetti flies!!

The big group photo with everyone in it is usually the first. The part of the wedding that the guests dread the most. We need natural smiles, not cheesy forced ones, so it’s “Three cheers for the Bride and Groom”. That usually works. Everyone comes alive, lots of cheering and lots of natural smiles. After the photo is taken, those guests that do not “appear” in any more photos can be released to make their way to the drinks and canapés.

During the planning stage the Bride and Groom had, at my request, provided a list of the group photos they wanted. At the rehearsal we had worked out the best order in which to take the photos so that guests are not standing around for ages waiting to have their photo taken. After all, who wants to stand around waiting for photos when there’s food and drink calling out to them! About 15 minutes later, we’re done.

Now it’s on to the “fun” photos with the bride, Groom and their parties. And they really had come up with some fun ideas for these photos! Michelle joins in as my “voice activated light stand”, another advantage of being married to the celebrant (though I suspect she doesn’t quite see it that way).

Wedding photography in Essex
Boys will be boys. Another “just for the fun of it” photo.

Then I took the Bride and Groom off for a little walk to take some “romantic” and some casual photos of just the two of them enjoying each other’s company, and a few “formal” ones which they had wanted for “display on the mantle piece”. The Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid comes in handy here. There’s drinks and canapés to be carried, not to mention a long dress to be looked after.

Wedding photography in Essex
The Bride and Groom on their own.

Then it’s back to the guests to “mingle” and enjoy themselves. An opportunity for me to get some casual photos of them all generally just having a good time before all the guests are called to their seats ready for the Wedding Breakfast.

Some photos as the Bride and Groom are announced (usually by my wife Michelle) and make their entrance, then, when they are seated, I disappear to let everyone enjoy their meal without fear of having a camera pointed in their direction.

Then it’s time for the speeches! I take a few photos of each of the speech makers in turn but mostly photograph the reactions of the guests and top table as they are often laughing hysterically at what is said.

Wedding photography in Essex
The Best Man making his speech.

When the speeches draw to a close it’s usually time for me to prepare for the “First Dance”. I set up any additional lighting that I think is necessary so that I am ready when they are.

The arrival of the evening guests presents me with another opportunity for some casual photos of the Bride and Groom with their guests. Then, at some point, it’s time to photograph the cutting of the Wedding Cake before moving on to that special First Dance, both of which are often announced by Michelle.

Wedding photography in Essex
The First Dance.

As soon as the First Dance is finished the guests invade the dance floor and the evening party gets underway. A few photos of them enjoying themselves on the dance floor. Maybe they have asked for a particular photo that they really want me to get.

Wedding photography in Essex
The fireworks say it all. A photo they had asked for and which was important to them.

I check with the Bride and Groom that they have finished with Michelle and I before packing my equipment away at the end of what has been a truly fantastic day.

So what’s it like working with your wife, the wedding celebrant? Absolutely brilliant. I love the ceremonies my wife conducts. Every one is different and they are always full of fun and laughter. And let’s not forget, I get a free “voice activated light stand” thrown into the bargain!!

A Celebrant Led Wedding – or a day in the life of a wedding celebrant.

 

I give full credit for this Blog to my wife. I want to share it because I think it shows just how much we both care about what we do for our couples, and how much fun we have along the way. It was a fabulous garden wedding for two truly lovely people and being able to spend time with couples like these guys is the reason why we love what we do.

Wedding Photographer for Colchester Essex.
Anna & Kenny are showered with confetti as they walk back down the aisle.

A day in the life of a Wedding Celebrant by Michelle Taylor

It’s not all about just turning up on a wedding day, standing at the front and speaking, there is so much more to it and this is what this short blog is all about.

I met with Anna and Kenny on a not so warm day at her mum’s house just outside of Colchester in May 2016. They were living in London but had a vision, to celebrate their love in front of family and friends at a fantastic laid back ceremony in the grounds of the bride’s family home. Neither were religious so a church ceremony was not on the agenda, but they also knew they wanted something much more personal than a routine registry office ceremony.

We discussed all sorts over tea and biscuits at the kitchen table, and what became instantly clear was this was to be a ceremony and a wedding day full of love and laughter and a whole lot of FUN!

A silent disco was booked to follow a Scottish Ceilidh (pronounced Kay-Lee) for the after dinner celebrations and they had already started to stockpile the wine and beers for the party.

Wedding Photographer for Colchester Essex
Michelle and Kenny enjoy a spot of Ceilidh dancing.

By the end of that first meeting, I KNEW we were meant to work together, and I was delighted that they felt the same too. We parted ways that day agreeing that their ceremony would include a Handfasting and Quaich (Scottish Loving Cup) ceremony to celebrate their shared Celtic ancestry. They had fun selecting just the right drop of Scotch with which to fill the Quaich over the intervening months.

Wedding Photographer for Colchester Essex
The Bride and Groom enjoy a wee dram from the Quaich, which had been filled by Kenny’s Dad.

A fabulous Scottish Handfasting poem was chosen to be read by the Groom’s dad in his wonderful lilting accent as they tied the knot and their personal vows to each other were to be crafted before the big day.

I was given permission to gently take the proverbial out of the fact that all 3 of us were huge rugby fans, and between us represented 3 of the 4 home nations…As an ardent England fan (the dominant side in recent years) they just knew I was going to mention this fact, once or twice and were totally at ease with my sense of humour and knew I would be bringing the added fun to their celebration.

Booking fee paid and questionnaire provided, we agreed to meet regularly, whenever they returned to Essex, so we could discuss the evolving ceremony and keep tabs on the changing seasons in the garden.

The icing on the cake was being able to recommend my husband as their Wedding photographer, and being able to work with him, and share an amazing day.

Anna and Kenny were just so easy to work with; they readily shared their love story with me and allowed me to put my twist on the telling of it. Together we created something that we knew would bring giggles and tears in equal measure as their family and friends went on the journey with us.

They had met at a party friends had held to welcome Kenny back from a tour of Afghanistan and bonded over Apple Crumble vodka shots. They fell in love quite quickly and knew they had each found their own soul mate, someone they could dance around the kitchen with, argue with, laugh with and love with. It all came so easily to them both. Kenny had even thoughtfully made Anna an engagement ring in his man cave over the course of a few nights before presenting it to her on St David’s day in a kitchen festooned with inflatable leeks, daffodils and a red toy dragon!

Ceremony written, we worked out on interim visits and at the practice the day before, just how long the ceremony would take, how long the processional music needed to be, where we would stand and where their guests would be seated. I was able to reassure a stressed out bride that all would be well, and gave them both my usual pre ceremony pep talk, including the need for a decent nights sleep and plenty of hydration on the big day.
It dawned, bright and beautiful, the hottest day of the summer (we thought at the time…so far…it was after all only June …But it in fact turned out to be the hottest day of the summer full stop!)

Wedding Photographer for Colchester Essex
The hottest day of the year!

We had a hoot! Yes it was a very warm day, and at one point the groom was making full use of my fan to cool himself down,

Wedding Photographer for Colchester Essex
Michelle does her best to cool things down a bit.

but the guests were treated to more giggles than you could shake a stick at and my husband and I were able to enjoy one of the best weddings of the year, working in partnership and helping a fabulous couple celebrate their big day. We even got roped into the dancing and didn’t actually manage to get away until nearly 11 o’clock that night ourselves…long after even his clocking off time! It was a quintessentially English balmy summers night as we packed up to leave, with the biggest grins on our faces.

The feedback has been amazing from Anna and Kenny and their guests, I even booked another couple for their wedding celebration who came running up to me straight after the ceremony and told me to drop everything I WAS required to attend their big day, they had never laughed so much at a wedding ceremony and didn’t know they could have something so personal written just for them.

Wedding Photographer for Colchester Essex

So as you can see, it’s about putting your heart and soul into each client, it is about discussing individual requirements, being open and accommodating. It’s about meetings, for me, as many as each client requires. I don’t set limits, never have, never will. You’ll always get me at the end of a phone or by texts/ email.
It’s about the writing, the practicing and ultimately the final delivery of your carefully crafted script. AND it’s about the love, the love that brought them to this point and that love which will sustain them from that day forward.
This is why you chose a celebrant, and why it’s important to choose the right one for you.