When I began Celebrancy in 2014, I’m not sure that Instagram was even a ‘thing’, google reviews were not something on my radar and I didn’t ever think to ask for reviews to be posted on social media platforms like Facebook or anywhere else for that matter. I was one of only a few people working as a Celebrant in the Midlands and I didn’t need to publish reviews of my work. I did it because I loved it and didn’t need to ‘make a living’ at it. I thought of it as a vocation really. I didn’t think of it in terms of publishing what really feel like rather sacred and private occasions. I’m also rubbish at asking…. As a result I have very few reviews published anywhere online and haven’t, to my great shame, taken great pains to record all the wonderful, kind words full of gratitude which come my way with every ceremony. Now in the age of Insta, Youtube, Facebook, Google etcetera and with more and more great Celebrants enjoying this wonderful profession, there is a need for public reviews about my work. I have started to want to share with people all the fantastic ceremonies I have devised with my couples. If you look at my social profile, I might appear to have done very few weddings and I have little published online with which to celebrate those occasions.
I have decided to redress the balance. It has been 5 years doing what I love the most and do the best, and as a celebration of my great joy at creating and conducting celebrations for so many, I have decided to write a piece about every single wedding until the present-day. It could take some time. I hope to also get in touch with some of my couples, with whom I always intended to spend time perusing photos, but never quite did.
I’m beginning my Retrospective…well, at the very beginning. With my darling niece Sarah and her beautiful husband Peter. Sarah and Peter were a reluctant bride and groom. They were happy to be married without ceremony and they definitely didn’t want to get married in a Church. My sister had different ideas. In the end, I was the compromise. I can safely say that doing my first ceremony ever, in front of my entire family all at once was by far the hardest ceremony I have ever conducted. Since then, all of my weddings have seemed relatively easy. My sister is the one wearing the immensely stylish hat, particularly stylish in comparison with my appalling sunglasses. Thankfully my style and image has improved at least! At that time my sister was very poorly and we knew that she had little time left with us on earth. It was a wedding in part created for her and her beloved daughter and I always feel that my big sister Jan has left her legacy in Jessica May Ceremonies as without her as inspiration this wedding would never have taken place. Sometimes when families are very proscriptive it comes from a good place and she was never one to take ‘no’ for an answer, known as she was as ‘a force of nature’. In some ways, I suppose all of my weddings are dedicated even in small ways to her because in all truth, without her insistence upon a wedding day for her daughter I wouldn’t be involved in yours…
It didn’t cross my mind to decline. I was obviously delighted and immediately booked myself onto a Celebrancy Course in Hebden Bridge in February 2014. I didn’t want to let her down. I did the course simply to make sure I could honour her wishes and do a good job. It didn’t occur until later that I might do it for other people in the future. Subsequently, as a thank you present, Sarah designed my logo and my brand image which I then used for my website and cards.
These two would happily have eloped but after much discussion, their wedding was to take place in Portugal on the Algarve Coast near a town called Tavira. They later both changed their name to the exact place where they got married…but I’m not going to reveal all their secrets. It was an absolutely magical wedding. It took place in a little grove overlooking the sea and a flock of flamingos put in an appearance at some point in the proceedings at that time. Flamingos later became the ‘family crest’, but I won’t go into why. I’m not sure they flew past during the ceremony. I missed them. I had my back to the sea, but in my mind it works well if they flew past at that moment! There were all the things I had assumed only happens in films. There was a soft warm breeze and banks and borders of fragrant herbs and a stunning modernist venue. There was the scent of aromatic foliage and that gentle warmth that makes you feel happy.
- These two people are among the most in love I have ever witnessed. They had a very simple ceremony. My niece is not a fan of the limelight. They borrowed from the Church of England Liturgy, and to be quite honest they simply asked me to ‘take out the God bits’! as they are not Christian but both grew up and were born into Christian traditions. They are ‘spiritually-minded’, but of no fixed faith or even particular belief in God. They are good people and they are loving people and people of exquisite good taste. The simplicity of the service worked well in such an overwhelming and stunning location. They didn’t need much more than love and the tender time-honoured words “to have and to hold from this day forward, til death us do part”. Now they have an adorable little boy and live in the far less hospitable climes of Aberdeen! Thank you Sarah, Peter and Jan for helping me to find my vocation.