This article focuses on ceremonies for real weddings and real couples. With Boris’s latest announcement that, all being well, weddings can go ahead without restrictions after 21st June I am sure many of you have a refreshed sense of energy and enthusiasm for your wedding planning and in the need of some inspiration.
I have put together a small compilation of a few of the real weddings that I have presented over the years from which I hope you will draw inspiration for your own ceremony.
Couples over the last year have become more reflective on what they want from their wedding. Their focus has been diverted from all the trappings of the party and back to themselves, why they are marrying and what they both want.
So continuing that theme, this is not inspiration on style, colour palettes, décor or fashion. The images are not of styled shoots but real weddings with real couples who, importantly, ensured that their story was at the heart of their wedding ceremony and who wanted to celebrate their love for one another with all their guests in the most personal way.
Image credit: Paige Grace Photography
1. Real wedding in a licensed country house venue
I have three outstanding memories of Dan and Kirstie’s wedding at Deer Park. Firstly, the weather. It was real English summer weather! It poured and poured with rain. How cruel it was as the summer of 2018 had been blisteringly hot.
Dan’s disappointment was real. However there’s a saying along the lines of “anyone who thinks that sunshine is pure happiness, has never danced in the rain” Metaphorically speaking we were dancing in the rain on 22nd September and it was a wedding awash with emotion, happiness and love.
The second thing was Dan, his best man and his groomsmen. What a striking and handsome group they were, and their closeness and incredible friendship was undeniable. From our meetings I had known there was a bond but witnessing it in person was something else.
I described them as kinsmen. Brothers in Arms. Friends for life. Kindred spirits and boy, did it show. One of Dan’s groomsmen, who shall remain nameless, was so overwhelmed by the whole occasion he just could not stop crying. His joy for his friend was so deep.
The third thing of course was Kirstie. She has a certain aura and serenity about her, and she looked absolutely beautiful wearing a dress that she designed herself. Like Dan, she had her close girl friends as her bridesmaids and their bond too was evident for the world to see.
In the planning process it became evident that these close bonds with their friends and family were significant and which Kirstie and Dan were keen to highlight within their ceremony.
Another element I often include in a ceremony if I think it would suit a couple is asking them both individually and secretly what they love about the other. Kirstie and Dan were one such couple and as I suspected both wrote some beautifully eloquent words about how they felt. It was a particularly poignant part of their ceremony.
Image credit: DHW Photography
2. Real ‘at home’ on the farm wedding inspiration
Ranald and Becky held their wedding ceremony at Becky’s parent’s farm in East Devon. Not only was it a spectacular location it was clearly a very happy home.
You got the sense that there had already been many cherished family experiences there and Becky and Ranald’s wedding was to be another. The ceremony was a celebration of not only their love and marriage but also their love for their families.
The ceremony was held high on the hill above the farm beneath a beautiful arbour that Becky’s father had made. The guests were all seated on straw bales. The view from the top was breathtaking.
It was a huge occasion in that it was reuniting close family members from Australia and beyond and across generations. Family is important to many but it was particularly significant in this family. Huge efforts had been made by many and to have everyone reunited was very special.
Becky and Ran wrote their own vows which were peppered with sincerity and humour and Becky’s godmother read a brilliant poem which she had written herself. It described their relationship and characters to a tee.
This wedding typified everything that a celebrant ceremony is all about. Becky wanted to be married from her beautiful home. A place that had shaped her, where she felt calm and where they both felt completely familiar.
They wanted their ceremony to be real, to be relaxed and intimate. It was all that and more. It was a true representation of them both. It was unpretentious and charming reflecting their love for each other, their families and their aspirations for the future
Image credit: Will Dolphin Photography
3. Real wedding at unlicensed wedding venue
The Barn at South Milton Is a charming rustic wedding unlicensed venue with panoramic views to the sea and countryside beyond. A perfect setting for Lorna and Danny who wanted a close knit community and festival vibe.
The sky was bright blue (never has my dress matched so perfectly!). There was barely a cloud to be seen. The sun shone. The stage was set for a fabulous day. The ceremony was outside with the sea as the most glorious natural backdrop.
I loved these two and was absolutely delighted to be part of their wonderful day. Theirs was a real love story which we put firmly at the heart of their ceremony. They met as friends in their twenties and became soulmates from the outset. They lost touch only to find each other again.
Their wedding really was a celebration. Of course of their marriage but also an opportunity for this family, who had experienced considerable heartbreak over the years to come together, and party for the first time for a while. And party they did!
With a carefully handpicked playlist reflecting Danny’s love of music and general joie de vivre there was a party atmosphere before beautiful Lorna even arrived. Guests were more or less dancing in their chairs.
Danny, forever in shorts, dazzled in a Donegal Khaki green suit. He was feeling the heat a bit not only from the blazing sunshine but also some jangling nerves. There was a heap of emotion hidden behind those Raybans whilst awaiting the arrival of his bride.
And boy when Lorna arrived she really didn’t disappoint. Proudly escorted to the ceremony by her eldest son. The smile on Lorna’s face spoke louder than any words I could utter. And when Danny saw that smile it was the most beautiful thing because quietly he knew he was the reason behind it. They share pure love, laughter, respect and happiness.
During the signing of the wedding ceremony certificate Danny and Lorna had chosen ‘At Last’ by Etta James. It heralded nearly the end of a heartfelt, fun and truly memorable day for me. Meeting and working with couples like Lorna and Danny is why I love this job.
This was a ceremony that was filled to the brim with all the ingredients that make a celebrant led ceremony so memorable and different. Personal and romantic yet fun filled, full of laughter and good cheer but remaining very sincere and heartfelt.
Image credit: Caught the Light
4. Real ‘at home’ woodland wedding
Georgia and Tom’s wedding in August 2019 was another stand out for me. They had enormous bridal parties a full rugby team of groomsmen and 12 bridesmaids no less and a few flower girls for good measure.
They wanted their ceremony to be light hearted but not forgetting the importance of the occasion. Their humour and personalities were firmly at the heart involving many self effacing anecdotes particularly on the part of the groom.
But for me it was the combination of rousing singing and the setting that was so unique. Georgia had always wanted to be married in woodland. Fortunately Tom’s family home is surrounded by just that glorious ancient woodland.
The ceremony was held in a clearing a stone’s throw from Tom’s parents garden. The setting was wonderfully simple and natural but equally majestic and atmospheric. But it was particularly special because it was at home.
Tom’s family are incredibly musical and sound equipment, guitars, pianos and various other instruments had all been transported out to the woods. Tom’s brother, also his bestman played the saxophone as Georgia was escorted up the leafy aisle by her father.
Later not only did Tom’s sister play and sing but we all belted out Jerusalem. It was absolutely magical. The trees formed a natural cathedral. The ceremony was followed by a reception in a marquee in the family garden.
This was a truly unique occasion. It combined all the elements that make a celebrant led ceremony so personal. A dream was fulfilled, a wedding ceremony at home, in a unique setting and the words represented the couple’s values, personalities and wishes accurately. Not one pre-scripted word.
Image credit: Tom Frost Photography
5. Another real wedding in country house licensed venue
Finally, I have chosen to include Helena and Sam’s wedding at Rockbeare Manor in this short compilation because working with them demonstrated so perfectly a couple whose priority was the content of their ceremony.
They wanted it to have a traditional tone and to follow the familiar structure of a church wedding. But that’s where familiarity ended but proved that you can modernise and be creative with a traditional format.
It was one of the most intimate ceremonies I’ve ever written. It reflected their enormous affection and love for one another, first as best friends through a transition period and then on to becoming a couple. All their friends had been with them on this journey watching as their relationship changed, then blossomed, and ultimately lead to their marriage.
Their story was also their guests story and it needed to resonate with all of them too. Together we managed to reflect all this with and with the ‘Fanfare’ trademark of a very healthy sprinkling of humour, joy and laughter to boot.
You will have noticed that I have chosen real weddings which took place in very different venues. Some were unlicensed wedding venues, others were licensed country house venues and others were at home. But despite all these different locations there is a common theme running throughout. They all share a genuine wish to have their ceremony their way, and to express themselves with no templates or generic scripts. This is only possible with a celebrant led ceremony.
If you would like to learn more about celebrant led ceremonies or would like me help you with your ceremony, do give me a call or email me I’d love to chat you through how it’s done.