So you have this conundrum. You have a lot of friends and family you want to celebrate your wedding with… but the thought of speaking in front of them all makes you break out in a cold sweat, makes you afraid you’ll freeze up or just not engage properly with your wedding day. You want to love every minute of marrying the love of your life, but, all of the above.
I’m here to tell you, the traditional elopement, where you quietly disappear and come back married and that’s that isn’t your only option.
A slightly less traditional elopement is an option though. You invite everyone to your wedding… except actually you got married that morning, quietly, at your accommodation with just your immediate family, or your two best friends there. Yes your big ceremony sounds a little different to what it would if you were actually getting married (and no you can’t just pretend, as a registered celebrant I’m not allowed to do that, but you can have a lovely ceremony that everyone will love being a part of, safe in the knowledge that this way you don’t actually have to say anything if you’d rather not.)
Or you can tell everyone you’re heading off to get married on the weekend, and have a small ceremony on a mountain top, or in the garden or by the side of a lake. Then invite everyone to celebrate that you did a few weeks or months later when you have some epic photos to share.
Another option if you want your big ceremony to be your actual wedding ceremony is to limit what you say during the ceremony to ‘I do’, or even a nod. Let me say everything you want to say, for you. I’m legally required to make sure you say ‘I full name take you full name to be my husband/ wife’ in front of your witnesses… but that bit can be quietly when we’re signing your marriage licence with your witnesses away from all the rest of your guests. Yes, the signing table is often quite close to where your guests are, but there’s no reason it has to be.
Or to flip the script, if the thought of saying all the things in your heart, out loud in front of your guests is too much, you can limit your vows to just the ‘I full name take you full name to be my husband/ wife’ bit during the ceremony. And say everything you want to say privately to each other at a first look shoot, when you’re alone before the ceremony. Or you can exchange letters to read while you’re getting ready, or even as part of the ceremony to read later together after the party is over.
You don’t need to have a long ceremony. The ‘traditional length’ secular ceremony is somewhere between 15 and 25 minutes. Shorter is no problem. A short ceremony can absolutely still be a personalised special ceremony. Like my 5’1 mother has always said, good things come in small packages.
Also yes it’s traditional for one person to be waiting next to the celebrant at the front for the other to arrive. But there’s something to be said for entering as a team. Because who can calm you down the best? I’m willing to bet, it’s the person you’re about to marry. Or if you just want to avoid standing at the front having everyone stare at you while you wait for your bride or groom, that’s no problem. I’m happy to stash you somewhere quiet with a few trusted friends or family and come and find you just before your soon to be wife or husband walks down the aisle.
If it turns out saying the vows you’d planned to say isn’t going to be an option, a quiet word is all that’s needed for me to get that you need to switch to an ‘I do’ version. Honestly the two of you will be the only ones who know anything has changed.
I’m happy to do this, or whatever works for you, partly because it’s your day. You should be comfortable, you should be happy, you should be relaxed enough to enjoy all the moments of the day you get married to the wonderful person you’re marrying… But also because I get it. I was the kid who spoke too fast and stuttered, who would avoid public speaking, or even speaking to people I didn’t know, like the plague. There was a time it would have been my worst nightmare too. (Just to be clear I’m not that person anymore! I will rock at being your celebrant, and you don’t even have to take my word for it, just check out these testimonials Sarah and Mike Nadine and Scott Drian and Vicky) I get how much worrying about having to speak in front of a big group of people could ruin your day. So let’s together find a way that fits how you want to get married and how you want to celebrate.
Wherever and however you’re getting married – massive congratulations! If you’re looking for a fun young celebrant I’d love to hear from you. I’m based in Alexandra, but happy to travel around Central Otago and beyond. I’m up for a challenge, so hit me with your ideas and we’ll go from there.
You can contact me on Facebook, call or text me on 027 384 7886 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org