This week I had the pleasure of chatting with Nat Raybould who is a humanist celebrant based in London, to chat all things humanist and celebrant led ceremonies and how to make your ceremony much more personal.
The celebrant led ceremony has come out in full force this year and to tell you the truth I love it! I love how it makes your ceremony that more personal rather than just being about the legal stuff!
What is a Celebrant Led Ceremony?
Nat: Essentially you could say it's the third way to get married. The first way is a Civil Ceremony which is the legal way to get married and don't get me wrong that is important but it focuses on the legal language the other way is a Religious Ceremony which may be due to their faith, your family traditions or because they want a more romantic traditional style of wedding with less legal language.
In England and Wales a Celebrant Ceremony is not legally binding but in Scotland it is and has been for over 16 years! So you can have a proper elopement on the highland cliffs with just the couple, the celebrant and the photographer and you can be legally married!
Lauren: Having a celebrant led ceremony doesn't mean you can't have a legal ceremony, most, if not all, of my couples will get legally married in a registry office with a small amount of guests before to then have a celebrant led ceremony to really celebrate their love story on the day they wish to celebrate their wedding.
Nat: Exactly, for my own wedding we both walked to the registry office with our parents, siblings and my best friend at around 10.30am and had a very minimal statutory ceremony, which means no ring exchange. We then walked through the city, grabbed a sandwich from a little deli and then I went off put my heels on, got my bouquet and we arrived for our, what I call 'real' wedding ceremony with all the guests we wanted and then carried on like a normal wedding. It kind of felt my an amouse bouche where we did the legal bit first and then the way we wanted to celebrate after.
So the way it works in England and Wales at the moment is that everyone is not legally recognised so technically speaking anyone can write a bespoke beautiful ceremony and delivery it to your guests.
Why did you Become a Celebrant?
Nat: I had two instincts when I knew I wanted to become a celebrant, I knew that I had the skill sets and could be trained to become a celebrant. I knew that I knew how to write well and I knew I was a humanist and I believed in it and then, this my sounds strange, but I got this feeling that I needed to do it, it was a passion of mine that I couldn't ignore.
I knew however that there were still things I needed to learn. I needed people to challenge me on things like the difficulties of dealing with intense emotion and dealing with difficult family situations, being a good listener, being empathic, learning to read couples to know what they want before even they know what they want. Therefore I knew I needed to get top quality training and the training is on going every 3 years with peer observation to make sure our ceremonies are top notch!
How do You Pick the Right Celebrant?
Nat: There are different types of celebrants and finding the right one for you is so important whether thats finding someone that is comfortable reading prayers or practicing religious acts or that is completely non-religious it's important to find a celebrant that matches the couples spiritual needs, their religious needs or their non-religious needs.
And theres also room for couples to pick their own personality types, there will always be a celebrant out there that you gel with and that will be your type of person.
Lauren: This is the beauty of it for me, you can choose who leads your ceremony and choose someone that you resonate with to tell your love story instead of not knowing who's going to be stood up there with you.
What's the Process?
Nat: First things first, I'm going to explain how I work with couples for my ceremonies but every celebrant will have their own way of doing things.
Firstly I would meet with the couple before they book me, I think that's essential. We cover quite a lot in that first initial meeting, there's an awful lot I can gage from it, I see the glances between the couple, the dynamic between the both of them and immediately I can recognise the type of vibe they want. Some couples come to me not knowing anything apart from the fact they know they want a celebrant led ceremony as they want it to be about them and that's fine!
What I also focus on is how the couple want the atmosphere to feel like, how they want their guests to feel and the visualisation of the ceremony.
Once they've booked me our journey starts 6 months before the wedding date, I'll meet with them again in person, hopefully a few times, whether thats for a coffee, for cocktails, down the pub or if they're in another country then online just to have a chat, not necessarily about the wedding but just to hang out and find out more about them outside of the wedding.
Lauren: And that's how you find out about them as a couple and how they live their lives.
Nat: Exactly I don't just want to know about the wedding, I want to know about everything! I need to leap frog all of that knowledge that all of their guests will already know the both of them.
I then give the couples some written homework and that's because it uses a different part of the brain. I ask them spend some time on their own and to write down their own versions of their story. I can give guidance but I try not to as I want to read their intended words that they've chosen to describe their partner and/or their relationship before and during their relationship but also for their continued story after marriage.
Thank you to Nat for a really eye opening chat about what a celebrant is and does, I hope thats given you some more knowledge to help you understand what type of ceremony you're looking to have.
She really is one of the most passionate people I've ever had the pleasure talking to about their job!
So if you'd like to get in touch with Nat, then I have linked her socials below!
Photos by: 1. The Woman and The Wolf 2. Bis for Babb