When you’re getting married, you will want the best. The best may not always mean going down the traditional registrar route. Wedding celebrants are increasing in popularity as relaxed weddings become more of a norm. I interviewed Gaynor, who is one of the best wedding celebrants around to find out exactly what she offers to her couples.
I’ve been a part of hundreds of wedding ceremonies and the ones that are most memorable to me are the ones that are centered around the couple. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Gaynor a couple of times. She is a personable, delivers her ceremonies in such a loving manner and is just generally pretty brilliant.
So…what is a wedding celebrant?
— Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to start your business. —
I am rapidly approaching my 50th birthday but keep that quiet! For the last 25 years I worked as a Complementary Therapist and went on to gain my teaching degree before beginning to train students of all ages in complementary therapies, beauty and nails. I am a Gemini and a summer solstice baby, a tattooed wife, mum and nan, who has a mad love of gardening, upcycling and crafting.
Before becoming a wedding celebrant, my husband and I ran a centre for therapy and training. It was because of the centre that the seed for becoming a celebrant was sown. There was a demand for handfastings and pagan funerals locally, so when my health meant I could no longer perform my treatments, I decided to retrain. In 2017 I qualified with Civil Celebrants Ltd and gained my NVQ Level 3 Qualifications in Couples and Naming Ceremonies and Funeral Celebrancy.
— What is your business? —
I am an Independent and Pagan Celebrant. A lot of people still think that all celebrants are Humanists. I am not. I love people to have complete freedom over their wedding ceremony and its content, so I am happy to create all kinds of wedding ceremonies, regardless of religious or cultural beliefs.
— Who are your ideal couples? —
As a wedding celebrant, I love working with people who like to experience life to its fullest and love to celebrate a little differently with their favourite people around them! They tend to be romantic, quirky and have alternative and unconventional lifestyles. They have great sense of humour, love the outdoor and festival vibe or unusual venues and tend to be free spirited and very much know who they are and what they want out of life! They also very much appreciate the ceremonial and symbolic rituals aspects of a ceremony and have some sort of religious or spiritual beliefs. I work a lot with LGBTQ+ and multi-faith families too.
As an aging old Goth, I also love working with the edgier side of our society, so Gothic, Steampunk, Viking, Festival, Boho, Love Music, Gaming and Movies and Cosplay. People like this are right up my street! So, bring on the black and the darkness, the colourful, the pierced and tattooed and all the weird, alternative, unconventional and magical people!!
All are welcome here!!
>> Take a look at this video to see Gaynor in action <<
— Why choose a celebrant over a registrar? —
In a nutshell, freedom and flexibility! Celebrant led wedding ceremonies are more fun, creative, exciting and original!
A marriage is the legal contract that you enter into, should you so choose to, and is recognised and required by law for all sorts of practical, financial and legal reasons. The same applies to civil partnerships. There are restrictions on where these can occur, what time of day, number of witnesses etc in order to make it legally binding. You don’t need to become legally married and have your wedding on the same day.
A wedding ceremony is a celebration of that contract. With a celebrant led ceremony, there are no restrictions, you have total freedom to have exactly the ceremony you’ve dreamed of! You are in control throughout. Each ceremony will be unique, completely personal to the couple or family. You can have as many people take part in your ceremony as you wish, and you can have any kind of religious or spiritual content included.
There are no restrictions on time of day (or night), location, symbolic elements such as handfasting, unity candles, or the drinking from the quaich. You can have music, live entertainment, even have your dogs involved! Whatever your vision is, it is my job to recreate that and tell your story and make it a very special and memorable part of your day. You do not have to exchange rings at your legal marriage ceremony if you do not wish to and all of the normal “traditional” elements such as exchanging rings and vows can be included in your wedding ceremony.
I am a Pagan celebrant, so I can specifically create full Pagan rituals for the members of the Pagan community. I personally am a Druid, who traditionally, as well as the healers, teachers and magicians of a community, were the bards and the storytellers who thrive on inspiration from the world around us. I will work clients with all aspects of Pagan beliefs, including Wicca, Heathenism, Shamanism, Druidry, Animistic or Nature based and will work with them and their chosen elements and Deities too.
— How do you work? —
In a very relaxed, friendly, approachable, organised and stress-free way!
Each ceremony takes a good 20 hours to plan, research, collate, create and of course deliver it on the day. Before I even accept a booking, any potential clients have the opportunity to have a free consultation video call (or face to face for a drink if local). This gives us an opportunity to get to know each other, for me to listen to their ceremony ideas and for the couple to ask any questions they may have before making a commitment to book and parting with any hard-earned pennies. I then explain the booking terms and conditions fully and send them on their merry way to have a chat about everything we’ve discussed to decide in private with no pressure from me to book.
If they decide to go ahead, then they pay their date reservation fee, receive their paperwork and we book a planning meeting. Each planning meeting can take a good couple of hours. Then I listen. I listen to their story, their ideas, their choices and we plan the entire ceremony together from start to finish. They may also be sent away with “homework” to send me any further information that I need to complete their ceremony. As an ex-teacher, I am a stickler for this, and no gold stars are given until it is handed in on time!!
I then collate all the information, liaise with other people that are involved in the ceremony such as participants and suppliers to make sure everything is as it should be. Once I have all the information, I create a rough draft of the ceremony which I send onto the couple and it can go through several alterations before happy with the finished piece. I stay in constant contact with my clients and they know they can always reach me should they need to alter anything or just let off steam to an independent ear!
On the day of the ceremony, I will be there in good time to prepare and be ready for all eventualities! I check on them individually, armed with Bach Flower Rescue Remedy to sooth any nerves and again, check for any last-minute changes. I usually provide a PA and a music operator (my roadie husband) to take control of all of the music options, so that pressure is not put onto a guest or busy venue staff.
The ceremony itself can take anything from 20-60 plus minutes, depending on what the client wants. Afterwards, after a quick selfie and a celebratory toast, I take my leave, as I believe it is then time for them to celebrate privately as a family. After a few days, I then send on a presentation copy of their ceremony script as a keepsake of their special day.
>> Click this video to see Gaynor in action! <<
— What do you love most about being a wedding celebrant? —
It sounds a bit cheesy doesn’t it, but it is such a powerful emotion. It comes in so many forms, whether that be the love of a new child, the excitement and romance of young love, the enduring love, support and life-long friendship of a vow renewal or the everlasting love and remembrance for those loved ones who have died. I have the huge honour of being welcomed into people’s lives to witness and record these momentous events and rites of passage. I am always so humbled to be chosen to do so. I get to build very intense relationships with people in such a short space of time. Sometimes I feel a bit like Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee, I am there whilst they need me and then, when my work is done, I must move on and help the next family!
For me, being a wedding celebrant is a calling, to be able to bring the energy and tradition of ancient rituals into the present and create modern, meaningful, memorable ceremonies for future generations to come, helping those in my local community and across the UK.
— How can people find you? —
They can find me firstly on my website, https://gaynorstickelscelebrant.co.uk/
Also my very, very new ‘work in progress’ YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHkZno0FleS68SX7E3kRVvw
They can also call me on: 07968710882
— This is what one of Gaynor’s couples had to say about her —
“As our venue was not technically licensed to carry out the ceremony part of the wedding we had to have a Celebrant to carry out a ceremony on the day (we did the official, legal, paper bit the previous week). We sent out a few emails to celebrants asking them how the process works etc and how they personally work and Gaynor was so friendly and warm and her love for what she does was just instantly obvious! We had no idea that a ceremony carried out by a celebrant was so different from the usual register office ceremony and Gaynor helped us to understand how literally anything can be done. She’s carried our pagan hand fastings, viking ceremonies and all sorts! So she really gave us a lot to think about in terms of how we could make our ceremony unique and personal to us. We met with her and chatted with her about our story and personalities and she helped us to create a beautiful ceremony that meant so much to us and we could tell that she was just as passionate about it as we were. In the end we went for a crystal blessing where each person held a rose quartz heart in their hands and and blessed it with love which we now keep in a special box to take out every now and then to relive our day and all the love that we have (cheesy I know). Our vows were written by ourselves with lots of guidance from Gaynor. At first we really struggle with writing the vows as we aren’t ones for being soppy and really saying how we feel but in the end we managed to add a bit of humour and romance.”
If you are looking for a wedding photographer who loves shooting for relaxed couples and who might make you laugh so hard that you snort, then I would love to hear from you.
You can also check out more of my work here: Portfolio
I also have some helpful wedding planning blog posts for you to have a look through here.