A Q&A with Colette Ashby Celebrant

“I’m terrified!! I am NOT a creative person. I’m romantic with gestures but when it comes to writing I panic”

“It’s so difficult to come up with the right words! I got trouble putting emotions into words and I get embarrassed with public displays of affection”

Can you relate with these words? Then do not worry, you are in the right place!

I got some useful tips for you to write spot-on, personalized, touchy-feeling and not-to-cheesy wedding vows from one of the best professional celebrant in UK.

Without any further ado, let me introduce you the host of this interview Colette Ashby a celebrant based in Berkshire.

Colette creates and performs personalised ceremonies all over the UK and abroad for weddings, renewal of vows and baby naming.

Colette Ashby Celebrant

1)How did you  become a celebrant?

I was a management, sales and presentation skills trainer in the corporate world for over 20 years. During that career I amassed a set of skills such as creative writing, ability to engage groups of people, public speaking skills. Those skills led themselves perfectly to my role as a celebrant, for which I create and perform personalised ceremonies for weddings, vow renewals and baby naming.

I decided to train as a celebrant with the Academy of Modern Celebrancy from which I graduated with a qualification in wedding and baby naming celebrancy.

Credits: Andrew Billington Photography

2)What is the difference between hiring a celebrant and having your civil ceremony at a registry office?

A council registrar is a legal officiant of wedding ceremonies and has to follow government ruling on the content of the ceremony. There are restrictions on vows, readings and songs and no religious content is allowed.  In other words, it is a standardised service. The ceremony takes around 15 minutes and the couple are a whom they meet on their wedding day just before the ceremony begins.

A celebrant is an independent wedding officiant who is trained in creating and performing personalised ceremonies. They take the time to get to know their couples and write a bespoke ceremony script that tells the couple’s own unique story. This is achieved through meetings, an in-depth questionnaire and a desire to create a ceremony that reflects each couple’s beliefs, values and personalities.

There are very few, if any, restrictions when ii comes to the ceremony. Pretty much anything goes! Whether traditional, informal, fun, quirky, beautifully simple or completely lavish, the couple have total freedom to choose their ceremony style. Their celebrant will be there every step of the way to advise, guide and support them.

To legalise the marriage, the couple will need to attend a registry office (usually the day before their celebrant ceremony) to make their declarations in front of 2 witnesses and sign the necessary paperwork. This takes around 15 minutes and costs about £50 (depending on the areas where they live). They do not have to exchange vows or rings at the registry office; they can save all the special moments for their celebrant-led ceremony.

3) I have a lot of couples that really struggle to write their own vows, which tips would you give to them?

It can be really moving to write your own vows, and much more meaningful that a standardised script given to you by the council! I would advise including the following 3 elements into your vows:

  1. What 3 things do you love most about your partner? Be honest and open
  2. How has your life changed since you met them?
  3. What promises would you like to make to them for your lives together? Eg “I promise to support you in following your own goals and to be there for you with a reassuring hug when things are tough”
Credits:Angelina Litvin

4)Also I have a lot couples that  are super shy and they do not like  to speak in public, how can you help couples to overcome this problem?

This is a very common issue. In my former career as a presentation skills trainer I have lots of tips and advice for couples with this concern, and sometimes end up doing mini coaching sessions with them! The main thing is practice. If you stand up and speak in public for the first time ever on your wedding day in front of 60 guests, it stands to reason that you will be nervous. If, however, you have practiced in front of, say, 2 or 3 people and it went well, it will take some of the fear away and help build your confidence.

The main thing is to relax (deep breaths help) and to have rehearsed what you want to say.

Couples are not under pressure to make lengthy speeches in their ceremony. Many people prefer simply to repeat a few words after their celebrant. This gives them confidence and takes the pressure off.

And finally, remember – you are in this together and have each other’s support. It is meant to be an enjoyable day so have fun!

Credits: Andrew Billington

5) Why do you love doing this job?

Because I create and perform ceremonies for happy times, I am surrounded by happy people on joyous occasions. Yes, there are stressful moments but I am organised and make sure my couples have my support so they can just relax and enjoy their day.

I love being a part of people’s married lives together, helping them to celebrate their big day …their way.

Thank you Colette to share these important tips! I think this interview was very useful to answer such big pain points.

If you liked it,  please feel free to leave a comment below and share your experience with writing your wedding vows.

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