Deck the Vows with Bells And Holly, tra-la-la-lala!

While 2020 has pretty much been cancelled when it comes to weddings (and if this has happened to you, I am truly sorry) 2021 is just around the corner. If you have had to re-book your ceremony, and were unable to hold it over the summer, then fear not! As Christmas can offer the most magical wedding, with a little sprinkle of imagination (and Yuletide glitter). Here are a few ideas for you…

A Marry Lwyd!

Here’s an idea that merges one of the best and oldest Welsh seasonal traditions with your ceremony (and possibly one of my favourites, since I am part of a Mari Lwyd troupe!) The Mari Lwyd is a Welsh custom to bring good luck upon a household – so why not twist this for a wedding. Traditionally, around this time, the Mari Lwyd, her ostler and an accompanying band of people, including musicians, knock on doors and enter into a singing battle to be invited in. The occupants have to sing a reply, stating why they will not let this creature into the place, and the creature sings again. This goes on until the household invite her in and there is dancing, singing and the Mari and crew are invited to enjoy some food and drink.

So why not incorporate this into your ceremony! There are a lot of troupes across Wales now reviving this tradition. Your ceremony could involve the couple entering into the ‘word battle’ with the Mari, before the Mari comes in to witness the exchange of vows, and then everyone joins in with the songs and enjoying the food!

A torch-lit wassail ceremony

Again, why not combine an old tradition with your ceremony and have a wassail blessing! In days gone by, a wassail was performed to bring good luck to the coming year – but you could have one to bring luck upon your union. And you could do this as an early evening ceremony, too! You can do this inside – think how cosy your ceremony would be with a roaring fire, candles, festive decorations and evergreens – or even outside, weather permitting, with your venue or garden space festooned in evergreens and swags of twinkling fair lights, everyone wrapped up warm (ask your guests to bring cosy blankets with them), with some flaming torches to light your way. After you exchange your vows, the wassail bowl (which for modern hygiene sake, can be a big saucepan of warming hot cider or mulled wine, which everyone ladles a cup full from) is passed around and everyone says a wassail to bless the wedding.

An Evergreen Ceremony!

This pic is part of the Mari Lwyd crew, but can just demonstrate how cool an evergreen, folkloric ceremony can be! You can even have a green man (in this case, the legend that is Bob) entertain you with his zither! Decorating your venue with evergreens such as holly, ivy, mistletoe, pines, plus swags of ragged ribbons in festive colours can really add a festive flavour. you can even incorporate some old customs such as jumping the broom and pouring of the wine into your ceremony

I’ve got plenty of festive ideas – which also work for renewal of vows and naming ceremonies, so if you need a bit of inspiration for your big day, get in touch!

An Alternative Wedding!

So you have met the love of your life, and you both have a love for rock, metal, goth, punk – any and all of the above… Excellent! It sounds like you’ve met the person of your dreams (which certainly solves the problem of someone you share you life with telling you to ‘get that rubbish off’ when you play your favourite album at full blast!). and now you want to get married, but the trouble is, you want a ceremony that reflects who you are – that says what you want to say to one another and where you can actually walk down the isle to Rammstein if you really want to!

That’s why choosing a celebrant to officiate your marriage will be an excellent choice (even if i do say so myself!) A celebrant will work with you to create a ceremony that not just reflects your love, but also your life. If you want a ceremony that is more like a gig, then why not (I’ll tell you what – I’d love to go to this sort of gig!)? As celebrants we can create meaningful vows (and i don’t just mean, “I promise to love your black metal collection – even those Watain records”) and it will be memorable forever!

I’ll tell you a bit about myself. Aside from being a history/folklore buff (I really do love all those weird history things, you know!) I have been on the music scene for many years – if I told you how many years, you would guess my age. And yes, I am old. Old enough to be part of the first wave of the riot gggrl movement. I’ve written for music magazines including rocksound and Terrorizer – and currently Metal Head. I’ve interviewed everyone from members of Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Ministry – and yes, even Watain and other bands on the black metal circuit. I even had a pretty metal wedding party myself, when me and Stu came back from the ceremony in Sri Lanka, we had a party in Craig Y Nos in Wales, and all our friends who were in bands, artists, and alternatives, joined us. Our first dance was to dueling banjos (that song from Deliverance). And we felt great, because it was something that represented us! Even the flowers and table decs reflected who we were, with skulls, roses, ivy and black stuff (I made them myself, I was quite chuffed!)

What I’m trying to say is that I would like to give you couples out there the same, authentic, experience that we had. It was definitely a night to remember – for all the right reasons! Coming from the same scene as you, I understand where you are coming from (and may even know a little bit about the bands you like!). We can even talk to some gig venues, if you really must turn your ceremony into a gig – because with a celebrant officiating, you don’t need to be in a licensed venue, as your legal papers would already have been signed.

A Clean Sweep And Weddings

No, the venue wasn’t behind on preparations, and the chimney sweep was caught in the act of, er, sweeping… In days gone by, having a chimney sweep at your wedding – and the first to kiss the bride – was good luck!

The tradition is over 200 years old, and may seem a bit random today, but, like a lot of great old customs, inviting a sweep to a wedding for luck is being revived.

The tradition starts in the reign of King George II, when a chimney sweep saved his life by stopping his runaway horse and carriage. The King was so grateful that he issued a Royal Decree that chimney sweeps should be treated with great respect (at a time when thry were considered one of the lowest of the low) and were lucky! Well, they were certainly lucky for him! After this time, every one who wanted to bring luck to a situation – like a new house and definitely a new life as a couple, would invite a chimney sweep to bless the occasion. They had never been so in demand! Some people even considered touching a sweep good luck!

Apparently, May 1 is a particularly lucky day – as it’s national chimney sweep day!

Incidently, did you know that sweeps wore top hats to help them feel good about their status? Some started their vocation as young boys, climbing up inside the chimney breast, and to make them feel taller in a world of grown ups, they were given top hats and tails. The hat was a status symbol throughout their working life – no matter how battered it got…

Anyway, you can hire a sweep for your wedding and there are plenty around who offer this service – just make sure they don’t get soit on the dress!

What’s In A Name…

Exactly… What is in a name? Well, your whole identity, that’s for sure. A name is your greatest connection to your self and identity, and how others identify you… But did you know that it’s not just newborns who can have a naming ceremony?

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” mused Juliet (Romeo & Juliet, act 2, scene 2), on finding out her beloved is a Montague, and by his very name, she cannot associate with him…

But had Romeo been a bit more cunning, and realised changing his name could have solved this crisis – and a hell of a lot of tears and death – I’m sure he would have signed that deed poll and had a name changing ceremony to mark the occasion!

People change their names in later life for all kinds of reasons – it might just be as simple as you hate the name you were given when you were born and friends have called you an entirely different – and more suitable – moniker for many years, you may have transitioned and have a new name, you may have wanted to change your last name for whatever reason. I think that, while nipping to the solicitors to sign the deed is all well and good, why not formally express your new identity with a celebration – because I love a celebration! And a ceremony will make it official!

A naming ceremony is just one of the services I offer. You can hold a ceremony to announce the new you to all your loved ones. The ceremony can be a small, intimate affair – or it can be a ‘look at me now!’ with bells and whistles, if you like! A celebrant can create a ceremony that reflects exactly how you want to announce yourself to the world. Making a symbolical goodbye to your old self and ‘identity’ and officially making a statement with your new name is a really great way to welcome in your new life, identity and adventures…

Video Link Funerals – and How to Involve Those At home…

In these unprecedented times, and with limited numbers on people attending a funeral, not everyone can say goodbye to a loved one ‘in person’. Saying farewell is important as it helps the grieving process and enables us to celebrate their lives and appreciate how important they were to everyone who is paying their respects.

It can be quite a difficult task for a family to decide who can attend – especially when numbers are limited to an average of 16, but what does make the decision slightly less painful is the ability to have the service webcast so those who cannot attend the funeral can either watch in real time, or at a time that is convenient to themselves, by way of a video link which is provided, securely, before the service. Some crematoriums offer to record services and can provide a USB with this on. Both of these services are available for a fee, and your Funeral Director can usually take care of this for you.

If you are broadcasting a service, it is a really lovely thought to acknowledge those who will be watching, so they feel included in the service and part of the deceased’s life. Here’s a few ways a celebrant can involve those at home:

  • A special welcome in the opening speech – A celebrant can welcome those watching on the link, as well as those attending in person. If there are important people in the deceased’s life, who could not attend the funeral for their own reasons (eg distance, illness…), it is lovely for them to be acknowledged by name.
  • Involve them in an action – for example, if the deceased liked drinking tea, while those attending the funeral in person pause for a moment of reflection, those at home could be encouraged to raise their cups and think about the lovely times they had with their loved one
  • Invent a ritual to spread light and love – While most indoor venues don’t allow naked flame (this might be different if you are holding your ceremony outside), there is no reason why those watching at home can’t light a candle. Your celebrant can write a simple candle ritual that asks those at home to light a candle to send the light of their love for the deceased into the universe. Of course, you would need to prepare those watching the ceremony that they would need to have a candle ready. This can also be performed with battery operated candles and other things such as incense.

There are many other ways you can involve those unable to make a ceremony in person. You can contact me directly if you think I can help you create your special moments.

A Poem for All Soul’s Day

Their loving soul has touched us all,
They didn’t need to stay;
Their spirit touched each one of us,
Before it sailed away.

We all know souls arrive on earth
With special roles to fill
And theirs has fully played its part
Their memory guides us still.

They had a very special soul
They stayed but just a while;
So if and when you’re feeling sad
Recall them with a smile.

For then you’ll know inside your heart
The reasons why they’ve gone;
And never feel too empty that
Their role down here is done.

Their spirit touched each one of us,
No other ever could.
Forever we willcherish them
The way we know we should.

(Anon)

#soul#allsoulsday#memorial#funeral#rememberance#funeralpoem

Jumping The Broom Ceremonies

Seeing as though it’s Hallowe’en, I couldn’t resist sharing this tradition that has been interpreted in a number of years over the centuries.

When we think of jumping the broom ceremonies, there are usually two different types of ceremony that come to mind in modern times – a neo-pagan wedding and hand fasting in Europe and in the USA, jumping the broom has become a popular part of the ceremony for people of colour. Interestingly, there are two paths that have led to these ceremonies. If you are considering jumping the broom, I think it is important that you research the background and what it means to you, personally.

The broom is a sacred thing in some religions and folklore – certainly for centuries, the broom is an important part of ceremonies and ritual, to sweep out negative forces and clearing away old energies, and here is Wales, it us used to ‘sweep out the chaos’ after the Mari Lwyd and her assistants have visited – the last member of her troupe carries a broom and sweeps the negative energy, attracted to the chaos that the Mari Lwyd drums up, over the threshold, paving the way for good luck.

There is also the obvious significance in the broom – sweeping out the old to prepare for the new.

In some African cultures, when a couple got married, they jumped a pile or line of sticks which signified their building a home together/jumping over the threshold and some say that it was this tradition that led to the jumping of the broom ceremonies that took place centuries ago. Jumping the broom has links to the slave trade, and one of the reasons I urge couples to do a bit of research on this as without knowing the background, incorporating this tradition into your proceedings could be problematic. Among other atrocities, enslaved people were denied ‘legal’ marriage so performed their own rites and as recognition f marriage, couples jumped the broom, which took on different forms from plantation to plantation. In some ceremonies, two brooms were laid out in between the couple and they jumped over the broom nearest to them into the space in the middle, where they joined hands, thus symbolising their joining in matrimony, in other traditions there was a build up of drums, voices and other instruments before the couple jumped the broom together. Interestingly, there is another tradition that almost mirrors the ‘jumping of the church wall’ of English tradition (popular in Chaddleworth – whoever sets foot first over the wall without touching it will be master for life), and that is jumping backwards over the broom without touching it. Whoever jumped clear of the broom would rule the household, but if the couple both cleared the broom, there would be on ‘bossin’.

In Europe, it would probably be more accurate to call this tradition the jumping of the besom (a broom which you might call a ‘witch’s broomstick’) and origins of this also go back centuries; it is one of the oldest marriage traditions, even pre-dating the hand fasting cord (although the actual act of hand fasting goes back to the time of the Celts, and 700 years before the year 0). In Celtic traditions, a broom was used to define the home – homes were made on dirt and the dirt was swept aside (many times a day) to define the boundary of what was the home and what was outside of that. The broom was a home-maker for sure, literally marking the distinction and separating domestic life and the wild. Jumping the broom meant you were jumping into the home and leaving your untamed ways behind!

In Wales, in the 1700s, besom weddings were made popular by Roma gypsies, who would place the besom in a doorway and the couple jump over it and into their new life. It is unclear if the gypsies carried this tradition with them from other parts of the world (as they often did, like gathering stories, dances and music) or if Welsh people were already doing it.

Lastly, there is the tradition of jumping the bench, an ancient fertility rite which the couple do together to mark the severance of their old lives… Creating what is now known as the bench mark!

In modern jumping the broom ceremonies, a couple is encouraged to buy a new broom, so it doesn’t carry the energy of any other force. A broom or besom can be decorated how the couple wish – some like to bestow their broom with different crystals, which acts to empower the union with whatever quality the crystal delivers, some like to entwine it with significant or symbolic coloured ribbons and some will carve initials and other symbols into the handle. However you decorate your besom is up to you and the celebrant can incorporate the message and symbols in your ceremony – or they can just be kept secret for only the couple to know! and a broom can be kept as a special wedding day memento.

Why did I Become A Celebrant?

I’ve been asked this a few times recently… ‘Why did you want to do this?’ and the answer is pretty simple. I just want to help people say goodbye to their loved one in a memorable and special way, and create moments that will be memorable…

All of us have had a pretty crappy year, and this year we said goodbye to a lot of people. Big T was my father in law, and he had not been well for a while. Three years ago he had a stroke at the wheel of his car and crashed into someone head on. We thought he was going to die there and then as he was rushed into hospital and was in the intensive care unit for a few weeks, unable to move because of his injuries. After that, he was sent to a ward, and eventually came home. This was the start of a few years of further strokes, an advanced dementia diagnosis, numerous falls in the house (and ambulance crew visits/hospital admissions) and outside (the most shocking fall was last October when he fell head first down a car pit and broke his spine), and eventually admission into a care home as he was paralised from the waist down and unfortunately we couldn’t care for him. It’s sad to say that because of the Coronavirus, the last time we saw him was in February as the care home locked down to protect the residents, and we didn’t want to confuse or agitate him by looking at him through the window (we knew this would make him upset and angry).

Sadly, Big T died in June and we said goodbye to him. And because of the coronavirus situation, we were allowed to take home the floral tributes. We knew we were going to sprinkle some of his ashes around the huge tree, which his brother Robin had planted when he bought this house many years ago, so we used the petals to say our own special tribute to Terry, sprinkling them around the tree in his memory and saying a few words of our own.

Saying goodbye to your loved one in a special way, a fitting way, is an important part of grief. We need to be allowed to cry and release those emotions. We need to be able to recognise our loved one in the words that are said to be able to remember and to mourn. And this is what we, ourselves, did. And from that moment I decided I wanted to help others remember their loved ones in the way they recognised too… So I got in touch with the Fellowship Of Professional Celebrants (Terri is excellent, btw!)

I was so inspired by what she does that I also signed up to become a marriage and family celebrant – as I think it’s important to make all the important ceremonies in your life relevant to the way you live your life. And besides, I love a wedding! Who doesn’t?

So that is my story! It is thanks to Big T that I have embarked on this and I hope I do his memory justice with the ceremonies I officiate. A piece of Big T will go into everything I do…

Wedding Venue Inspiration: Halloween

Did you know that with a celebrant officiating your wedding ceremony, you can have your nuptuals where ever you like? Which can lead to all kinds of inspirational ideas, not just for the setting, but also the time!

And as it is almost my favourite time of the year, what better than having a Hallowe’en wedding? Seriously, how gorgeous will a ceremony be, with all the colours of the season, and you could even choose to say your vows at twilight under the twinkling warmth of some lanterns? Perhaps your guests will also be holding flaming torches as you declare your love for one another… Or light their torches as a symbol of your love and warmth?

I really can’t imagine anything more beautiful!