When creating a marriage ceremony, my goal isn’t to personalise my ceremony, but to make it personal.
That’s a subtle but pointed difference.
Personalising my ceremonies is the act of having existing ceremonies and then changing them to suit the couple. It’s the mail merge of ceremonies. And for many celebrants, for many of their packages and price-points, thats’ as much work as the couple paying that fee deserve.
But if you’re interested in doing work that matters, the kind of work that fills your cup every day, whilst also filling your sales budget and bank account, let me tell you about another way.
I don’t personalise my ceremonies, I make my ceremonies personal.
I’ll take your through my processes as if I was marrying fictional Jack and Jill today.
I’ll sit down before the wedding and think about how I can make Jack and Jill’s ceremony personal. What can I do that would make it feel like this ceremony was 100% about Jack and Jill, and not a mail merge ceremony.
What can I say that would give everyone there the idea that I actually know Jack and Jill, and that I care about them?
What can I say to Jack and Jill that would truly encourage them and engage them in the ceremony
You can take those points and go to the extreme, a dangerous place to be. Imagine if you just met Jack at a party, and in an effort to make Jack feel included and special, you call him Jack every 45 seconds for the rest of the night.
Friends don’t talk like that, people that know you personally almost always don’t call you by your name. They’ll call you by cute names, or nicknames.
So in the ceremony I don’t begin with the classic line “We are gathered here today to celebrate Jack Daniel Smith and Jill Rebecca Brown’s marriage” because that is possibly the most impersonal thing you could say. If everyone at the ceremony doesn’t know their name then why are they even there?
Many celebrants personalise their ceremony by including the couple’s full story. Which is an easy and comprehensive way of making it all about Jack and Jill.
But I actually don’t tell the whole story for four reasons:
- I’m assuming everyone there know’s the story. With weddings being so small and personal today, it would be weird for strangers to be there.
- A common complaint I’ve heard from couples is that they have heard other celebrants do this and it seems insincere.
- I think reading the story off a page is a dead giveaway for a not-personal ceremony.
- I’m really bad at reading long passages of text off a page into a microphone.
So if I’m not reading the whole story, but I still have their story, how do I make it personal?
Jack and Jill might have met at the baggage carousel at Nashville Airport, tow kids from Brisbane meeting on the other side of the world in the least friendly of places. So in the ceremony I might say:
“We’ve come a long way from the baggage carousel in Nashville airport to this little wedding ceremony in Byron Bay, but that’s the beauty and oddity of love, is that you find it in the weirdest places, and it doesn’t get any more normal along the way!”
So I’ve referenced their story, but not in a “reading off a page” kind of way, meanwhile I’ve proven to everyone there and the couple that I care and I listened when they told me that story.
Everyone receives encouragement differently. Some people would prefer a gift, or a cuddle, and some respond better to words than high fives. I always look out for ways in which the couple comfort each other and encourage each other, and use those methods before and during the ceremony to encourage them.
I know that if a guy is a hugger, then a hug before the ceremony will make him feel at home, and he’d probably appreciate a warm slap on the shoulder as his partner comes down the aisle.
If a person is wordy and descriptive in how they explain their love of the other person, I know that a personal affirmation that references something they’ve done or said in the closing words of the ceremony would really warm their heart.
I believe that subtle references and encouragements, maybe towards pop culture favourites of the couple, or references to personal jokes or cute names, references that most people there would’nt even get will make for a much more personal ceremony that brings rave reviews and referrals.
I know that this style of ceremony isn’t what they teach you in Cert IV training, and it’s also not the normal kind of ceremony, but I do believe that if you can start making your ceremonies more personal and less personalised that you’ll start finding a new well of creativity and joy in your ceremony creation.