There are two ‘traditional’ options when we think of a wedding ceremony – Having a religious ceremony in a church or a civil ceremony with a registrar at a licensed venue. There is however, a third increasingly popular option which is a celebrant led ceremony. Choosing to have a celebrant lead your ceremony gives you complete freedom, with the entire ceremony created solely for you. We chatted to Fiona Solomon, a wonderful celebrant local to us in Cornwall to find out a little bit more about her and how she creates beautiful wedding ceremonies.
Can you tell us a little bit about you and your journey to becoming a Celebrant?
I am from Northern Ireland, married to my lovely Cornish husband, Nick and my son Jack is at University. We live in a little village on the North Coast with our two dogs; Tiga and Coco and love walking the coastal path and our beautiful beaches. We are very involved in the community with an allotment and great friends and I go cold water swimming with a mad bunch of ladies called the Gaverne Girls! I love travel and we lived in Indonesia for 2 years. We enjoy cooking, good food and great wine!
Having worked in Banking for many years, I had started to think that it was time for a change in career. In 2017, I had attended weddings in Australia, Cornwall and Italy and each of them was a celebrant led wedding – and they were fabulous. It just clicked with me that this was what I wanted to do and I started to explore Celebrant training.
I was living in Northern Ireland at the time but chose to complete my NOCN Diploma in Family Celebrancy with Civil Ceremonies in England as this was the highest accredited qualification available. Celebrancy is not a regulated industry but I decided to invest in myself to be the best I could be. I went part time with the bank and by the following year I had also completed my diploma as a Funeral celebrant.
In 2021, I moved to Cornwall to live – and I have now rebranded and moved my business to Cornwall – the wedding capital of the UK!
Many people get confused about just what a Celebrant led ceremony is and how it differs from a Civil Ceremony. Can you help to explain the differences and also how the legal side of getting married can be achieved separately?
Currently in England and Wales only a minister of religion or a Registrar can legally register a marriage and the ceremony must include specific legal wording and vows. If a couple would like to legally register their marriage following a celebrant led ceremony, they can do this very quickly at their local registry office.
Marriage Law in the UK is quite outdated and can be very confusing for everyone. A review of marriage law has been taking place and Independent Celebrants have been lobbying their MP’s to ensure that all couples can choose to have a legal wedding ceremony that is meaningful to them. If anyone would like to understand a little bit more about this there is a great website called “Give Couples Choice”
Can you talk us through the process of how things work when couples are considering a Celebrant-led ceremony with you?
Certainly – Following an initial enquiry to check if I am available on their chosen date, we would meet for a coffee together or I will set up a zoom call if they are not local. This is the first important step to ensure that we connect and for me to understand the type of ceremony they would like. I will send a booking form to be completed and a 50% booking fee will secure the date. They can now relax, knowing that they have secured their date, their venue and their celebrant!
I will then contact them about 3 months before their ceremony date to gather further information from them to develop their personal ceremony script.
How do you help couples design the perfect ceremony and script for them?
It is all about their love story. Every love story is beautiful, but each love story is also unique and every couple is different. We chat through all the different elements of the ceremony including music, poetry or readings, symbolic gestures, involvement of family or friends and discuss their thoughts on their vows. My role is to get to know them and to gain their trust that I will look after them on the day, taking control of everything so they can relax and enjoy their ceremony. There will be some tears and a lot of laughs. The ceremony should reflect their personalities and their relationship.
Tell us about secret vows! We loved hearing about how you help couples achieve the perfect balance in their ceremony without knowing all the details of each other’s words until the actual day. Please talk us through that process.
Most couples will plan every detail of the day together – with very little surprises for them. I love to encourage couples to work with me individually to design their vows to each other in secret. Naturally, they often don’t know how to start but I can help them to develop really meaningful promises to each other which can be serious or include something funny. This is the most poignant part of the ceremony and I will print vow cards for them to read from so they don’t get too stressed about remembering what to say. I then step back out of the way and let them enjoy this very precious and private moment.
Do you offer Vow Renewals and how do they differ from ceremonies where couples are saying vows for the first time?
Yes, I love Vow Renewal ceremonies. The planning steps are the same, but they are often much more relaxed. This will be a couple who have been together for some time, and they know each other so well. Family are normally very involved as part of the ceremony and the couple may use their original vows or I can help them to refresh them based on where they now are in their relationship. It is great to include lots of humour and funny stories from their journey.
Are there any standout moments from ceremonies you have led?
Where do I start? I could write a book! I remember every couple, but some occasions definitely stand out. There was the Chinese bride who couldn’t get through the castle door in her Vera Wang dress. Or the couple who eloped from America to get married on a cliff top, but the wind picked up and we all had to move back for safety reasons. I also delivered a very poignant short ceremony for a bride’s mother in a cancer ward in hospital, and we had to pause at another ceremony for the groom to sit down and get oxygen as he was recovering from Covid. I also remember a ceremony on a boat at the Titanic Museum in Belfast for a German bride. I gave a short welcome in German for her family and then the weather turned, and everyone had to cram into the deck below while we listened to a thunder storm all around us in very choppy waters!
These are probably good examples of how a celebrant will flex and adapt if things don’t go quite according to plan. It is a really important role and it is essential that my clients trust me to deliver their ceremony and look after them on the day.
What do you enjoy most about being a Celebrant?
I love meeting my couple for the first time and seeing how excited they are in planning their day. You can pick up so much from their interaction and how they connect together to understand their love story. Another lovely moment is when the music plays and they see their partner walk in, it gives me goose bumps every time!
Having visited Treseren, you have seen the variety of spaces inside and out where we can create ceremonies and seating. Do you have a favourite spot that you feel is perfect for one of your ceremonies?
On a perfect day, outdoor weddings are my favourite and I love when you can just be in nature and hear the birds tweeting in a moments pause. However, there are also more issues to consider: unpredictable weather, hair, heels, too hot or too cold. Many couples don’t think of a Plan B – but Treseren has great alternatives with the covered terrace or the light-filled Wedding Room. The Drawing Room is just perfect for really small ceremonies, perhaps in autumn or winter with lots of candles.
We have had many beautiful celebrant led wedding ceremonies at Treseren and love working with both the couple and the celebrant to create a unique celebration. If you have any more questions about celebrant weddings or would like to discuss working with Fiona, she would love to hear from you.