Organising a Wedding, Yes, I Know I am a Funeral Celebrant!
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
So, yes, I am writing a blog post about organising a wedding. How on earth does this have any bearing on my role as a Funeral Celebrant? Well, that's easy to answer, because I am a Funeral Celebrant, but I am also a person with family, friends and past careers.
I also feel that weddings often have a key place in a funeral ceremony, because they signify an important time in someone's life, a change in our lives that lays down a new path for us to follow.
How then did I come to be organising a wedding? Well, to start with it was for two very special people; the daughter of friends, and her husband to be. My husband and the Bride's Dad met 30 years ago on the 1st October, when they were starting out in new jobs, and undertook a ten week training course together.
Not only did their friendship form then, but also mine and the Bride's Mum. Of course this was before the bride was born, in fact it was before any of our children were born!
The Bride's Mum and Dad became Godparents to our son, and got married (our daughter was a very cute bridesmaid), They had two children, a girl and a boy.
So, fast forward to 2017 when our son got married, in a marquee, in a field. Naturally his Godparents were part of the day, and (just like we all did) absolutely loved everything about the wedding.
When the lovely couple got engaged, and started to plan their wedding, they decided to use the same marquee and some of the ideas from our son's wedding. I was honoured to be asked to do a reading during the service, and whilst meeting up was 'tapped' for useful information to help with the organisation of the day.
Now this lovely couple don't do things by half, they were not only planning a wedding, but welcomed a beautiful daughter into the world four weeks before the big day, and moved house four days after she arrived. Yep, they did all three things in a month!!!!
Obviously we had to visit to meet the new baby, and of course have lovely cuddles. We also dropped in the bunting and some other items that they were borrowing for the big day. Now it will come as no surprise that the Bride was slightly overwhelmed by everything that still needed to be done, so I stepped in and offered my help.
In my past life I have not only organised and managed numerous events, but also have experience in organising the smooth running of weddings. I am also very bossy!
The Bride and Groom were happy to have me on board, although maybe not so much when I sent them a long list of things to work through.... So working together we were able to make sure that everything was where it needed to be, when it needed to be. My husband and I took time off work and on the Thursday before the wedding we could be found on a beautiful field, putting up our tent and getting stuck in to decorating the marquee. All with a back pocket full of lists and my very bossy head on.
The venue was stunning. Hill Farm, Longney ( https://www.hillfarmlongney.co.uk/Index/Event_Space_Venue_Hire.html ) is perfectly placed on the bank of the river Severn, with views across the water to the Forest of Dean. You hire the field, which has a water tap and is dotted with ancient fruit trees. The two ladies who run this side of the business could not have been more helpful, or more welcoming.
Now, peppered throughout the preparation, and the day itself. was the wonderful bonus of cuddles with their new baby. She is totally adorable and was an absolute angel. She was either being carried in the baby sling or cuddled by one of us, and just slept or watched everything that was going on around her. I adore baby cuddles, they just make everything right in the world.
So, with an empty field, however beautiful a setting, there was a lot to bring in. Bisley Marquee and Hire Company ( https://bisleyhire.co.uk/ ) brought in the marquee, toilets, a generator and a walk in fridge trailer, along with all the tables, chairs and festoon lighting. This was all set up by the time we arrived on Thursday, and was perfect. My husband and I had lots of nostalgic moments, as the marquee was the same one our son had hired for his wedding. We were instantly transported back to that happy day.
I must say a word here about the toilets. The Bride and Groom had ordered VIP ones and they were lovely. The ladies had two toilets and two sinks and the men had a urinal and one toilet. I didn't see anyone queuing for the toilet at any point and all the consumables that were provided lasted well beyond the weekend. My tip when using portable loos is to always flush after you have closed the toilet seat, and stand well back. That blue liquid can splash everywhere! My tip for Brides in big dresses is to go in forward, lift up the front of your dress and sit on back to front, that way you don't have to deal with all the material behind you!!!!!
The walk in fridge was also perfect. The couple were self catering, and providing wicker hampers for each table, filled with a very yummy picnic (and lots of cheese). We were also able to store all the wine and fizz in there too, along with the meat etc for the evening barbecue, and breakfast for Sunday morning (lots of people camped overnight).
Working together we all mucked in and decorated the marquee with bunting, and some gorgeous paper hearts the Bride had made. The Bride's Mum had made a huge box of pom-poms, which adorned the trees and the guy ropes. The piece de resistance was a Polish paper chandelier, called a Pajaki, which they had made together. We hung this in the middle of the marquee and it looked stunning.
The menfolk also used some bunting to create the illusion of a tepee, using an old apple tree.
With gazebos for the musician's (a string quartet), some shade, the barbecue and the all important tea/coffee table, the field started to take shape.
We did lots of regrouping (and tea drinking), and by Friday teatime everything that could be done had been done. We did have a frantic last hour or so, but some extra friends of the Bride's parents had turned up to help (the lovely friends), and were invaluable in cracking on with bits and pieces (but especially cutting cheese)!
A hasty change into clean clothes and it was off to the church for the rehearsal, it was useful for me to meet the Vicar, but more importantly the Verger, and to secure in my mind exactly how things would pan out the next day. We had a lovely meal together and then all went our separate ways.
I had to head home to tweak a funeral script, and then fell into a relaxing bath before enjoying a good night's rest in my own bed. (I love camping, but airbeds are definitely not the most comfortable beds). I woke now and again, and added things to my ever growing list, but felt refreshed in the morning. I had an 8am appointment at the hairdressers, and the lovely girls at the salon worked their magic on my hair and nails. I headed home where breakfast was waiting for me (my husband is an excellent breakfast chef), trowelled on my make-up, put on my dress and headed back to the field.
The lovely friends were already there and had everything in hand (Bless them, I had given them a list of things that needed to be done). The Bride's Aunt had delivered the cake that she had made, and I took a quick peek at it in the fridge. It was so fitting, and matched the theme beautifully.
The baguettes and ice arrived, and were put away. The urn was full and everything was in place, so we set off for the Church. I popped my feet into my beautiful orange shoes, but as I stepped onto the path up to the Church a hole appeared in the side, as the material came away from the sole. There was nothing that I could do, but walk gingerly to prevent my toe from sticking out the side!
The weather was gorgeous (unlike a week later when it would have been a very different story) and everyone was milling around in the grounds. about ten minutes before the Bride was due we asked everyone to make their way into the Church, and the Vicar gave a pep talk. I remained outside with the flower girl. I also met the photographer, Lee Hawley (https://www.leehawleyphotography.com/ ) and let him know that if he needed anything then just to let me know.
Once the Bride arrived the flower girl joined the other Bridesmaids and I made my way into the Church (gingerly on my broken shoe)! There was a big hush when the main door closed, so I spoke to the Groom in a loud whisper and told him that it was too late now, which raised a laugh!
The Bridesmaids walked slowly down the aisle, the last one towing a beautifully decorated cart, in which the baby was laying in her matching dress. As she processed down the aisle she raised her arm in what appeared to be a regal wave.
The Bride and her Dad brought tears to my eyes, and seeing the Bride and Groom meet ensured the tears were falling. Not a great look when I knew I had to deliver a reading. Hey ho!
I managed to negotiate the steps to the lectern without ending up flat on my face (I was worried my flapping shoe would catch), and delivered the reading. My mind was then immediately onto what I needed to do next, lists flowing through my head.
As the final verse of the last hymn was playing I slipped outside and collected the rose petal confetti so that it was ready to distribute for the photos. Everyone left the Church and lined the path, then the Bride and Groom made their way through all their family and friends, whilst being showered with confetti.
I slipped on my flip-flops and we dashed back into the Church to remove the flowers, as these were needed for the tables in the marquee. My husband and I then made a dash for the car so that we could get back to the field and begin to work our way through the list of things that couldn't be done until the last minute.
The Bride and Groom, and lots of guests, walked back, giving us time to pop the flowers on the table, get the cake out of the fridge (in the capable hands of Auntie) and the white wine and fizz. We also popped all of the cold food into the hampers. We had portioned this up into tubs and grease-proof paper on the Friday afternoon, and made up bags for each hamper, so that we only had to grab the bags and pop them inside.
Each table had a flower name, which was depicted by the flowers on the table. All of the flowers were supplied by Kate's Cutting Patch ( https://www.katescuttingpatch.co.uk/ ) and looked stunning. The colours were incredible.
A quick catch up with the photographer meant that I knew what he needed, and when, and throughout the rest of the day we were able to ensure that the Bride and Groom were where they needed to be, when they needed to be, with a minimum of fuss. My tip here is never to forget to feed the photographer. Whilst everyone else is eating they will find somewhere quiet to sit and check through the shots they already have. This means that if they aren't happy with something, then they have time to take it again. However, they also need to eat. They have been on the go since early morning, and will probably not finish until late evening. We popped together a small hamper, which meant that Lee could sit in the shade and eat whilst checking his shots.
The speeches were delivered before we all ate, and at the end of these the baby became a little fractious and needed her nappy changing, so I was able to whip her away and sort her out, and then for the next hour I wandered around the tables, checking everyone was OK, whilst she slept on my shoulder, or in my arms. A lovely reward.
The day progressed, we cleared the tables of the food, popping the hampers back into the fridge. A friend of the Groom sang to entertain (she was amazing), and then the DJ set up, also providing some garden games. It was such a warm evening that everyone drifted outside the marquee, some taking a walk to the river, others chilling out on the straw bales.
I had a chance to sit down with a cup of tea and regroup, before organising the food for the barbecue. The Best Man was in charge of this with help from the Groomsman and the Groom. The Groom had purchased some Paella cookers, which were absolutely perfect. Three huge dishes, which sat on gas burners. The photographer was able to get his final shots, eat some food and then head home.
Full of food people began to make their way onto the dance floor and the DJ cracked out some popular party tunes. I had a dance or two and then found time to take our camera and get some shots of the setting in the evening light. I also managed a selfie with my friend, the Bride's Mum...
Having has a lovely five minutes where the Bride sat on my lap and we had a cuddle (it's been a very long time since she last did that), I found a second wind from somewhere and began to slowly clear down the tables. I knew that if I left this until the morning then I would regret it. I danced along to the disco and managed to get all 13 tables cleared as the disco came to an end.
We all gradually made our way to bed, making sure the marquee was closed up, the urn was turned off and everything that could get damp was in the marquee. I popped to the toilets to do my teeth, and begin to excavate the make-up from my face, and met with the Bride.
Now when her Mum got married, all those years ago, I was at the house getting my daughter ready. I popped upstairs to get myself dressed and then, as I passed the then Bride's door, she called out to ask if I could help her get into her dress. What an honour it was, and I laced the back of her dress with tears in my eyes. So you can imagine how I felt when the Bride asked me to undo her dress, in those VIP loos, at the end of her wedding day. What an honour, and yes, I cried.
Sunday morning dawned brightly (the one thing you can guarantee in a tent is that you know as soon as it is daylight) and we all dragged ourselves from our slumber. The Bride and Groom had slept in a VW van, lent to them by one of the lovely couples, and the baby hadn't woken all night. She was soon wearing the vest that I had made for her....
We had breakfast on the hoof as we all set too, taking down all the decorations, sorting out the food and drink, loading cars and trucks and finally taking down our tents. Many hands make light work, and by 3pm we were on our way home, having left an empty marquee ready for the company to collect.
We unloaded the car, I put on the first pile of washing (I had all the table runners and table clothes) and I ceremoniously put all my lists in the bin. What a manic three weeks of organising and bossying it had been, but boy was it worth every second. I enjoyed every moment of the weekend, and it gave me the greatest of pleasure to be able to help.
It was wonderful to be able to deliver a reading to a host of happy faces for a change. It was an honour to be a small cog in the wheel that was this beautiful celebration of marriage. I was very lucky to be able to have baby cuddles, but most of all it was incredible, and special, to spend time with our friends.
In my work it is brought home to me every single day how short life is, I therefore do everything I can to grasp every opportunity, and to make the most of every day that I am given. To spend time with people I love, and care about, is an absolute honour, and something I am very grateful for. To be able to use my experience and knowledge to help others is also an absolute honour.
We made some very special memories together and from the bottom of my heart I thank the Bride and Groom for allowing me to be a part of their very special day.
P.S. My beautiful orange shoes are at the cobblers being repaired!