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Mia and Ankit's Christian/Jain Fusion extravaganza with rock salt candles, Saris, Ginger Parkin Bundt cake & Afternoon Tea. More images to follow of the happy pair...

This blog post isn't only to prove that whatever your theme or colour I will choose my outfit and fit right in, or to show you images of me befofre my Covid-19 fitness regime! Well, there is a little bit of showing off to be honest because when Lockdown began here in the UK in March I realised I wouldn't be riding Thelma or Daisy my vintage bikes for a while and took up running. I don't like running at all. I've been running since March and I still hate it. I'm not the person who would say they LOVE running. I basically do it for vanity, so that I can wear my favourite gold suit. #goals. I know its shallow and I should be interested in my 'Stats' or whatever they are, but there you go. What did happen though is that I discovered Punk Rope Skipping while I was about it, and re-connected with my love of Pilates. Both or which I really do love. The skipping makes me feel about 5 years old, and the Pilates is just all kinds of wonderful. All silver-linings in an otherwise dreadful year in which I didn't do any weddings at all. Anyway, I look a little different these days and will have to buy a new outfit for your Special Day. Poor me.

Back to Mia and Ankit! Mia and Ankit had waited a long time since they fell in love at Uni. By the time they rang me they had been through a lot of Ups and a lot of Downs, and like the rest of us it hadn't been plain-sailing. A lot of my Brides and Grooms, far from being Bridezillas or longing for the limelight are actually truly anxious about the whole business of being centre of attention. They don't like it at all, some even find it so terrifying they put off marrying their significant other for much too long. If you are are one such Bride or Groom do get in touch because there are many, many tricks all of which are tucked up my sleeve for you to help prevent overwhelm. This is one such couple.

This couple were educated and intelligent and full of creative ideas, but also anxious to make it the perfect day and not to offend anyone. They love each other, but they also love their families. They are kind, loving individuals and an amazing team. I loved working with them. They were determined to make it work for everyone without compromising their own values.

I often find that my couples have not inherited the same beliefs as their families. They are of a different generation, education and upbringing. This applies to every culture. Some still hold dear some of their family traditions and culture but with regards to religious belief invariably those beliefs don't make sense to them in their own reality. None of this prevents them from honouring and respecting their backgrounds or the beliefs of those they love. So, you can see, it is a fraught business. Its also my favourite work because all that negotiating and navigating pays off. I almost always cry with joy on the day. This is because it is so vital in our communities that we find ways of doing this. When I see two disparate cultures uniting over tea and cake, I know the value of my work. Some consider Ceremonies obsolete. They ask why we need them at all. We need them because Human Beings need ceremonies. They are of the business of forging and strengthening relationships and communities. That can never be a bad thing. They bridge difference, they create good will and they establish shared experiences which can be healing. Mia and Ankit found their ceremony very healing. For them it was a brave step and they found it challenging to get there. But in the end we had a beautiful day.

"Part of the complication for these two with regard to the Wedding was that they came from such different backgrounds. As ever this was not a problem for them, but posed a challenge for their families."

"A lot of my Brides and Grooms, far from being Bridezillas or longing for the limelight are actually truly anxious about the whole business of being centre of attention."

So how did we do it?

Mia came from a nominally Christian background, and Ankit from a Jain background from the Seychelles. These are two quite different worlds. By the time we created their ceremony together here in Birmingham and had the ceremony at Fazeley Street Studios in Digbeth these two worlds were enmeshed for Mia and Ankit, who were and are deeply in love and had been for many many years. But for their families, living respectively in the UK and the Seychelles it was taking time to adapt. We decided to cut and paste and borrow and craft from the traditions we already had and to create a new way of doing things. In Jainism at weddings it is traditional to walk around a fire 7 times whilst tied together. Attitudes towards gender relationships vary across cultures and generations. Traditionally the Bride walks behind her husband and tied to him. We decided to see what we could do to bring that up to date for a British context in the 21st Century. We had a think about how to build a 'fire pit' in the centre of Brum in a wedding venue. So we decided to use Rock Salt candle holders and to put them beside the chair of each guest for them to bring up and place on a round table. Slowly the table became filled with candles and with each candle placed another blessing was offered silently to Mia and Ankit wishing them well. Then we created vows which went with the seven circles around the fire and they were tied together bu walking together as a team. It was magical and moving and inspiring, everybody loved it. I know I did.

I remember looking at the family as they had their photos taken and seeing an array of colours and smiling people and shedding a tear as I though "my work here is done". Interfaith, or Fusion Weddings are a bit of a speciality of mine, as I studied Theology and Religion at The University of Birmingham, a multi-cultural context if ever there was one! I had a particular interest in Contemporary Spirituality in Britain and so this kind of work is of particular interest.

Do get in touch if you relate to Mia and Ankit's Story and thing you'd like to combine a slice of Yorkshire Ginger Parkin with the beauty and colour of the Seychelles or whatever other wonderful combination you are!

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Updated: Jun 1, 2020

Eliza and Richard

I met Eliza only once, in person. I didn't need to meet her twice. She is totally magnificent and a fellow Celebrant. We have become great online friends and colleagues, each pledging to each other to use the other's services should the need arise. Something about her fierce loyalty and supportiveness is remarkable and unique. She barely knew me at the time but offered huge levels of unconditional support and kindness in the warm gentle tones of a light and comforting Scottish accent.

As you may know I invited lots of people to donate images of their weddings, their family weddings, historic weddings, recent weddings and the stories that go with it. One of the donations were these from Eliza of her very own Special Day, marrying Richard in early Spring 2016..

She and her husband Richard, who I have never met, are featured here in my Making Memories Series. Ironically, one of Eliza's pet hates, quite rightly, is the emphasis of the Wedding Industry upon The Bride...at the expense of The Groom....but Richard, poor thing, won't feature in this blog because I've never met him in my life. All I know is that he looks totally smitten.

The interest for me, in this series, is to enjoy the stories of these couples in their different Social and Historical contexts. To look at the fashions and changes, the choices, the nostalgia for bygone times. The role of Art and Design, and social etiquette. The nature and importance of Memory-making and Special Days and of course, my other constant theme...the importance of our animal families. Dogs, in particular, often feature, even in some of the antique photos. These two are very cute.

How beautiful this wedding is! Those soft, gentle colours, the tastefulness, the historic motifs and retro-references.The photos seem resonant of The 3 Graces and of Italianate sculptures, the images burst with cultural and historical references, that calm sensitive colour palette oozing sophistication. The wedding took place at Hampton Manor, Hampton in Arden.

Two other friends, sent me images from the 1920s and 30s. One of the photos features a design not dissimilar to the gown and headdress Eliza is wearing here in 2016. It is interesting to see the original designs cropping up later in time. Here, for example is my darling friend Damian's Great Uncle George fresh from the Altar in the 1920s. Damian says "My Uncle George’s Wedding - my Grandfather is on the far left and the bride was the beautiful hearted Winnifred". I was struck by how closely the headdress design 'beautiful-hearted Winnifred" is wearing resembles the one equally 'beautiful-hearted Eliza' chose for their Big Day.

This next image is from my friend Elizabeth, this is her grandparents John and Irene in 1933, a little later, but not dissimilar. A friend of mine remarked upon the huge size of bouquets at that time. Gorgeous aren't they?

Eliza told me that her Wedding Day really was the best day of her life. She got married relatively late in life and has since gone on adventures to live with her husband and son Theo in Andalusia. A bit of a departure from the West Midlands.

Eliza describes their wedding thus:

"we had a 1920's/ Scottish-Charles Rennie Macintosh theme...we even bought chairs (I have a photo of them too) I guess blush? Everything was bought second hand or homemade and we got a low season cheap deal in the venue". She loved every minute as you can tell.

Now, already only 4 years later, Eliza's wedding would have come with a hashtag! I was a bit behind the 'curve' (sorry for using that word) with hashtags. I think they were a 'thing' by then, but not quite the way they are now. Eliza's hashtag might have been #budgetbride, #DIYbride, #thriftybride, and it would have been quite the feature because it was a #lowseason wedding. We can't know whether Great Uncle George and the 'beautiful-hearted Winnifred' got married in or out of 'the season', but my bet is that at that time the getting married was more important than the time of year that you did it. Partly, I suspect (though this might just be me), because you weren't supposed to have sex until you were married. In your early 20s Summer can seem a long time to wait when early Spring is an option!

I can't imagine that Winnifred and George were a #budgetbrideandgroom, not if his Great Nephew Damian is truly his relative. But, actually for most working class families a wedding was a relatively low-key, low-cost occasion of neccesity. Dresses were made by family members, flowers picked from the garden, things were 'borrowed', and money was spent on trunks full of linen for the bridal Trousseau instead. Good quality bedlinen, as we all know, is hard to find and expensive to buy and indispensable. So there was wisdom in that. Your sister made the cake, your Mum made the bridesmaids dresses. In the next of the series I will introduce you to my Swedish relatives and my Aunties' post-war weddings. We have a good tradition of this kind of wedding.

Eliza and Richard decided not to spend more than they had to spend in both senses of the phrase. There doesn't seem to be any indication that they had anything other than a splendid occasion. Perhaps her their hashtag should have been #moresensethanmoney.

Eliza and Richard's wedding is different to those of George and Winnifred and Elizabeth's grandparents because of its historical context. Life changes so rapidly. All of the weddings as far as I know are UK weddings. Even on our tiny island, our society is barely recognisable now from what it was then. But some themes do remain, in the evocative retro-styled gowns, the Wedding Breakfast and the public pledging of vows, especially made outfits, co-ordinated colours, attention to detail and great care and thought. The specialness of everything. The 'moment'.

George and Winnifred got married about a century ago and so much has changed even in the UK. At that time almost every photo you see will be in a Church porch. Photographers only really attended relatively wealthy weddings as far as I am aware. They never photographed the ceremony as it was considered sacred. Most brides were in their early 20s and didn't have children. By the time Eliza and Richard got married it was usual to marry in a Register Office later in life, to be Atheists and to have a Secular ceremony, to have your children at the ceremony and to pay decent money for the best photographer you can afford. Photographs have taken on great importance. But even more has changed since Eliza and Richard's Special Day. Especially in the past three months. Part of the reason that I am even able to write this is because I am in Britain during 'lockdown' and Eliza is in Spain during 'lockdown' and we have had time! Four years after their big day and they couldn't have held their wedding at all in the early spring in the West Midlands as their country and the world would be in the grip of a Global Pandemic. This is another reason why Special Days are so significant and important. They mark history and they give us good things to hold onto. On that perfect day, all was right in the world and we really must seize those days! Have those days! cherish those memories and look forward to more. Winnifred and George and Irene and John faced unimaginable global events before and after their Special Days, but good times and Special Days were had again, and we too will see some good times very soon. Special days bring us those hopeful moments. We look forward to them and we remember them.

This joy, and these joyous days really matter in the stories of generations. Your ceremony marks a particular moment at a particular time in a particular context in your story and the story of your families. Your joyous day is important for many reasons which extend beyond you as two individuals. I defy anyone to look at these two people and feel anything but pleasure.

The gorgeous sumptuousness of Eliza and Richard's choices reflect an optimism. The 20s were a time of huge social change, new freedoms, especially for women, and the whole world was opening up. Style and art and architecture were bursting into new life and inventiveness. It makes sense to me to build a tableau of beautiful things drawn from a richness of Scottish design history. To place your own Special Day within the context of so many other Special Days before your own. Weddings today are actually an art form, a creation; a way of holding onto that beautiful moment in time and drawing upon it in tougher times, which is why some wedding photographers really are Photographic Artists.

Thank you Eliza and Richard, for sharing your #Specialday

If you are interested in booking your Wedding with Eliza, she can be found on Facebook as 'Humanist Ceremonies by Eliza!'



07855 453771

you can see she's marvellous.

"Day by Day and Night by Night we were together, all else has long been forgotten by me" Walt Whitman

Thank you to Jonny Barratt for these beautiful photos.@jonnybarratt

#brumcelebrant #birminghamcelebrant #celebrantbirmingham #celebrantbrum #celebrantweddingceremonies

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A Brummie Wedding to remember

Hello everybody. The pandemic and its associated limitations have given me time, for the first time in my working life as a Celebrant to ACTUALLY WRITE THIS BLOG! and despite the awful context Globally...what a treat this is for me. I love to write, I love to write well, but that takes time and I never have it,.

I say that I haven't had time to write to you, as though time were something one could grab and quantify and own. We have it, or we don't have it, or someone takes it away. My Mum, who was slightly late for every occasion, didn't wear a watch and always referred to herself as 'DASHING' everywhere (and there is a word we should bring back!) She would always tell me that as you get older time speeds up. She was absolutely right. It 'runs away from us', when people watch their children growing up they ask ''where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday". As I was writing this, I found myself writing about time 'not affording me the chance' and I realised that far from it being something I desire to 'have' or to 'own, time actually 'owns' me and that is a very different thing. It is like an entity or a personality breathing down my neck. Like everyone else I have been forced, and not for the first time, to reflect upon our crazy work schedules, time constraints and exhausting itineraries. For me, at least, lockdown has been something which has made me think about the nature of 'Time', both as a concept universally and as a personal experience. You will have seen humorous GIFs and Memes and read comments over the past couple of months, with people all over the World asking "what day, month or time is it?" I'm not alone in losing a sense of it, and even questioning the wisdom of our being so guided by it. Here in Britain we live by the structures of the Gregorian calendar and it is closely associated with our Catholic religious past. It is a structure, like the Seasons which frames our daily lives, long after the traditions and beliefs that formed it have lost their currency and been lost to our collective consciousness. At one time it was closely allied to Monarchy as well as State and Religious Institution. Time, then, arguably, was on occasion a device, telling people what to do and when. Perhaps our current day 'devices', our I-phones, Androids, Apple Watches and the rest do that job in our present age.. Obviously we can't do with out it! Time it has its uses psychologically. I feel disoriented without it telling me where I have to be and why. I feel strange without the particular days, the Special Days, the relevant and memorable days, the ones you have to remember because they took place at a particular place and time, last year, and the year before that and relentlessly meant something for al those long years. They used to be called Holy Days. Days with a very special quality. All this is really closely connected with tradition and with remembering & marking occasions with specificity, defining and sculpting our experience of our lives collectively and individually.

One year, I went to Istanbul for Christmas, my Mum had recently died and I couldn't face the occasion. At the time it felt great to escape it, to listen to the Mosques calling people to prayer and to contemplate the expansive river Bosphorous forging its way through the centuries, embracing Religious and Cultural changes, oblivious to Santa, Christmas Trees and the obligation to drink and be happy. When I returned home I felt a strange disorientation, a feeling of displacement. Living in the UK, a lifelong resident of an island in the Northern Hemisphere and all its weather and season related behaviours, traditions and language, I felt confused. If you are not from a country with a climate and seasonal changes like ours, this might not make sense. For me it was like Summer not taking place, or the leaves not falling, the weather not 'being on the change'. For a British person this is bizarre and confusing. We'd have nothing to complain about for a start! That year upon my return I kept waiting for something to happen. The colours were wrong and the smell and there was a 'gap' in my experience of time. I haven't been away since, to a country that doesn't celebrate my own tradition at Christmas. It is my tradition and however I feel about the exploitation we are all subject to at that time, it is still mine, it still shapes my life. I suppose I missed it. I missed the regularity of it, the normalcy of it, without that landmark in my year I didn't know where I was in it. That experience of there having been a 'gap' in my experience of time is something I am experiencing all over again now. I was telling Mrinal the other day that it feels to me as though "Time has ruptured". This is when we need the poets, to describe such indefinable and alien concepts. 'Ruptures' sound dreadful, don't they? and they are. Painful, usually, disruptive and shocking. Tearing the fabric of everything leaving us gasping for breath. This is what we are experiencing now. The pain of 'rupture' and the complexity. The loss of control. The breathlessness of sudden change. At the same time, we are experiencing such conflict emotionally, as some of us are reconsidering our 21st century values. There is the awfulness alongside the hopeful. For example, when I read about the hole in the Ozone layer temporarily healing up with the drop in pollution levels, I then felt a sense of 'rapture'. Two words so closely entwined. I hope that this Rupture will turn to Rapture in the 'fullness of time'. Time should indeed be full, but it should be full in the right ways. Full to the brim with the richness of human experience, not full with appointments and constraints and exhausting commitment. Wedding ceremonies, for me, seem to be so much about 'Rapture'. Rapture in it's traditional Christian meaning refers to Time. It is concerned specifically with 'End Times'. The completion of Time, the point at which it all slips into Eternal time. That moment, a point in time where the suffering of this particular point in our 'time' ends, making a mockery of clocks and making way for eternity. The end point of time, in the linear Christian Tradition is associated with 'Joy', 'Ecstasy', 'Delight', 'Utterances of pure ecstatic delight', and the 'carrying of a person to another place or sphere of existence'. The reason we use it now in common parlance is because it still carries meaning, long after the relevance of Christianity is for some people obsolete. Well, if you think about it, Weddings do indeed mark the end of a particular time and certainly the involve a great deal of rapture, and always joy and delight. Always. It annoys me in Romantic films when the end of the film is the Wedding. We are associating still, 'The Wedding' with an 'end point', a type of 'arriving' at a destination. No! you are in transition, yes, you are in some ways ending a particular form of your relationship. It is a point of change in the timeline of your story. It is an ending, but only in the sense that it makes way for an opportunity for you to be 'carried to a new sphere of existence'. When you find yourself paying out for flowers, fabrics, delicious food and bizarre things you didn't know you needed (Wedding Favours, for example), remember that. You are marking your Rapture.

I said at the beginning of this blog, that I haven't written it because of a lack of time. I think in addition to that there is a constant pressure from 'business advisors', that any business 'must write a blog'. I didn't just want to write more hot air. There is enough of that already. I didn't want to write for the sake of it, for 'Social media numbers' or 'traffic'. I'm fed up with people describing everything as 'awesome' or creating 7 point lists. I wanted to write something worth writing and worth reading. There are juicy pictures, and fashion and drool-worthy cakes and the Art Forms of Bridal Gowns, Styled shoots, glamorous clothes and gorgeous venues all over the rest of my media. Like you, I love all that. My Blog serves a different purpose. I suppose it is more about examining the human story of 'weddings' as a tradition and my thoughts as someone who enables that for people So my blog is where I get to write from heart about things with meaning that matter. A place to look closely at why the work that I do exists, when set apart from the 'industry'. I didn't want to write something generic or prescribed or formulaic. I wanted it to have my voice. If you are going to book me for your Special Day, you may as well hear my 'voice'! I wanted to write something, that someone might actually want to read, saying something more than the latest wedding trends. Ultimately I am a Wedding Celebrant, talking about Weddings, it seemed important for it to be about you, and not about me. About a wider context than colour schemes, much as I love them.

Perhaps because of all these ruminations, I got to thinking about the importance of communal gathering, as families and friends, and communities. The importance of dates and times that we remember. The good things about marking time and making particular occasions special, memorable. In traditional terms what would have been called 'sacred', or 'set-apart for particular purpose'. I have rarely felt this so keenly. Throughout lockdown I have insisted on making the weekends and Bank holidays different from the rest of the week. I have had time to think about you, about why you are saving and spending so much. Not infrequently my couples are not rich, often you are fairly young, with families. You have nappies to buy and mortgages to pay or you are trying to get secure work. I have never heard anyone resent a single penny of their expenditure. It matters so much. Many of you want it to be the Best Day of your Life. I would argue that it is hopefully just one of many Best Days, but that is a conversation for another day.

I wanted to investigate the idea of 'the Special Day', 'Their Big Day'. What does this mean? and why do we do it? So I got to gathering photos from you, my friends, customers, fellow suppliers and family. I loved it. It's so exciting. I will be introducing you to some of the other contributions over the next few weeks.

This week, I have been asking people to contribute family photographs of their Special Days. It got me thinking about the importance of 'Special Occasions'. That term has always seemed to me to be something of a cliche, but in this context I think it serves quite well. Sometimes, if I'm really honest, I find the Wedding Industry a bit cynical and competitive and money-grabbing. Terms like "it's all about you!" depress me. Nothing ever is 'all about you" as an individual. For a start it is "all about your relationship", and therefore immediately about two people. We are all part of something bigger, if we weren't you wouldn't be having a public occasion in the first place. More often than not my couples tell me that they "want to see all the people they love all in one place". It is never 'all about you'. Perhaps I should do a Blog post called '7 myths you hear about weddings!', but I think I will spare you that. I hear tales of couples being charged infinitely more for venues, cakes, suits and dresses as soon as they say the word 'wedding'. How much is this cake/suit/dress/venue? and the answer is one thing, but "We're getting married, how much is this cake/suit/dress/venue?" is another thing entirely. The same goes for weekends in August versus Thursdays in October. But as Wedding Suppliers (of which I'm one, lets face it) we know that people will pay extra for The Dress, or The Suit, The Venue and that weekend in August. Why? and is it worth it? well, IMHO, yes it is, and here is why...

Meet Lionel and Violet, known with affection as Dezrine and Moss. My friend Yvonne gave me these photographs of them on their Special Day in 1961. I am so touched by them. This is a Brummie Wedding too, which for a Wedding Celebrant who likes to work with the local community, is pleasing. They were married in a Church in Erdington. They clearly had a large Bridal Party and I would put money on those dresses being hand made by family members. They were married 28 years I think (I'll check). Their cultural heritage was Jamaican and Indian.

They're so resplendent in those gorgeous fabrics with those super cool trendy designs. Moss with his sparkling white gloves, the dress hems perfectly aligned. the details thought through and attention carefully applied to every individual. They look happy. When Yvonne gave me these, she said it gave her so much pleasure to see them. It gave a lot of people pleasure. It gave me immense pleasure. It reminded me that Wedding Days really are Special Days for a lifetime. They don't stop being in your memory unless perhaps your memory fails you later in life. Even then it is possible that days like these are the occasions which remain even when everything else falls away. People who find their relationships coming to an end often remember with fondness and joy that particular day in their life. The sumptuous food, the smells, the climate, the blossoms, the fabrics against the skin, the tantrums, the feelings. If you are planning your Big Day, or you have had to postpone it, I genuinely believe that what you are doing is vital. Don't let anyone tell you "it's only a wedding", it is far more than that. I that weren't the case, I would do something else. Thank you for reading. x

#specialdaysspedcialways #Brumcelebrant #bridesofcolour #livelocallovelocal #Celebrantbrum #Birminghamcelebrant #celebrantbirmingham #weddingceremonies #weddingcelebrantbirmingham #birminghamweddingcelebrant #weddingcelebrantbrum #brumweddingcelebrant #urbanchicwedding #personalvows

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