Dedicated to creating the ceremony of each couple’s dreams, celebrant Lynn Tierney brings wedding dreams to life, whether that be an alfresco celebration or party in the parents’ garden.
Talking to SoGlos, Lynn reveals the best thing about having a celebrant, her most memorable weddings, and just why she loves her job.
Can you tell budding brides and grooms about your celebrant services?
The last few years has seen a big increase in the number of couples choosing to have a celebrant to lead their wedding ceremony. These couples are realising that ceremonies have moved on from the days when the registry service civil ceremony was written and it certainly doesn’t fit with what they want to say to each other at this milestone point in their lives.
They are carefully selecting every other aspect of their day, from cakes to dresses, photographers to entertainment. They want everything to be just perfect for them. They no longer want to settle for the same ceremony as every other couple that day, that week, forever. They want their own unique ceremony – just perfect for them.
In your opinion, what’s the best thing about opting for a celebrant?
Without a doubt it has to be the personal service a celebrant gives. From the moment I am contacted by a couple, I go out of my way to answer their questions and really get to know them.
How else could I even begin to write a personalised ceremony? Months and months of building a strong relationship with them, forming a bond, so that, on the big day it’s as good as having a friend standing there alongside them.
‘We both felt a real connection with Lynn and my parents said they could see it during the ceremony – Rachael and Steve, October 2017
‘Lynn’s dedication to getting to know us, what we wanted and what would suit the venue was second to none….’ – Jane and Tommy, July 2017
Reviews like that mean the world to me. Is it any wonder that I miss my couples like crazy when their ceremony is over?
What’s your approach, from the start to the ceremony?
When I am contacted by a couple, the first thing I like to do is to actually meet up with them. I usually suggest a coffee somewhere, or a Skype call if they live abroad. This is the start of the ‘get to know each other’ process, after which there is every chance that they will book me for their big day.
Now that I’m on board, I will be available by phone or email to answer any questions and to share initial thoughts about the ceremony. It is not unusual for me to send two or three different ideas for readings, or for symbolic rituals that I think might suit in the first few days – I just get so excited about a new couple!
I then ask couples to complete my very nosey questionnaire – where did you meet, what’s the story with the proposal, what do they do that drives you crazy, what are your future dreams? I need to know it all!
I will be with the couple, alongside them, metaphorically holding their hands throughout the ceremony. A face they know, a celebrant they trust, someone they’ve come to see as a friend.
Then there will be a detailed planning meeting about three months prior to the wedding. This is when the real work begins as I get stuck into finding readings that fit each couple, help them to create the most beautiful, heartfelt personal vows and maybe top it off with a ceremonial ritual such as a toast with their favourite brew. All carefully selected to make the ceremony perfect, no matter how many changes they ask for. (They seldom do, though!)
Where possible, I will attend the venue for a ‘rehearsal’ in the days preceding the wedding where we can choreograph movement and positions of the main players in the ceremony. Just to calm any jitters beforehand and to check the logistics. I once had a double wedding – two sisters walking down the aisle with their dad. We had forgotten to make sure that there was enough room for both the dresses! Crushed meringue, anybody?
And then, of course, I will be with the couple, alongside them, metaphorically holding their hands throughout the ceremony. A face they know, a celebrant they trust, someone they’ve come to see as a friend. Someone who believes in them, in their story, in their dreams.
After the ceremony, I hang about just long enough to give my own personal congratulations and grab a quick photo or two and then it’s off home for my glass of bubbly to toast the beautiful couple. Another ceremony, well done.
What types of places have you held ceremonies in the past?
I have held ceremonies in such a wide range of venues. And this is one of the great advantages for me. Licence or no licence. Indoors or outdoors. So, my ceremonies have taken place in lots of brilliant approved venues including The Stone Barn, Upper Windrush, Thornbury Castle, Eynsham Hall and The Tythe Barn, Bicester.
But then a couple might find a stunning spot and they can’t imagine having their ceremony anywhere else. No licence, no problem. Separate your legal marriage and register that at a registry office, then plan your real wedding in the venue you want. This happened at Cold Harbour Barn, Ipsden Farm Barn, Meadowbrook Farm and the beautiful Evenley Wood Gardens. All outdoor ceremonies. Wonderful!
This year I’m looking forward to my first ceremony in the bride’s parents’ garden – you can’t get much more personal than that. And next year I have a vineyard ceremony. Can’t wait for the first ceremony on a boat on the river, a tour bus around Oxford or a trip on a steam train. It’s all possible!
Are there any of your ceremonies that stand out in your memory?
I can honestly say I remember every single one and it would be too difficult to single out just one for any kind of special mention. But there are parts of some ceremonies that I have been particularly struck by and which are stand out moments for a variety of reasons. Many of these have taken place outside and have seemed like Mother Nature making her presence felt.
A wedding outside a barn in South Oxfordshire where the couple had chosen not to have any kind of unity ceremony, but they got one anyway when two red kites (the bird species) circled each other over our heads throughout the ceremony and set off with their calls to each other as the couple said their vows.
A woodland wedding in Northamptonshire where the mother of the bride was preceded along the aisle by a dragonfly which then settled on my ceremony folder until the bridal party had arrived.
And a festival themed wedding, again in a woodland, that started in bright sunshine but ended in a torrential downpour. Outdoor weddings filled with awe and wonder!
How do you find inspiration for creating unique ceremonies?
The inspiration comes from the couples themselves. Obviously, I honed the skill of ceremony writing and vow writing and was introduced to many symbolic rituals throughout my training course. But I always say to my couples ‘Don’t light candles or pour sand just because you’ve seen somebody else do it’. Let’s create your own ritual that means something to you.
So, the couple who were craft beer fanatics wanted their loving cup toast to involve their favourite beer. And they didn’t want a unity beer ceremony where two beers were poured to mix into one. One tankard of one beer that they shared as husband and wife was the way to go.
Are they foodies? Let’s adapt a ritual to include ingredients of their favourite dish. Do they love their dog? Let’s find a reading that reflects that. Do they have children? Let’s find a way to include them in the ceremony. My starting point will always be the two people I am writing for, not a pre-written script or a list of readings or a favourite wedding website. That’s bespoke.
Are there any common requests from couples?
Many couples are asking me to include parts of the ceremonies that involve the guests as participants and not just spectators. So, I have written vows for friends and family to respond to with a loud ‘We do!’
We have sent the rings on a journey around the seated guests for everybody to hold and pass their good wishes onto before the couple exchange them. In one ceremony the guests were given a blessing stone to hold during the ceremony, again to transfer their good wishes, and we then threw the stones into a river to carry their blessings to the couple no matter where they travelled.
Things like this make the ceremony so much more memorable for family and friends and often much more fun, too.
And finally, what’s your favourite thing about your job?
People. People, people, people. People. Relationships. Family and friends. Love. In the words of Kahlil Gibran in his poem The Prophet, if you turn away from love you will live in a world ‘where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.’ I work with love, with people in love, to celebrate love, to honour love.
But put more simply, maybe the best thing is knowing that I get to help couples have the ceremony they dream of. Their day, their way.