If you’re anything like me, when it came to planning our wedding the ceremony was the thing I deliberated most about. Neither of us are religious so to get married in a church seemed wrong and the prospect of a register office ceremony just seemed so impersonal. We wanted a ceremony that was more meaningful to us but had no idea on where to start; what we needed to do or who would officiate? If only we had known Ellie Farrell of Alternative Ceremonies UK everything would have been so much easier to create the ceremony that was important to us.
I’m really excited to get to know Ellie and asked her to answer a few questions about what she does and how she can help you have the wedding that means everything to you:
Please introduce yourself
I’m Ellie Farrell and I am a Civil Celebrant based in Birmingham, West Midlands. I write and perform weddings, handfastings, renewal of vows, engagement, namings and other family ceremonies.
How did you get into officiating weddings? What is it that attracted you to the role?
When my husband and I got married six years ago, we wanted a Goth wedding ceremony but had to settle on a standard register office ceremony. As we were unable to find an alternative way to have the wedding we wanted, I realised other couples may be experiencing the same thing. I did some research into weddings and decided to train to be a Civil Celebrant to work mainly with alternative couples and families.
I was attracted by helping couples have their ideal wedding ceremony with their own choices.
What are alternative ceremonies? What does it mean?
Alternative by definition is the opposite of what is considered normal. What is normal though? When it comes to weddings, white gowns, standards scripts for every couple, day time ceremonies, limited choices of music, impersonalised vows and limited choices of venues are all there were to offer for couples. Alternative Ceremonies UK was the ideal choice for my company name as I offer couples exactly that; an alternative to what is considered a normal or traditional wedding ceremony. I work with couples who want truly unique weddings and ceremonies at a time and venue suited to their needs.
Tell me a bit about the process and how you work?
When couples contact me, I ask them what kind of ceremony they are having such as wedding, renewal of vows, handfasting etc. I ask them if they have a theme to their ceremony such as Goth, Steampunk, Rockabilly, Pagan, Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. From their theme, I ask them what poems or readings they like to include them into their ceremony.
I have an extensive knowledge of suitable poems and readings ideal for alternative ceremonies, and offer couples the opportunity to include family and friends into their ceremonies by reading a poem, or a verse from a song which is meaningful to them. I ask them if they want to include children, family, friends or pets into their ceremony. Anyone present can take part in a ceremony element such as a unity candle ceremony, a ring warming, wrapping a handfasting ribbon, taking part in a wine ceremony or many other mini ceremonies available.
I’ve done quite a few ceremonies with dogs as ring bearers and the dog walks down the aisle with the rings attached to its collar in a small velvet bag. A Harry Potter wedding saw the rings being delivered by snowy owl and the couple included a broom jumping ceremony and a handfasting based on their Harry Potter theme.
Couples can choose any music too, unlike at religious places or register offices where only music they deem suitable is allowed. I work all across the UK and travel to perform ceremonies in whatever venues or places couples choose. Whitby is a popular choice for members of the Goth community and I have performed numerous ceremonies at festivals, historical places and also in a cemetery. The choices are endless and I will endeavour to accommodate any choices and requests couples have.
Do you have a favourite part? (reading/ritual for instance)
I don’t have a favourite part no, as I love all aspects of helping couples have a unique and memorable day. My favourite elements to perform are handfastings and unity candle ceremonies as they can include so many chosen people. Six people can each tie a different coloured ribbon to the couple and another can tie the cord which binds them. I also combine a handfasting with friendship style bands made using the same colours of the handfasting ribbons or cords. This is ideal if stepchildren are to be included as the new step parents can tie the bands to the children and all are bound together as one family. I also include this for the parents to tie to their new son or daughter in law as they are bound to each family. Unity candle ceremonies are also a way to include families as a parent, child or sibling can light the candle which represents the Bride or Groom. Most couples choose to present theses candles as gifts after the ceremony.
What advice do you have for couples planning a more alternative wedding?
My advice for couples seeking or planning a more alternative wedding is to go with what is important to them as a couple. As with every aspect of life, people always give an opinion and try to influence the choices of others; but it’s your day, so define it your way.
I understand having a non-traditional ceremony can be a big deal for some members of the family, but what is your experience of families and friends’ reactions
Some families or family members may not understand or even agree on choices alternative couples, or couples wanting a more alternative wedding make. Many parents may not agree with their daughter’s choice of black or purple gown as they don’t see it as traditional. My advice to couples is to talk to families about their wedding choices and perhaps even explain why they have chosen the things they have. A white three tiered fruit wedding cake maybe the expected cake, but will it fit in with a Nightmare Before Christmas or Rock ‘n Roll themed wedding? In my experience, families and friends have surprised and positive reactions.
I always ask a couple if they have a preferred dress code for guests and myself and I adhere to this. I generally find some guests look bemused to see me standing there in all black if required to do so before the ceremony starts. To the older generation who associate black with funerals which I also perform, this can look very different. Once the ceremony starts and elements such as handfasting have happened, any concerns they may have had are gone and guests always inform me they loved the ceremony and haven’t experienced anything like it before. Sometimes, I meet direct family and guests involved in the ceremony before and any reactions to the ceremony choices are usually addressed then.
Tell us about your wedding
Our wedding ceremony was the same standard ceremony offered in most register offices. We ideally wanted an evening ceremony but was told this wasn’t allowed due to the strict laws governing legal marriages.
We didn’t have a wedding photographer but friends took pictures for us. We got married after only being together for eight weeks and we didn’t really think about booking a photographer as friends who do photography as a hobby offered. Looking back, this was a bad idea as we don’t have many photographs which we like. This experience led my husband to become a professional wedding photographer (Rob Farrell Photography) and I always share our experience with couples if they choose not to use a professional wedding photographer.
Our guests all wore black with touches of purple and we chose a local listed building for our wedding breakfast. Our evening reception was at a Goth/alternative/new wave club night we regularly attended then. If we were getting married now, we would do it so differently as we had originally wanted.
What music did you choose for your wedding? First and last dance, walking down the aisle etc.?
We wanted Passion of Lovers’ by Bauhaus to be the track we walked into, but the strict rules enforced on music choices at the register office meant we couldn’t have this. Instead, we had the choice of four classical music pieces which didn’t appeal to either of us so we opted for no entrance music rather than walk in to something meaningless to us. Our first dance took place to She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult; a track we both love and full of memories for us both.
What websites and social media can we find you on?
For information or inspiration on alternative ceremonies and weddings, my websites is: www.alternativeceremoniesuk.com