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Naked weddings and tigers: stories from a celebrant

Celebrants will do a wedding any way you want, which means they have all the best tales. Muddy sniffed out the juicy bits from local celebrant Amanda’s Beautiful Ceremonies.

What do pirates, tigers, and coloured sand have in common? Go on, have a guess. Got nothing? We’ll tell you: they’ve all featured in bespoke ceremonies conducted by local celebrant Amanda. 

Unlike a registrar or vicar, celebrants aren’t bound by rules of what they can or can’t do in a service, which means they can marry you wherever you want (outside, on a kayak, in a balloon…). In other words, they offer a totally personalised wedding day, and — when it comes to Amanda — are happy to go as wild or as classic as you want. Eager to get the goss of just how wild a wedding can get? Us too. Amanda, spill the beans.

What made you decide to be a wedding celebrant?

Of all things, it was my brother’s funeral. I’d expected it to be the worst day of my life, but ended up bowled over by the inspirational service given by the celebrant. He made an awful day into something special, and I just knew this was something I wanted to do for others. After losing six people close to me in four years, I’d had enough grief — and what could be better than the privilege of marrying people? 

Why might people opt for a celebrant?

Amanda and an over the ‘broom’ couple! Pic: Lottie Photography

Simply put: the choice! A wedding doesn’t have to be limited to a church or a registry – I’ll marry people anywhere, whether that means a stylish summer garden or sitting in a hot tub. I still offer some religious aspects if people want them — a favourite hymn, for example, or a meaningful Bible reading — and I’m happy to help couples personalise what they want in their ceremony. Most couples want a pretty classic service that’s been tweaked for them, something simple but unique to their story, but others want to go a bit more out there. I love both kinds. 

Go on, then. What’s the quirkiest wedding you’ve ever done?

I’ve got a pirate wedding booked in for next year. The couple live on a boat, and they want me to dress up like a pirate and deliver the service in a pirate voice, standing in front of a treasure map — I genuinely can’t wait! Or, I once did a wedding in a nature reserve, standing right by the tiger enclosure, and had to precursor the service with a quick explanation for what to do in case of tiger escape. All good fun! I can only think of one thing I’d think twice about, and that’s a fully naked service — another celebrant friend of mine has done one. Very freeing, apparently, although I’m not sure I’m quite up for it yet.

What’s your favourite part of the ceremony?

The sand ceremony. Photo credit: The Photographic Lounge.

The part where the bride walks down the aisle and the groom sees her gets me each time. Then the reading of the vows, and the inevitable weeping of a mother, can be funny and moving all at once. I love seeing what couples have written about each other, and often help put the vows together if asked. The simplest statement can be achingly romantic just from what it means to that couple — it’s all about individual touch. Then there are the little ceremonies I offer as part of my packages, such as the sand ceremony (above), which gets a fantastic response from the audience. For this, the couple and their family members take turns pouring coloured sand into a container, producing a beautiful swirling display that symbolises the coming together, and forms a keepsake. 

Do you get nervous beforehand? 

A bit, which I think is natural, but everyone around me is generally a thousand times more nervous, so it’s important that I stay calm. I arrive early, check things are running smoothly, help walk readers through their part, and liaise with photographers so they know where the best or quirkiest shots are. Once, a bride was running late – as sometimes happens. But the poor groom was clearly getting a bit jittery, so I quietly chatted to him, and he began to relax. Then the bride appeared, looking beautiful and very in love, and the wedding went on without a hitch. He thanked me afterwards, saying I was really supportive and that by keeping him talking, he’d been able to keep his nerves in check. I simply felt it was the natural thing to do, but it was a good feeling to know I’d helped him through his big day. Generally, whether it’s the couple, guests or the event staff, I just try to make it easy for everyone to have their best day by using compassion, humour and a bit of pizzazz!

Have you ever married people who clearly won’t last? 

Haha. I’ve had moments where I’ve thought to myself — hmm. You know, you hope that the arguing is all part of the, er, love. But of course it’s not about that, so it’s not something I try to think about. If they’re telling me that they’re in love and they want to get married, then I’ll do my best to make it the best wedding possible for them. 

You’re also qualified for pet ceremonies. Have you done any yet?

I’ve trained for pet funerals, but what I’d really love to do is a pet wedding. You see them on American TV — you know, “Do you take this dog as your pawful wedded wife?” — but I’ve yet to do one myself. If anyone’s got any lovesick labradors in need of a ceremony, you know where to find me! 

Check out Amanda’s Little Black Book for more details.

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