A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of chatting with Celebrant Yvonne Beck. Yvonne is based in Berlin, but has worked all over the world, and regularly hosts ceremonies in the UK.
Going into the conversation, I had no idea what a celebrant did. Yvonne really opened my eyes to what was available to couples who didn’t want a traditional or religious ceremony. I wish I’d known this much when I was planning my wedding!
Yvonne and I chatted about different types of ceremonies, and how couples can make theirs personal to them. As tends to happen in conversations with me, we also got onto my favourite subject – animals at weddings!
I really enjoyed speaking to Yvonne, and learned a lot. If you’re feeling restricted by the idea of a traditional ceremony, then this is one for you.
Hi there, it’s Katherine from Giftast Wedding and Events Stationery, and I’m here today with Yvonne Beck, who is a Celebrant based in Germany, in Berlin. Yvonne, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Yvonne, I’m a celebrant that’s based in Germany.
I divide my time between Berlin and London, but I also do ceremonies in different parts of England.
And also lots of ceremonies now in Southern Germany, where the mountains are. So it’s elopements as well, which have been really coming up this year. I’ve had quite a number of your elopements last year and this year.
That’s nice – very romantic! I always think elopements are the most romantic. How did you get started being a celebrant?
I was looking for a change of career after spending many years working in the public sector, in education and training. I was invited to be a guest at ceremony in Australia, from some friends who’d worked in London but married in Australia. They introduced me to their celebrant, and as we had the ceremony in the vineyard overlooking the ocean at sunset, it was just magical.
I’d never experienced anything like that,
so when the time came, I was looking to see whether celebrantsy was something I could do in in England. I was based in London looking at what kind of training I could do, and I trained with the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants in 2011. So I’ve been a celebrant for about eight years now, and yeah, I’ve never looked back.
I mean many of my couples to begin with were from Australia and New Zealand and America because they already understood the kind of role that a celebrant can play in terms of personalising the ceremony. Now that over the years has changed,
so more and more English and UK couples are looking for that kind of choice and flexibility on their wedding day, to have ceremony that’s really about them.
Because you don’t just do weddings do you? You do birth naming ceremonies, things like that. I was looking on your website – so what’s your sort of favourite ceremony to do?
Well I suppose weddings really, because it’s all romantic, and it’s exciting. I mean, it’s a real honour and a privilege to be asked to create a ceremony and lead a ceremony. But I think the whole day, you know, it’s family, it’s friends. It’s usually a slightly bigger event than perhaps a baby-naming, where in actual fact you’ve probably got 100 children and 40 adults. That’s quite a challenge sometimes! I think all ceremonies that celebrate life’s major milestones are really important, so they really resonate with me.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve realised the importance of celebrating the things you can while you can and enjoying life.
Ceremonies I think are a way that we you know can ritualize experiences create memories. Therefore I think in lots of ways, starting a new life together as a couple is probably one of my favourites, because that couple are standing in front of me looking each other in the eyes, and saying the most heartfelt tender and sincere words. Because they write their own vows mostly, and I just stand there in awe. Love is such a powerful thing, and so yeah, I love weddings.
Ah, that sounds so wonderful. Is there any difference between what people want – because obviously you work globally – so is there a difference between what people tend to want in the UK and other places like Germany and New Zealand and Australia?
I think they want a ceremony that’s flexible and it’s about them.
They also want ceremonies that are outside out in nature, and I’ve done lots and lots of ceremonies in the gardens of manor houses, and private gardens in woodlands open areas that allow people to really express themselves and feel relaxed. I think you feel more relaxed when you’re in nature, because it reminds you of days when you were at the beach or picnicking or doing something – you know, bimbling around and in the woods.
I think that going into a formal situation like a big grand house can be quite overwhelming and intimidating. And I have done those ceremonies, but those are for couples who’ll use historical buildings because it’s their theme.
I think with the celebrant, know that there’s nothing that’s off the table.
So any of their plans and ideas are fine with me. This year I’ll be creating ceremony for a couple from Australia in a castle in Warwickshire, and they’ve asked me to dress up in 15th century costume. And that will be my first one, so I’ve come a long way I think from my first ceremonies. One of my very first ones was on an animal sanctuary in Sussex, and the couple wanted animals to be part of their day. And so the week before the wedding, I was introduced to a herd of thirty bulls and cows that were in the sanctuary, and they were looked after so lovely.
I was just told to watch where they’re putting their feet, because they can step on you. They can’t see where feet are, but these animals were so lovely and on the day and we have the ceremony in the field with the cows and bulls behind us. Because they’re curious animals, they came up behind me, and I could feel breathing down my neck!
It was most incredible, but loving.
I mean the couple actually wrote a poem to themselves, to the animals, and because they both believed very much in animal welfare, and the rights of animals to live a happy life. I mean, these were sanctuary animals, so they’d been kept as pets or in petting zoos or farms – you know in in those sorts of environments where in the end people couldn’t look after them. Huglett’s Animal Sanctuary – big shout out for them, they do the most amazing vegan breakfast and they they were really lovely! So yes I’ve done stately homes and houses, historical buildings and farms.
I think what what couples really want is this ability to express their ideas and their plans and their story.
Well that’s brilliant, I love that you talked about having animals there as well. Having animals involved in your wedding is something I’m so interested in – big animal lover! That’s the thing I’m always trying to do, because we had a very small ceremony and my cat couldn’t come. Looking back, I wish I’d done things differently – not to have him there, because he would have hated it, but had him involved in a slightly different way. We had a tiny Lego cat on our cake, but other than that, he wasn’t really there. And I think that’s a shame, so that’s why I think that’s absolutely lovely.
Yes I mean we do get ring bearers who were pets now with the family pet, it can be rabbits or pets but you know dogs.
A rabbit ring bearer – that would be incredible!
It’s important to give couples that kind of confidence to go with their flow and how they feel. So as a celebrant, I will say to them, you know, there’s no wrong door. Anything and everything you put on the table, we will work through and see whether we can incorporate it. Because there are no restrictions on the time of the ceremony or the length of the ceremony, and it makes for really exciting photography. I’m sure when the couples get their photographs back, not just of the ceremony but of the whole day – you know those memories would just be amazing.
Aw, that’s absolutely brilliant – big fan of that. Do you have any tips for couples for the ideas and things to help make their ceremony more personal for them?
I think that they should really think about what is important their values and beliefs and how they want to express those.
So whether that’s including rituals like cultural rituals or rituals of heritage. You know many couples come now from different backgrounds, and they want to respect those backgrounds and faiths and so we can include that in the celebrant ceremony. Many couples don’t realise that, because they think it’s a civil ceremony. So they think they can’t have any religion or culture or spiritualism in it, but it can and I can work with the clergy if they want.
I mean I’ve often asked couples if they’d like anything religious, and they’ve said yes, well we have an uncle who’s a pastor or a local priest – my family priest. And if they’re willing to come and give some sort of blessing, then I’m all for that. Because I’m thinking, that is that is truly then authentic, in terms of respecting everything, in terms of the couple’s wishes.
And if they want to have it in a hot-air balloon or on the beach or just the two of them saying their vows, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Many couples nowadays I think, find that the cost of a wedding, and the size of the wedding and how big the invitation list gets can be quite overwhelming. I’m seeing a trend to more smaller more intimate weddings, between 25 and 75 guests. So I give them the opportunity to say what style, what size, where’s the location. And if we want it in our family garden, that’s fine too. You can dress the garden up, dress the tree up.
I’ve often created ceremonies in family gardens. They’ve ranged from a small back garden in London to where the family had a farm, and acres of land. So I think it’s about what makes you happy.
The question really is this:
How do you want to feel on your wedding day?
How do you want be about your ceremony and so what things will make you feel like that? And involving your family your children if you’ve got them. Many couples bring children into the relationship, because they’ve had a relationship and lived together before they decided to get legally married. The ceremony really can include children. With things like a unity ceremony. I don’t know if you’ve heard of these, where the unity ceremonies symbolise the bond that you’re building and the family that you’re building.
So it might be a candle lighting, and you can ask everyone to light the candle, or it might be a hand fasting where ribbons are tied around your wrists and make you tied by family and friends. Or there might be a sand pouring ceremony.
Different colours of sand representing each child and each member of family poured into a vessel creates layered look of these beautiful colourful layers.
The symbolism there is that what is brought together cannot be taken apart,
because you couldn’t then un-mix those grains of sand. So it’s about forming a lasting and enduring bond throughout your married life and family life.
That’s so nice, and lovely that you can personalise it like that. Unfortunately we’re now out of time so that’s been absolutely brilliant, thank you so much Yvonne that’s been great. I feel like I’ve learned loads, thank you very much