Friday, 15 September 2017

A Public Saying To All Our Friends: Our Wedding Ceremony

When you're planning a wedding ceremony from scratch there's so much to think about. We wanted ours to be entirely different from the traditional legal wedding ceremony, both in wording and in structure. We wanted it to reflect our values, as individuals and as a couple, and to be explicitly feminist. Most importantly, we wanted it to be fun.

We'd chosen Leicester's Guildhall for our ceremony for a number of reasons, chief amongst which was OH MY GOD JUST LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS! It was also, being a council-run venue, reasonably priced, and the staff were amazing and totally on board with our plans for a quirky, untraditional ceremony.
Having greeted all our guests together (which was lovely and something I'd highly recommend, as it gave me a chance to say hello to everyone - and admire their outfits - instead of sitting somewhere 'backstage', as brides usually do, feeling increasingly nervous), everyone was seated ready to begin. Instead of entering separately or, god forbid, me being 'given away' by my dad, we walked into the ceremony hall together to the strains of Sam Cooke's You Send Me.

Our friend Richard was officiating the ceremony for us, partly because as a teacher, he had the perfect voice to fill the hall and the confidence to stand up in front of 70 people. Although he confessed later that he'd felt anxious about it, you'd never have guessed.
Richard opened with a beautifully written, and very funny, speech, and was followed by Julia, Thomas's sister, reading the Marge Piercy poem that I shared in my last wedding post. We'd decided to have all the speeches within the ceremony, rather than at the party afterwards, so two of Thomas's best friends - Bart and Tim - gave what became the equivalent of a best man's speech (I certainly wasn't expecting the word "balls" to be bandied around quite so much!). My mum also spoke, beautifully and movingly, and two friends - Cara and Mathijs - both gave readings.
"In my opinion the best thing you can you do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out of your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with."
From the film Juno

We'd chosen our readings carefully because we wanted them to reflect not just the ethos of our day but also the person reading. So Julia, one of the bravest and most awesome feminists I know, got the Marge Piercy poem. Cara seemed perfectly suited to the extract from Juno (plus it has the bonus of being short, as she wasn't wild about having to speak in public). Finally, Mathijs read a quote from the film Frida which we knew would suit his oratory style and, for us, summed up everything we hoped for about our marriage.

"I don't believe in marriage... I think at worst it's a hostile political act, a way for small-minded men to keep women in the house and out of the way, wrapped up in the guise of tradition and conservative religious nonsense. At best, it's a happy delusion - these two people who truly love each other and have no idea how truly miserable they're about to make each other. But, when two people know that, and they decide with eyes wide open to face each other and get married anyway, then I don't think it's conservative or delusional. I think it's radical and courageous and very romantic."
From the film Frida
My strongest memory of my whole wedding day - but particularly of the ceremony - is of laughter. We'd wanted it to feel relaxed and joyful, and for people to feel more involved in proceedings than  the traditional ceremony usually allows. Having a friend officiate and therefore removing the legal stuff meant every single word was meaningful and personal to us. But we retained some bits of a traditional ceremony, for example exchanging rings and saying vows, although our vows were ones we'd written together:


"I commit myself to our life together because I love who you are now
and who you are yet to become.
I promise to stand with you and to fight with you for everything we believe in.
I promise to support your freedom to be, to grow and to do all you wish."
And then, all too soon, it was time for Prosecco and cake in the Guildhall courtyard, and a chance to properly catch up with people (I recall a lot of hugging and squealing, most of it from me).

It's been wonderful, while writing this, to reflect on our ceremony and I'm very glad to say that with the benefit of hindsight there's nothing we'd do differently. We had so very many lovely comments afterwards, saying how much people had enjoyed and been moved by the ceremony. I'm going to end by quoting our friend Rose who, the day afterwards, wrote the following on Instagram:
"I'm not a fan of weddings [preach!]. They are largely tedious exercises in conspicuous consumption in the services of an archaic institution. But Janet and Thomas's was utterly joyous and felt totally authentic to them as a couple." Wedding goals achieved.
All photographs by James Mottram Photography

My other wedding posts:

21 comments:

  1. I love that Juno quote! I'm also loving hearing all about your wedding, the photos are all stunning (the panelling in the Guildhall is beautiful!)

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    1. Isn't it a great quote? And, because I have the maturity of a teenage boy, I was very pleased to have the word "ass" in our ceremony!

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  2. I don't ever comment but I just wanted to say that this is such a delightful post on your most wonderful and unique wedding. I have visited the Leicester Guildhall a few years ago and it struck me as a fascinating place at the time. Well done for not compromising on how you wanted your wedding to be, it's clear that you made it exactly as it ought to have been. Almost never achieved by others (including myself). The photos are gorgeous and I adore the one of the congregation laughing, just a fabulous moment. xx

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    1. Thank you! I love that photo too, because it captures my immediate family so perfectly in such a joyous moment.

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  3. Love it! It's inspiring that you stayed true to yourselves. This is perfect: "I promise to support your freedom to be, to grow and to do all you wish."

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    1. I was so happy with our vows, I think they summed us up perfectly.

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  4. Gorgeous!! Love all the thought that went into this, the readings you've shared and the photos too - beautiful snippets of what happened on the day, rather than formal stiff shots. C x

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    1. We actually ended up with no formal shots - oh actually no, there are two! One of me with my brothers and one of us with all the guests. Otherwise, our instructions to the photographer were to just make it look casual, I didn't want people to be waiting around while we had innumerable posed photographs taken and I think these capture our day so much better.

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  5. What a fantastic day :) So glad it was just as you wanted it to be.

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  6. Oh my - your vows! They made me cry a little. Your photos are beautiful too.

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    1. Thank you! We were so happy with the vows, lots of people said how appropriate and perfect for us they were, which was our aim.

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  7. I love this, just beautiful. Looking forward to reading more about your day - the food?? :)

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    1. I'm so gutted that no-one took photos of the food because it was SO good! three courses of vegan goodness. I barely ate any of it though because I was so excited, haha!

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  8. I just had to pop back and read your vows again :)

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  9. Oh Janet, what a beautiful day. Your photos are gorgeous, I keep having to scroll back up the screen to look at them, you all look so happy! I love your vows. Mucho congratulations to you both :) xxx

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm totally obsessed with them, I could look at them all day!

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  10. Wedding goals x1,000. Beautiful ceremony - without standing ON ceremony, haha - beautiful readings and beautiful couple. After starting as you mean to go on, I suspect you'll have those same smiles on your faces for many years to come. Congratulations again! xx

    Lis / last year's girl x

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