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  • juliagossmarshall

Love in the time of Covid - and why I decided to train as a celebrant.

We had been living and working together for about nine years back in 2020 when I asked Philip if he would marry me. It was February 29th - a Leap day which, according to Irish legend, is when women are allowed to be the ones to propose marriage. I'd recently discovered from a DNA test that I'm 50% Irish so was feeling emboldened! Well, I went for it, despite feeling very nervous, and he said yes!

We started planning our wedding and decided that the end of May that year would be a lovely time to get our families and friends together, to celebrate with us. We planned a big gathering in a friend's barn after a register office visit to sign the paperwork. But it was not to be. Covid arrived and lockdown happened. And my 'save the day' emails had to be followed by a postponement message.

Despite the difficult times, we were still keen to be married as soon as possible. For both of us it is second time around and we had been waiting for the dust to settle post my rather lengthy divorce. When it became clear that large groups indoors were not going to be allowed any time soon, we started thinking about alternatives. I called the local register office and had a chat about our options. At that point they weren’t taking any bookings because so many people had had to have their ceremonies cancelled and they were all on the waiting list. But, by the end of August it became clear that a lot of couples had decided to postpone their ceremonies until the following year and we were offered a date in October.

The ceremony that we were being offered was what is called a " 2+2". In other words, the two of us and just two witnesses arrive at the register office, say a few words to each other and then sign the marriage schedule. We visited the register office in August to 'give notice'. I knew that our local office was in a modern purpose-built building but was not prepared for the lack of charm! The ceremony was to be held in a small room that doubled up as an office with a printer in the corner and a great view of the railway tracks outside!! My heart sank. But we really didn't want to wait for Covid restrictions to be over - who knew when that might be - so we decided to go ahead. After all it was just a 10-minute process to sign the paperwork.

But this really didn't feel enough of a celebration even in these difficult times. We were lucky that hotels had started allowing indoor gatherings of up to six people. So, we were able to book a local hotel for our celebration, with just my two sons and my daughter-in-law. We all checked in for two nights. The five of us had a wonderful weekend sharing lovely meals and bottles of bubbly. At the wedding meal my son surprised us with a zoom call with about 20 of our closest friends. We had cake, we danced, we laughed, and I cried a little!! In those times when we weren't able to physically be with everyone it really was as good as it could have been, and I loved it.

So, why did I feel a little sad, a little cheated? It was the register office. We made vows to each other, but they weren't OUR words. We had to choose one of three allowed forms of wording. The person who led the ceremony was perfectly pleasant, but we didn't know her, and she didn't know us. She wasn't the person I'd spoken to on the phone or the one who we had met at the 'giving notice' meeting. The "ceremony" took just 10 minutes, in charmless surroundings.

And it set me thinking...

…it would have been so much nicer if we had had an independent celebrant. Someone we could get to know, someone who would learn about us and tell our story, someone who would make us laugh and share our joy.

Gradually over the next weeks and months I started to think that being a celebrant was something I could do, something that I SHOULD do. What joy it would be to work with couples and families, creating and delivering ceremonies for important life events that will be remembered forever.

So, when I retired from my full-time job to move to south Devon, rather than finding a part-time job as planned, I started researching how to become a celebrant. I found Civil Ceremonies Ltd who offer the Level 3 Diploma which is the highest level accredited national qualification available in Naming and Couples Celebrancy. I applied for their training course and what joy, I was accepted!

And the rest, as they say.... is for another blog!!

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