So, how does it work?

You’ve chosen your AltarNatives celebrant and made initial contact, so how do you work together to prepare your unique ceremony? Whether your ceremony is a wedding, a funeral, vow renewal or naming – or indeed any other ceremony – what can you expect to happen?


Here at AltarNatives every ceremony is unique so there are no two the same, but this blog should give you, the client(s), some idea about what to expect once you have booked your AltarNatives celebrant. For the purposes of this blog, let’s assume that you’ve chosen to book me (Sam) as your celebrant!  Please be aware that the timings might vary; for a funeral things will need to move quickly, for a wedding there may be months, if not years, before the ceremony will be taking place.


However initial contact was made, I find it helpful to discuss some key details with you, usually by telephone. This might include confirming the date and venue for the ceremony (to ensure availability), who needs to be involved in discussions about the ceremony, any initial thoughts about what you’d like to include and a price for the work. If you prefer, we can have the initial conversation by email, Skype or Zoom, or by other means (carrier pigeon might be a tad challenging but we all do try to fit in with you where we can).


I will make arrangements to meet you, where possible face to face, at a time and place that works for us both. The initial meeting may take some time so that we can discuss your ideas, share your story, think about additional ‘elements’, readings and songs. I do take copious notes so that nothing is missed (hopefully).


If everyone is happy at that stage, I will confirm my availability and ask that a deposit is paid before I go ahead with the next stage – preparing the ceremony.


Your ceremony will be crafted from scratch using all of the information gathered in the initial meeting. I may need to clarify some points with you and, at this stage, provided there is still ample time before the ceremony takes place, you will be able to amend and add content. Based on what I learned about you during the initial meeting, I might have additional suggestions, which may or may not work for you. For example, after meeting two clients who wanted a handfasting in a tree cathedral, I suggested that we might include a ‘circle’ for us to stand in, with items at each of the directions (East, South, West and North) to signify their meaning (air, fire, water and earth).


I will spend a significant amount of time using the information you provided to put together a ceremony which reflects your personality and marks the occasion in a way that is meaningful to you. Depending on what you have asked for I might research some poetry or identify songs which can be included, as well as weaving your story into the ceremony. I can also include rituals for you, which your children or other loved ones can also take part in. All of this adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your special day and makes it truly bespoke. 


Once I have drafted your ceremony, I will send a copy (usually by email) to you so that you can review it. You may wish to talk some elements through or make amendments if things don’t quite work for you. Only when you are completely happy with the ceremony will I finalise the words. 


Where others are delivering a reading or poem I will ask for a copy of their words well in advance, so that I can include them in the final draft of the ceremony. This will help with timing and will mean that if there are any hiccups on the day I can step in and help. This is particularly important for funerals, where emotions are riding high. I also request a copy of any music that will be included so that I can be sure of the timing of the ceremony.


I usually visit the venue for the ceremony well in advance, so that I can understand the logistics; is a sound system required and available, where will the ceremony take place, where will the audience sit. I will also arrange a rehearsal, particularly if there are a number of elements being included and there are other people involved. This may take place a few days or weeks beforehand, or on the day, depending on the circumstances. I find rehearsals really helpful so that everyone knows where they are meant to be and when, it also helps ensure any elements like handfasting or unity candles go smoothly on the day. 


Final payment will need to be made before the ceremony takes place; this will be discussed and agreed beforehand.


After all of that planning and preparation you can then relax, safe in the knowledge that everything is well in hand. I can’t promise that everything will always go exactly to plan but hopefully, together, we will have done everything we can to make sure you get the unique ceremony you planned. After it’s all done, you’ll be able to remember your ceremony, not just with photos and videos, but also by reviewing your personalised copy of the ceremony, which I will prepare and share with you.


If you would like to find out more, speak to any of our AltarNatives celebrants – see contact for more details.

Samantha Edmunson

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