Being a wedding celebrant is such a personal, emotional job. Today we hear how self confessed ‘life lover’ Rachael Thompson got into the professional, and how she loves to spend her days when she’s not working…
Q. How did you become a wedding celebrant?
A. When my father died 10 years ago I found myself organising the funeral and we had a celebrant to officiate. I found the whole process cathartic and comforting. It was during the ceremony itself when I had my light bulb moment and realised this was something I could do. At the time I had been working as a bereavement counsellor so making the decision to train as a funeral celebrant seemed a natural progression. My counselling training stood me in good stead for my career change.
Six years ago I decided to expand my business to incorporate weddings, as well as vow renewals and baby naming ceremonies. This side of my business has steadily grown and I love the wide variety of my work.
Q. What’s your background?
A. I originate from Lincolnshire, on the east coast and moved to West Sussex in 1987. I used to work with children as a play therapist, helping them to work through a whole range of issues. I then went on train as a humanistic counsellor. The training took four years and gave me massive personal insight and belief in my own abilities. It was life changing. On completing the training I went on to work as a bereavement counsellor, supporting others through the most difficult time of their lives. Becoming a celebrant was a natural progression from my work in bereavement and I soon realised I had found my passion.
Q. What do you love about conducting wedding ceremonies?
A. I always arrive about an hour early so I can take time to marvel and appreciate all the work that has gone into dressing the venue. The energy, joy and magic of a wedding thrills me to bits. I’m a bit of a rule bender, so to be in a position where I can offer couples complete freedom to have the ceremony of their choosing with absolutely no restrictions delights me. I feel so privileged to visit stunning and unique venues, and to work along side fabulous people – photographers, caterers… we’re all there to help make the day special. My favourite part of the ceremony has to be when the bride makes her entrance, its so emotional. Over the months we’ve worked together we’ve bonded and established a beautiful connection, so seeing the bride for the first time is such a heart warming, magical moment.
I love seeing happy faces, beautiful frocks, the grooms all suited and booted, bunting, pom poms and beautiful flowers. There’s no vibe quite like the wedding vibe, the bringing together of family and friends… what’s not to love?
Q. How would you describe your personality?
A. Warm, generous, excitable, spontaneous, a tiny bit bonkers, colourful, creative, funny, willing, bright, bubbly, cheerful, reflective.
Q. What do you get up to in your spare time?
A. I love nothing more then piling into my dear old VW camper van with my dogs. As long as we have a few doggy treats, cake, tea bags and a beach then we are in heaven. I also enjoy pottering around at home, sitting quietly under a tree, or swimming at my local spa. I love life and I get so much pleasure from simple things – apple scrumping, blackberry picking, shell collecting, coffee with girlfriends.
Getting up early to see the sun rise is one of my greatest pleasures, I get so excited about the day ahead. Every day on this beautiful earth is a reason to celebrate.
Q. Where are you based? And tell us about your connection with the Isle of Wight?
A. I’m based in Midhurst West Sussex, in the heart of the South Downs National Park.
My partner and I divide our time between home and The Isle of Wight. We bought a beachside property a year ago and have fallen in love with the Island. The charm and slower pace of life sits well with me, and being bit of a beach bum we are never more than two minutes away from the sea. There are some gorgeous wedding venues, and of course plenty of beaches for celebrating special occasions. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland, who knows, maybe we will relocate one day.
Q. Can you explain the process you go through with couple’s planning their ceremony?
A. A couple will make contact with me and we set up a meeting. We get together for an informal chat and get to know one another. If they decide they want to go ahead with a booking I ask for a deposit to secure the date. Then we begin. As we have so much flexibility within the ceremony there’s plenty to talk about. Many couples are thinking outside the box, so as well as the traditional exchanging of rings, they may like to incorporate rituals such as hand fasting or sand pouring. I always ask my couples what they don’t want for their ceremony, I find that’s always a good place to start. Obviously there needs to be a starting point so I put together a first draft of a suggested ceremony, we then work on it until it’s exactly how they envisage it to be. I love this process… seeing the love story unfolding and creating a warm and personal ceremony for them. I am always available to answer any questions and help out where I can, I sometimes get asked for help with writing vows, and can send examples and suggestions for this. If there are family and friends participating in the ceremony it’s often a good idea to have a rehearsal just to ensure everyone knows what they are doing. No need for nerves though, you’re in safe hands.
Q. What’s been your most memorable wedding ceremony?
A. Gosh, that’s a tough question, they are all so memorable one way or another… but I think a ceremony I conducted fairly recently, It was a mixture of English and Catalan. I learned a couple of paragraphs of Catalan and nailed it. It was a very proud moment, it was really fantastic to be able to welcome the non English speaking guests, they really appreciated it, and even more amazingly… they understood me! The service was held in a brick works museum, complete with the smell of oil and steam. They were the loveliest couple, and their two little dogs joined us, complete with doggy suits.
Q. What advice would you give couples starting to think about their ceremony?
- Think about yours and your partners values and personalities and how your ceremony can reflect you as a couple.
- Don’t try to please everyone else.
- Do you want to include friends and family in the actual ceremony?
- Make sure you find an officiant you can resonate with (this is very important).
- If planning an outdoor ceremony be sure to have a plan B (umbrellas, rain coats and wellies under the seats can be a good start).
- How do you see your ceremony space?
- The ceremony will set the tone for the rest of the day, keep it fun and simple.
Featured photo: Teddy Pig Photography