Since 2010 when Unique Ceremonies was set up, things have changed significantly. Back then, couples who wished to have a symbolic or humanist wedding ceremony were either not French residents or same sex couples. Then, an increasing number of heterosexual couples took an interest in this new concept as they could see an opportunity to replace it with the religious ceremony.
Today, we perform symbolic wedding ceremonies for a much wider range of couples who consider their symbolic wedding ceremony as their real wedding and as an opportunity to express their love in a more personal way in front of their loved ones.
The other reason for the increasing success of the symbolic wedding ceremony is the way couples live nowadays: Couples have often been living together for several years before they decide to tie the knot. They often have children, dogs and a mortgage by the time they come to see us unlike previous generations who got married first before building their lives together. Also, couples prefer to acquire a certain financial stability before getting married and as a consequence are considerably older when they decide to officialise their union. For example, brides were on average 24,6 years old in 1980 whereas they were 35 of age in 2014.
A symbolic wedding ceremony offers the flexibility that most couples wish for. They can choose the place, which can be park, a barn, a beach, a holiday home, etc. and they also decide on its content, with the help of their celebrant if they choose to have one.
When I first started to work as a celebrant, I expected couples to take the opportunity of their symbolic wedding ceremony to get rid of traditions, make a personal statement and rid of all the constraints imposed by society.
To my surprise, I realised that most couples simply wished to have a wedding ceremony which focused on them, their friends, their children, their love. As many brides tell me, they have been dreaming about their wedding since they were little and had always imagined walking up the aisle looking like a princess. For this reason, many brides choose to go for the traditional entrance with their bridal party and flower girls walking ahead of them. Brides & grooms feel strongly about exchanging their vows and wedding rings very much like they would in a religious wedding. Others even wish to include a ritual inspired from religious traditions such as the candle lighting ritual.
This does not mean that brides and grooms are not willing to inject a little fun and originality with a dancing entrance or on a bike or with their favourite pet as their bridesmaid but I came to the following conclusion:
The symbolic wedding ceremony is not, as I wrongly assumed, an opportunity to totally reject marriage traditions and have a mock ceremony. Couples sincerely wish to mark their union with a real ceremony which suits their tastes, their values and their personalities. They feel strongly about giving their symbolic ceremony the credibility it deserves.
Unlike the civil ceremony which is merely considered as an administrative step to go through, the symbolic ceremony is considered as THE real wedding, which is why couples do not necessarily wish to stray too far from traditions.
A good celebrant should therefore respect couples’ wishes and perform an authentic ceremony in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.