A change of scene
From company directors in London to gîte owners in Charente, and they took Shakespeare with them too
With its reputation for romance, France is the ideal location for a wedding. And with no shortage of loving couples wishing to tie the knot there, those providing services such as flowers, photography and the ceremony itself are finding that business is booming. Gillian Harvey speaks to three women for whom weddings are a weekly occurrence
As a voiceover artist, Celia Drummond – whose voice you may have heard on the London Underground or Eurostar – moved to France in 2004 after technological advances meant she could carry out her work from anywhere in the world.
“I’d had a holiday home here since 1990 and had always loved the country,” she says. “With my husband doing consultation work, and my role as a voiceover artist, we realised we could live anywhere. Our children had grown up, so we thought – let’s go while we still can!”
As well as her voiceover work, Celia worked for a short time as an estate agent during her first few years in the country, but in 2010 when some close friends asked her to conduct a private wedding ceremony for their daughter, she enjoyed the experience so much that she decided to see whether or not she could qualify to perform ceremonies for others.
“I did a little research and found that I could become a qualified celebrant by taking a three-day residential course with The Fellowship of Professional Celebrants, which I took in 2013,” she explains. Since that time, Celia has performed over 40 weddings per year.
“The work can be quite intense,” she says. “I have to get to know a couple – ideally I’ll meet them in person, but I also use FaceTime and Skype. They fill out a detailed questionnaire too, and I write a
tailored script for the service. Sometimes couples like to write their own service, using my guide – and that’s fine. I recently did a wedding for a very musical couple, who introduced all sorts of surprises into the ceremony, which was wonderful!”
Celia offers couples the choice of different rituals within a wedding ceremony, including wine sharing (where wines are mixed in a glass to celebrate the union) and hand-fasting (where a couple’s hands are tied together with ribbons).
As the only way to officially tie the knot in France is at the mairie, most couples attend a register office in their home country before or after their event to legalise their union. “We sign a certificate,” explains Celia, “but it’s not legally binding. And for those who don’t live in France, it’s very complicated to arrange a ceremony at the mairie. Most couples sort out the paperwork at home.”
With couples arriving from England, Europe and even the US, there is no shortage of demand; and the demand for beautiful locations is high. “More venues are beginning to open up as people realise the potential of buying châteaux and doing them up just to do events,” says Celia.
While each ceremony is tailor-made, Celia is relieved that she hasn’t been asked to do anything too unusual by a couple, so far. “A celebrant I know in the UK was asked to dress up as Batman recently,” she says. “Luckily, most couples who come to France are looking for something more romantic and traditional.”
Above: Celia officiates at the wedding of Anya and Felix
Below: Celia offers couples the choice of different rituals within a ceremony