A change of scene

Living France - - Contents - theenglishcel­e­brant.com

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

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