2020, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster hasn’t it? Not only for couples, but for those of us who run a Welsh wedding business too. In this short series of blogs I’ve decided to share the love around some of my fabulous Welsh wedding business friends and allow them to give you a little insight into their worlds. How they’ve pivoted and adapted to the ever changing wedding landscape, as well as some little gems of advice and inspiration.
Introducing Jane Grayer of Create Ceremonies.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your Welsh wedding business.
I’m a Celebrant based in Abergavenny but working across the UK (and beyond!) creating and conducting unique Wedding, Vow Renewal, Naming and Family Ceremonies for couples who want to celebrate these milestones in their lives in a more personal and individual way.
I started my working life as a Stage Manager in theatre which I loved and have had a varied career path, including supplies co-ordinator for Crisis Open Christmas, volunteer co-ordinator for a Buddhist organisation, running a community centre, community engagement with a housing association, administrator for the only modern hand illuminated Bible created in Wales for a University in the USA and as a relief registrar conducting weddings at weekends!
I think all of the roles I’ve had have contributed in some way to how I am as a celebrant – adding many different skills. As well as Create Ceremonies I am also a Steampunk Celebrant as my alter ego Unity Ironbright which brings a whole different side to the work I do. I am quite creative, enjoying different crafts, and love decorating folders and ribbon boxes for my couples which reflect them and their ceremony. I have never used the same idea twice, well no couples are the same so what’s right for one couple wouldn’t be right for anyone else.
My ceremonies are always relaxed, informal and full of love, laughter and fun. I believe that all the guests at a wedding are there not just to enjoy the day and celebrate in that moment but also to commit to supporting the couple in more challenging times (as every relationship has them) so the more engaged and involved they are in the ceremony itself the more they can pull on it and remind the couple about it in later years.
Tell me about your favourite fellow Welsh wedding business to work with and why?
This is such a difficult question as there are so many amazing suppliers and venues in Wales. For me it always comes down to the people involved in the business and how they treat my couples.
I love working with the team at Treadam Barn, just outside Abergavenny – it’s a really beautiful setting and the barn is gorgeous. There are a variety of spaces we can use for the ceremony, all with amazing backdrops, and the focus is entirely on helping the couples to create the day they want.
Julia Cox from Harmony Event Design is such fun to work with – we’re very much on the same wave length and she’s always up for a quirky idea.
Bea Turton makes the most amazing cakes and absolutely exquisitely decorated biscuits (and her hubby is an amazing chef).
Lottie Dixon at The Bloom Room in Monmouth is a fab florist and again, able to do traditional flowers beautifully but up for a challenge and something out of the norm.
I can’t single out photographers – there are so many amazing ones that I love working with, and they all offer something different.
How have you been working with and keeping in touch with your couples that have postponed to next year or beyond?
This year has been so difficult for couples due to get married and for everyone involved in the industry. I always create a friendship with my couples, so that they know I can help and support them throughout the planning of their weddings not just on the day. I have moved dates for all my clients, some several times. The promise is there that no matter how far into the future we may need to move a ceremony the cost for them will stay the same.
I’ve been quite low key, responding to them each individually as their circumstances have changed rather than raising the fear before they have thought about it. I guess because I’m limited in the numbers of couples I’m working with (I only do one ceremony on any given day) and because of the nature of our relationship I often feel more like a friend than a supplier. I have tried to do ‘lives’ on Facebook to clarify the situations at various points and offer options and alternatives.
What one thing can couples planning a wedding at this time do to help you and your business, and keep things running as smoothly as possible?
I think the primary thing people need to do at the moment is to be as flexible as possible. When I was getting married, some friends weren’t happy about playing a particular piece and I was got upset. I was told to concentrate on what I really wanted people to remember about my day. This really helped. I realised the most important thing was for people to feel the love and the happiness we were feeling, and to take that with them. So think about what is really important for your wedding day and try to relax about everything else. None of us really know what the situation will be next year. We can only be hopeful, plan and be flexible.
Have you been able to adapt or diversify your Welsh wedding business while weddings have been on hold? Tell me how.
For a lot of the time, unfortunately, Celebrants have not been able to work as only legal ceremonies were allowed. It has been a very tricky time. I did manage a Renewal of Vows Ceremony in England last week. It complied with the rule of six and therefore was able to go ahead. The nine year old daughter physically tied the ribbons for the handfasting while I said the words.
It was so wonderful to be able to conduct that very intimate and personal ceremony 8 months after the last one! Thankfully there is another side to my business (creating and conducting funerals) which has kept me working.
How have you had to adapt the way you work in the last 6 months?
The company is only me and I have always worked from home, but now my husband is also working from home. It has taken a bit of getting used to! All my meetings with couples are now on Zoom rather than over a coffee in a lovely café and I spend a lot more time on Messenger answering questions. My working hours have always been flexible so that has helped.
Have you had the opportunity to work on any micro weddings since August? Tell me about them and your favourite bits.
My only ceremony since February was a Renewal of Vows Ceremony. It took place just across the border last week with the couple, their two children, myself and the photographer in an open barn. The ceremony was due to be in the woods but the rain was definitely against us.
It was a beautiful ceremony. The bride had made all of the decorations herself, including bouquets for herself and the children. The focus was on their love as a family and the parents commitment to form a strong and supportive unit for the girls to grow in.
The girls did an amazing job wrapping and knotting the handfasting ribbons. I had made bracelets for them all to wear. The whole ceremony was completed by some beautiful words written by the eldest daughter as a surprise for her parents. It was beautiful and there were many tears! Small can indeed be beautiful and even more meaningful.
Completely non wedding business related, have you personally done or achieved anything during lockdown that you wouldn’t have normally?
My husband and I challenges ourselves to walk 40 miles in July to help raise awareness and funds for 2 Wish Upon a Star. It’s a charity which supports families and friends after the death of a child, and we raised £500. I’m not very fit and not keen on exercise so this was quite a challenge for me!
What’s one piece of advice or wisdom that you would like to share, wedding related or not, that’s relevant to the world we live in right now. Make us smile!
This is from a book called “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” and it seems relevant
“I’ve learned how to be in the present.”
“How?” asked the boy
“I find a quiet spot and shut my eyes and breath.”
“That’s good, and then?”
“Then I focus.”
“What do you focus on?”
“Cake” said the mole
Thank you Jane! What a perfect little insight into you and your Welsh wedding business. Your alter ego Unity Ironbright sounds fabulous – I would love to meet here one day!
Your couples have been lucky to have you help and guide them through this tricky year. It’s been lovely too to get to know a fellow craft addict. I never thought I would find myself discussing the different ways to make a friendship bracelet on a professional level ha ha! I love how you take so much trouble to ensure that the tiniest details for each of your ceremonies are perfect and so very personal. It’s an approach I try to take with all of my couples and their stationery too.
If you’re planning your wedding in South Wales, remember that all of us as experienced wedding professionals are here to help. We care about details, we care about making it personal and we care about getting it right for you. We might not wear capes & boots (well not all the time anyway) but we are Welsh Wedding Wonder Women!!
To read the first blog in this series, my chat with Anne-Marie at Petal Power Florist in Cardiff, head HERE. And to find out how I’ve been helping my couples through wedding planning in 2020, head over HERE.