Blog
17th December 2018

An Experienced Wedding Celebrant Shares All You Need to Know

At Signature Living Weddings, we’re known for designing weddings with a difference. From our unique wedding venues and extravagant packages, to our talented team of bold and brilliant coordinators, a Signature wedding is always one of a kind.

But your wedding ceremony simply wouldn’t be complete without the person who ties it all together. A Wedding Celebrant or Minster plays an integral role in your special day, ensuring every moment is right for you. From song choices to words, every moment matters.

That’s where the fantastic Reverend Phil Parkinson comes in, an Interfaith Minister who likes to think outside the box. Phil has a wealth of experience in leading beautiful ceremonies and interfaith weddings with a personal touch.

Marriage Celebrant and Interfaith Minister – Phil Parkinson

As a gay minster, Phil is also an expert when it comes to same-sex weddings. This is something that closely intertwines with Signature Living; we’re home to some of the most popular same-sex wedding venues in Liverpool, and our coordinators have helped to plan some truly spectacular occasions.

So, for those in search of the perfect celebrant, we sat down with Phil Parkinson. This in-depth interview covers all you need to know before your big day! We wanted to shed some light on his experience and why you should choose him for the most memorable day of your life…

So Phil, what does it mean to be a Marriage Celebrant?

I am a Reverend, so I am a Reverend and a Wedding Celebrant. I’m actually an Interfaith Minister, there are about 800 of us in the UK, all very different from your normal Christian vicar, with no churches, no bibles, and no bishops, nothing to convert anyone to, and all ministering to those of you who don’t usually go to church. I’m one of the very few ministers who is legally able to marry same-sex couples (in one particular building), but as a Wedding Celebrant I can do weddings anywhere.

Every ceremony I do is bespoke. Having met with the couple, I compose my text using what they tell me about themselves and the words of the songs, readings and poems they chose. If elements from any faith traditions are wanted, I’m delighted to include them. If two different cultures are coming together, I can make sense of that. If a couple want to write their own vows, these can be given a central place, as can any national traditional customs, such as the English and Irish hand-fasting, the Scottish Quaich Love Cups, the Welsh myrtle, etc.

As yet, I haven’t come across a couple who’ve refused the traditional vows. But let’s face it, you can’t beat them, because, when “For richer and poorer, In sickness and in health”, is spoken by two people to each other from a place of profound love, everybody cries. Often these words are pronounced in the name of “The Supreme Spirit of Love”, sometimes adding “And My Family and Friends, and All That Is Good On This Earth”, or, if the couple chose, in the name of the God Of Their Understanding.

How/why did you decide to become a Wedding Celebrant?

When I was a child, I was refused the Roman Catholic priest training because I was a slow developer. In 2011, I happened to come across an old friend who mentioned another mutual friend who was an Interfaith Minister in Sheffield. I immediately knew I wanted do what she was doing! And I now realize, that all the things I’ve done in my life, and this is my fifth career, have led up to being an Interfaith Minister. It brings together everything that I believe in, and everything I do.

What I find is that a lot of younger couples who haven’t had a religious upbringing, though they wouldn’t know how to put it into words, have a great hunger for something you might call sacred or spiritual, something that is above what normal life is usually like, the ‘something’ that the church has always represented.

So what I bring to a wedding is the sense of something intangible, something profound, even sacred, even numinous. A wedding is the most important public rite of passage we make as adults. Only giving birth equals it. You will never feel the same again. And I absolutely love being with the couple throughout the whole journey, from the initial setting up meeting, maybe on Skype, though better in person, then the detailed meeting about a month beforehand, then the rehearsal, and finally, the big day itself.

Wedding celebrant

What is the legal position?

What you have to get your head around is that your marriage is about your money – who legally owns what – and that your wedding is about publicly showing your love for each other to the world. Parliament has begun the process of updating our antiquated marriage laws of 1836, but Brexit has delayed any recent progress. The laws will change, but not quite yet.

So the simplest way to get married is not to use me at all, but have the registrars come to your chosen hotel and do the whole ceremony. You are not allowed certain words or music, and you can’t use the traditional vows. Depending on the day of the week, it can be relatively expensive.

If money is no object and you want everything under one roof, have the registrars marry you in the hotel, and then, after they are gone, have myself do your much more elaborate ceremony.

The other, cheaper, way, is to do the legal bit separately at your local registry office (Mon -Thurs mornings are cheapest, St George’s Hall, Liverpool, is a mere £50). You only need yourselves and two witnesses present, yourselves to answer “I do” to the several questions, and all four of you to sign the register. That’s really is it. You can be out in less than ten minutes. Then have your proper ceremony with myself, around fifty minutes works well, with whatever music, words, customs, and unique little or big touches you want, on the day you want, at the time you want, at the signature hotel you want.

Did you have to do any training?

I completed a two year in-depth training, with 16 weekends and a lot of written work and placements. The training was in London, but there were enough of us to form a North West group which met once a month as well. One way and another it was a very consuming commitment.

What is the best thing about being a Marriage Celebrant and Interfaith Minister?

Being with people at the most important moments of their lives. Because people are really real then, and it’s people’s hearts I’m dealing with. Being with people’s hearts is the best bit.

Is there a particular wedding that is memorable to you?

Several I think! There was one going along fairly normally, when I began to quote the words of a song the couple had chosen, and then I said in a surprised loud voice, “Oh, it looks like we’ve got some visitors!” and Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, complete with trumpets and trombones crashed in, dancing round the church. Nobody knew except the couple. I got them up in the pulpit, it was completely hysterical.

Then there was one for a couple of gay women who had lived in 6 different countries. I researched a wedding blessing from each of those countries, one of which was a 2000 year old Mayan blessing, and built their ceremony around these, with a live musical blessing from a friend of theirs and my usual sung ending blessing. It was just lovely to make the whole of their life story together into their own ceremony.

Then there was a secular Jewish one complete with canopy and shawls, and the one based around the bride’s favourite Shakespeare play which I conducted on the actual day of Shakespeare’s anniversary, as well as the one half in French, and another half in Danish! And, close to my heart, the one by the River Esk, at my favourite place in the Lake District.

Whose ceremony would you most like to conduct from the past?

I would have loved to have been Prince Charles’ Minister, but with Camilla!

What’s the process of couples getting in touch with you?

Usually word-of-mouth, Google, and referrals through organisations I belong to, like Signature.  Then it’s www.revphilparkinson.co.uk, or, best of all, 07730 337 300 –  nothing like a personal chat – and philinterfaith@gmail.com

Why do you think you work well with the Signature brand?

Thinking outside the box. Signature has all the infrastructure for weddings, usual and unusual. I took just one look at Eden and thought this is it, they have got it all, I don’t have to think of anything, I can just be with the couple. And as an architecture-mad person, I applaud Signature’s mission in restoring old buildings and giving them a new direction, a new lease of life. That’s just fabulous, couldn’t be better.

Do you have a favourite Signature Wedding venue?

woodland wedding locations

Rainhill Hall

They all look superb. Eden is amazing, think rooftop view without parallel. James Street is so wonderfully grand, yet with gritty cast-iron pillars. Rainhill Hall is just beautiful, it’s Grade II listed, and when outdoor weddings get going there in the garden it’s going to be just magical. Plans for the Old Post Office in Preston look exciting, I’m waiting to see the brand new interior unfold itself. And these are the Up North hotels, there’s Cardiff and Belfast as well.

What inspires you?

I suppose what really turns me on is seeing beauty, often in the most unexpected places and the most unexpected of people.

Lastly, could you share a fun fact about you!

Previously, I worked in schools as a music teacher, and then privately and in the NHS as a psychotherapist. And what I really like is Earl Grey tea at 4:30pm, but it’s got to be in a teapot, with proper tea leaves, and served in a real cup and saucer.

To enquire about booking your wedding at a Signature venue with Reverend Phil Parkinson, you can reach us on 0151 305 3753. You can contact Phil directly on 07730337300 or at philinterfaith@gmail.com.

For more information about our venues, services and suppliers, please come along to our next Liverpool wedding fayre on Sunday 6th January 2019 at The Shankly Hotel.

 

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