Nicola Le Couteur Bisson and Denise Whitehair of The Guild of Cornish Celebrants

Company Name: The Guild of Cornish Celebrants

Interview with: Nicola Le Couteur Bisson and Denise Whitehair

Location / Coverage: Cornwall, over the border into Devon (passport at the ready), and whilst we are over the Tamar, anywhere worldwide!

What is a celebrant?

A celebrant can conduct a ceremony for whatever the occasion – weddings, renewal of vows, special anniversaries, naming or welcoming ceremonies and funerals. Whilst they cannot legally marry a couple, they can offer something that the legal ceremony doesn’t provide – a personal, unique, bespoke ceremony. This allows couples to make their own vows to each other and include symbolic rituals, all in a place and at a time of their choice.

Wedding Ceremony Conducted by The Guild of Cornish Celebrants

How did you become celebrants?

We worked for Cornwall Registration Service, Denise for 10 years and Nicola for 18 years. During this time we noticed a marked increase in couples wanting to add their own vows, readings and rituals to our legal ceremonies. We allowed what we could but we had to refuse many requested adaptations because of legal and local authority regulations.

After a final Registration reorganisation, we took the decision to take redundancy and start our business The Guild of Cornish Celebrants. Our ethos is to build a trusting relationship with couples and to collaborate fully with them before writing and conducting their bespoke ceremony. It’s a joy for us to be able to work with couples to add everything they want into their ceremony.

Are you qualified celebrants?

Whilst there are organisations that offer training and qualifications for new celebrants we both know that our experience of dealing with couples for over 28 years between us is invaluable. We offer a quality service and we monitor our feedback and ensure that our standards are exceptional. We were both involved with the introduction of civil partnership ceremonies and Denise took the first same sex marriage ceremony in Cornwall and Nicola the second.

Do you only cover Cornwall or are you available for weddings elsewhere in the UK?

We cover Cornwall, but are happy to cross the border into Devon and beyond!

Why should a couple use a celebrant for their wedding rather than have a Register Office, civil wedding or church wedding?

It’s all about choice. Couples who want to personalise their ceremony are finding the traditional routes (Register Office, civil ceremony in a licensed premises or a church wedding) becoming more prescriptive and constrained.

We favour the continental approach to marriage: attendance at the Register Office to do ‘the legal bit’, followed by the celebratory ceremony either later the same day or a few days afterwards. Separating the legal marriage from the celebratory wedding ceremony allows the couple to enjoy a bespoke celebration with family and friends, wherever and whenever they choose.

Wedding Ceremony Conducted by The Guild of Cornish Celebrants

Where can couples marry with a celebrant official?

It’s their choice, we are not constrained by a venue being licensed or being a place of religion. That leaves the couple’s imagination to run free. We have conducted ceremonies in gardens, on the beach, in a cave, in a Tudor castle, in a Georgian Bath House, and a decommissioned chapel, to name just a few!!

What is the most popular type of wedding location using a celebrant?

Couples love to have their ceremonies outside and this is has been our most popular request. The location is as varied as the country has to offer, from wild and remote moorland to a woodland glade, from a secluded cove to a metropolitan waterfront, and everywhere in-between. We are so lucky to live in such a stunning part of the country with so many romantic locations available.

Where are the craziest places you have conducted a wedding?

We had a couple who wished to marry in Merlin’s Cave – the cave under the island castle at Tintagel. Unfortunately the tide was high at the time they wanted so we are still waiting for that one!

Also, the top of a zip wire across a flooded quarry. The couple zipped off as soon as the ceremony was completed and they were pronounced husband and wife.

What services can The Guild of Cornish Celebrants offer to couples planning their wedding?

We offer a unique and personalised ceremony. After discussing the couple’s thoughts and ideas we will write a bespoke ceremony. For example this can include ‘their story’ – how they met and their life experiences together, an exchange of vows and rings, a handfasting ritual, or any anything else that they feel would enhance their celebration. We can also suggest poetry and prose, and we are able make last minute changes to their ceremony right up to the big day. We are available throughout, via personal meetings, Skype, emails and phone calls, and the couple can contact us as many times as they like

How much are your packages and what is included?

Our prices start from £395, depending on the day of the week (weekends and Bank Holidays attracting a premium) and the type of ceremony they would like (venue, time of day etc). Once we have this information we provide a personalised quote which will include all of the following as standard:

  • Questionnaire fact finder
  • Meeting with you at your chosen venue or another preferred location
  • Travel
  • Telephone, Skype and email contact throughout
  • Drafting and amendment of the bespoke ceremony script
  • Rehearsal
  • Delivery of ceremony
  • The signing of The Guild of Cornish Celebrants Register
  • Presentation of your own keepsake certificate
  • Keepsake copy of your bespoke ceremony script

The Guild of Cornish Celebrants Register The Guild of Cornish Celebrants Certificate

Why should a couple choose to use you for their wedding ceremony?

With the excitement of a wedding to plan it’s so easy to get caught up in organising the venue, flowers and colour schemes, letting the significance of the vows you will be making to each other on the day slip into the background. Cornish Celebrants can offer couples a unique ceremony which will ensure that their commitment to each other takes centre stage. We have the enthusiasm and knowledge to ensure that each couple has a truly memorable day. We pride ourselves on the reputation we have built up with couples and fellow wedding professionals, being described as the “lovely ladies from Cornish Celebrants” and “the Celebrants of choice”.

What is your most memorable experience of conducting a wedding?

It is a privilege to conduct a wedding for any couple, but the ones that do stay in the memory are those that are extraordinary for a variety of reasons. These have included – whilst working with Registration – all of those ceremonies conducted where one of the couple was terminally ill. On the lighter side, those ceremonies where a celebrity or other high profile personality have been present. I can’t mention any names, but they included Hollywood A-Listers and the aristocracy!

What is your top tip for choosing a wedding celebrant?

Meet them, talk to them, ensure they are someone you can trust to act with integrity, and who will embrace your ideas and not impose theirs!

Random question… If you could marry anyone, who would it be and why?

As we both quite happy with our own husbands, we would love to “marry” Prince Harry and whoever he chooses, and we wish we could have conducted the ceremony for George Clooney and Amal Amalamuddin!

Where do you see the wedding industry in 10 years time?

We think that the legal side of marriage will have moved to a licensed celebrant model, such as in Australia and some American states. This would enable the industry to become really vibrant and dynamic, and focus on the freedom bride and grooms will have to legally marry in the way they wish. We will be well placed to oblige! Watch this space!

Where can I find out more about The Guild of Cornish Celebrants?