To date I have photographed a dozen weddings wherein the couple have conducted the legal aspect of their marriage as a completely separate event to the wedding day itself. Some have contracted the services of one of a growing number of professional independent celebrants for the wedding day, others have enjoyed Humanist marriage ceremonies and a good number have created ceremonies entirely of their own making, enlisting the help of close friends to serve as celebrants. It’s a fantastic approach to ensuring that the ceremonial aspect of the wedding day is absolutely, exactly, entirely what the couple wish for (not at all to say, of course, that everything one might wish for could not equally be provided in a civil or religious ceremony conducted in more conventional circumstances!)
Sometimes those couples whose weddings I have photographed, that have taken this route, play down the legal ceremony so that everything is about the wedding day proper; sometimes (in those cases where professional independent celebrants have conducted the ceremony) I haven’t even known myself until I spot, on the wedding day, that the usual legal register has been replaced by some other form of certification and I dare say many a guest will have not spotted any difference in apparent status at all. Often I have heard slight concern from the couple that if the legal aspect of the process is not played down, it might somehow draw off some of the potency of the wedding day ceremony itself though never so in retrospect. If anything, the meaningfulness of one has never detracted from the other and each couple has been able to enjoy double the whirlwind ride of emotional intensity that comes from that declaration and celebration of commitment undertaken in the presence of witnesses.
In large part due to the broad geographical spread of the weddings that I photograph, it is rarely that I get to see the legal ceremony that takes place in advance of the more personalised wedding day ceremony but David & Mandy conducted the first stage of their marriage a relatively short hop down the road from me in the Purbeck town of Swanage, a couple of days prior to their wedding day proper, so I popped along for an hour to soak it all in.
On a baking hot Summer’s day, David & Mandy travelled together from Canford Cliffs to Swanage, on a public service double decker bus crossing from Sandbanks to Studland on the chain ferry. I’d have loved to have photographed that aspect of their journey too; there’s so much that makes the story, every story.
Their civil ceremony was conducted in front of direct family and friends that had travelled from afar, some days in advance of the wedding weekend.
In place of rings, that would be exchanged on the wedding day, David & Mandy presented each other with personalised gifts…
Their legal marriage ceremony was really very moving, and certainly did nothing to dissipate any of the potency of the ceremony that was to follow on the coming weekend.