Humanist Wedding Ceremonies from Zena Birch

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Hey there, tell us a little about yourself!
My name is Zena and I am a Humanist Celebrant. Since I qualified four years ago I have been fortunate enough to marry over 114 couples – this has been an astonishing and humbling experience. I spent most of my previous working life making theatre but all of this changed when two great friends chose to get married in the desert in California and asked me to write and conduct their ceremony as my wedding present to them. Learning more about them than I already knew as friends in order to create a ceremony that was personal not just to them but to all of their gathered family and friends was one of the most significant and rewarding experiences of my life. Their ceremony was the real heart of what became an astonishing day and night and I realised that this should be something everyone should have the opportunity to experience. This also kick started what became a continued fascination with ceremony and why we need it as human beings. 

What inspired you to start your business?
As mentioned above, whilst researching how to write a ceremony, I noticed that ceremony has existed throughout time and across cultures. I began to realise that there must be something within us, irrespective of religious belief that needs us to delineate a moment in time; create something a little more special than any other afternoon at, say, 2pm. Ceremony allows us the opportunity to articulate things that we otherwise might think are too awkward, or too sentimental to say on another ordinary day. Things that we assume people know but saying it all out loud and publicly witnessed is quite a different matter – one which is very important but often neglected, not just about how a couple feel about each other, but also about how they feel about all the people in their lives! 
I felt very strongly that couples should be allowed to express this and what marriage will mean to them in a context that sounds like them. If you are religious, a religious ceremony makes all the sense in the world to you and does represent what marriage will mean to you. If you aren’t or if a couple comes from different religious or traditional backgrounds, the options seemed more limited. Either you pick a culture to marry within, ignoring the other, or you opt for a civil ceremony, which can sometimes feel somewhat impersonal. I felt that it was important to offer couples another alternative. One in which they could honour whatever is important to them and their families whilst celebrating their individuality too. I create ceremonies that I hope are ultimately the most inclusive. Personal faith remains just that and the ceremony focuses on what everyone has in common – what is important to the couple - celebrating their love, honouring their heritage where appropriate and reveling in their story. What brought them together? Who they are? And why they have gathered all their special people together. Hopefully the ceremony should be the most interesting and important part of the day – full of jubilation, which then can’t help but spill out into the rest of the day! 

Mostly what I have discovered though, and this is the thing that continually astonishes me and warms my soul, is that it allows people to stop still, gather their favourite people in the world together and celebrate their love and gratitude – not only towards each other, but also to ‘their people’ – the wonderful people we accumulate as we make our way through this life. 
Another brilliant bonus is that humanist ceremonies can take place anywhere, in any location of a couples’ choosing. Which means that the venue choice can reflect something personal too. It also means that I have married people in some truly unique and wonderful places!

Have you seen any trends in the wedding industry recently?
I think more and more people are attending humanist ceremonies and realising that there is another alternative available to them. The process I go on with couples, which can take as little as 3 months to 18 months, is one of the most fun parts of creating and preparing for your wedding day. The chance to have a ceremony that reflects who you are rather than a generic script with your names placed inside is definitely starting to trend. The ceremony is becoming less of an afterthought or little technicality and now much more the heart of the day.

Have you noticed a difference in the weddings from when you started out to now?
I have noticed that couples really want to personalise their day. Make it reflect who they are, what makes them laugh, what makes them happy, what makes them, them. It’s not about set Gold, Silver or Bronze wedding packages, it’s about personalisation and a chance to spoil their friends and family too. I have noticed that more and more people are realising that the ceremony itself is integral to that.

Top tip for couples planning their wedding?
The whole process should be fun. If it isn’t, stop, write a list of all the things that you think are important and if there are any on there that are causing you stress or frustration check to see if they really are that important. If they aren’t get rid of them! Also, delegate! 

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