Celebrant Views

Ultimate Wedding Planner – review

rings at Poppy and Richards wedding

Who read Lucy Mangan’s review of Ultimate Wedding Planner in the Guardian?

It was quite scathing, but absolutely hilarious.  But it also raised a lot of points I wanted to address about reality TV, us as contestants, our lovely real couples; but mostly about inclusivity, choice for ALL couples and wedding law reform.  So I thought, as an independent celebrant who is proactively campaigning for Wedding Law Reform and  basing my whole business ethos on authenticity, individuality and our collective uniqueness to each other; I’d draft a reply…

Dear Lucy

I very much enjoyed reading your article, it made me howl with laughter at times.

Mostly I long to point out that the Common Book of Prayer isn’t for everyone.  In fact, statistically, it’s not for the majority**.  Not only are there 1999+ other religions, but there’s humanists, atheists.  Never mind couples of mixed faiths/beliefs and spirituality.

With weddings/ marriages /civil partnerships many people no longer feel a necessity to be joined in the eyes of whichever god or gods may believe in,  but if they do, then yes, they should seek out and include prayer, temples, churches. 

However, even they usually choose to have a wedding reception. A separate celebration/party with all their family and friends to share in their love, joy and happiness.  Some people chose that to be very ‘traditional’ to their faith, culture, family; others should feel empowered to  create a  celebration that reflects  their personality and include whatever quirks feel representative of them.  And yes, it should happen “without a rulebook” There is no rule book for how to host a party.

ALL the couples in our 6 weddings had a legally binding marriage, a civil ceremony with a registrar. And some also had an additional ceremony reflective of their personality, with a celebrant (be that Humanist or Independent) as part of their celebration of love unity, commitment they shared with their extended family and friends in surroundings, and with food, props, styling that reflected their personalities.

And, yes, all these weddings were immense, at least compared to what I’m used to.  But the point was to show not only the grandiose and costly things but the ways to think outside the box, make or craft yourselves.

As for heavily edited.  Well duh!  That’s TV.  It’s probably about 100 hours of filming for every one-hour episode, so they can’t show everything, they have to pick a few storylines and follow them to conclusion to make it all make sense. 

As eight professional, self-employed people we all brought a wealth of talents, not necessarily in all aspects of wedding planning, some of us were not used to being so hands on, I was not used to spending money!  At this point I have to disagree with you that we look inept, I think our strength, passions and personalities shine though, whilst providing what an audience seems to want these days, conflict, drama, jeopardy.

All our couples were real couples with beautiful love stories and fantastic families and friends.  All our planners arrived with huge skill sets and contacts, specialisms, and strong personalities.

My lovely little micro celebration venue has that gorgeous 1970s Eldis 2 berth caravan as a glamping pod for a romantic stay, and I love it.  The types of couples and families I appeal to love it.  They don’t want to spend, they want to simply say “I love you” in a romantic, understated, unique and very personalised way.  And I love that.  My focus as a celebrant, is telling stories.  Listening and hearing what matters to people, the how they met, the what they love, their quirks, the obstacles they’ve overcome, their hopes and dreams for their future.  My strength is always in the story.

I agree about being a rabbit in the headlights for a lot of the intense planning and delivery time of the weddings, but yes, we really did only have 3 days plus the wedding day, yes, we really did make and create everything ourselves: source it, design it, order it, make it, transport it, without additional support (and whilst the Royal Mail were striking) BUT definitely with additional hinderance.  Have you worked with 10 camera and sound teams?!  The weekly walk about lost half a day for 2 planners, travelling lost us time, one-2-ones to camera. I could go on , but you get my drift. Everything we achieved we did in 3 days AND nights.  Some of the planners didn’t sleep at all in order to successfully deliver the couples’ dreams.  And, yes, we did successfully deliver; and yes we did deliver it last minute, 3 days is last minute even at the start.  But, hey, that’s entertainment!!

What absolutely shows throughout, is our commitment to our couples whilst at their real wedding but in an unreal situation of limited time and pulling together whilst in competition. 

I believe our couples and their families have had the best weddings, and the most unique and wonderful experience along with a great (alternative) wedding video that they can talk about forever and which will be part of their life story to reminisce on as they grow old together. 

I’m sorry you didn’t get the point.   Not everyone will.  I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it, again, it’s not for everyone.  There’s loads of TV I don’t like.  However, I hope most of those who watched it did and felt inspired by some of it, and emotionally engaged by some of us.

I genuinely look forward to reading your next scathing commentary. 


Berni B (Alternative Celebrant)


** The Office for National Statistics (ONS) : In 2019, religious ceremonies accounted for less than one in five (18.7%) of opposite-sex marriages, a decrease from 21.1% in 2018 and the lowest percentage on record; for same-sex marriages, 0.7% of marriages were religious ceremonies.

(2) Comments

  1. Wow Bernie, your feedback is a credit to not just you, but the great group if wedding planners you have met.

    Your inner strength, your natural positive outlook shines like a beacon. Plus, your sense of purpose is unfounded. You are amazing. Xx

    1. my goodness, Susie. thankyou for your super kind and uplifting words. You’re pretty damned amazing yourself too xxx

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