Edel on new wave of wedding celebrants
Olivia Ryan talks to Louth woman Edel O'Connell about becoming a wedding celebrant
'Going to the chapel... and we're gonna get married,' iconic lyrics that have long celebrated and yet constrained how this life-changing event would be marked.
But the sands of time have shifted in Ireland, and no longer are those ringing church bells the only way to envisage your wedding day.
'Things have changed, dramatically. In the last few years in particular, and of course since the marriage referendum in 2015,' says Louth native Edel O'Connell who is part of a new wave of civil wedding celebrants helping couples to create their perfectly unique way of getting married.
The changes she alludes to have indeed been momentous, turning the very notion of Ireland's old conservative stereotype on its head.
The deregulation of weddings in 2011 to include civil partnerships was the first major transition in Irish society, and by the end of 2012, civil partnerships had taken place in every county in Ireland.
Then, just three short years later the same-sex marriage referendum was not only broadly supported, but spoke to the very need for resolute change.
So it was fitting that during this revolution of sorts, Edel O'Connell would have her own transformation, at a family wedding.
'I have spent over 30 years working in community pharmacy but when I was made redundant last year it gave me the opportunity to take time out and see what I wanted to do going forward. Shortly after my job ended I happened to be at my nephews wedding which was conducted by a civil celebrant and I was blown away by the intimacy and simplicity of the ceremony.'
Struck by how 'unusual, personal, and beautiful the ceremony' was, she made enquiries about how wedding celebrants, and soon found herself training with the IIOC (Irish Institute of Celebrants) and recently qualified as a civil wedding celebrant.
'Civil weddings are on the increase, and with that comes the freedom to make this most special of days what you truly want it to be.
'You would be amazed at the range of exciting venues that people are choosing for their special day I even came across a ceremony where an alpaca brought up the rings!' laughs Edel.
'It has given couples the opportunity to personalize their ceremony in whatever way they choose. From the quiet setting of a village bandstand decorated by close family and friends to the Cliffs of Moher.'
The IIOC training was a revelation too, she adds, opening her own mind to the possibilities that lay ahead.
'We actually had a mock wedding at Smock Alley theatre in Dublin, a role play for how the real event. It was incredible, and I just knew this was what I wanted to do.'
The camaraderie among the training celebrants was essential, added Edel. 'I met 20 fabulous women in my class and we are in constant contact via whatsapp supporting and encouraging each other as we all moved towards becoming 'working celebrants.' The new graduates are it seems responding to the 'wedding with a twist' phenomenon, and tradition, it seems, is no longer, with people getting married at any stage, at any age, and in any way they choose.
'I am not in any way against the traditional church wedding. For many couples that is the only way the would still like to get married.
But I think the changes we have seen have been really key to giving people the choice to celebrate it truly in a way they want to. As a celebrant, I am there to facilitate them in having their own uniquely special day. '
The growth in non-religious ceremonies is evident, but as Edel explained on a practical level, couples are simply looking for alternative venue options other than a church or registry office.
'You can almost hold a wedding ceremony anywhere nowadays. There are some incredibly fascinating locations around Louth, with the possibility to have it indoor or outdoor, weather permitting of course!'
It will be a poignant day for Edel in 2019 when she marries her daughter Susan and her partner Becky. 'I am so honoured that they have asked me to act as celebrant. I just hope I won't get too emotional!'
Along with wedding ceremonies, celebrants can also host vow renewals and baby naming ceremonies for parents who choose not to have their children baptised in a church.
'This most important thing for me is to meet the couple and get a sense of what they are looking for from the ceremony, including everything from seating arrangements to any readings, poems, or special words they might want to share. I will facilitate them in any way I can.'
To contact Edel O'Connell, check her facebook page Facebook.com/WeddingCelebrantIreland for a chance to win a wedding ceremony for one lucky couple. All you have to do is like, share and tag a friend with her post. Ceremony must take place within a radius of 100 km of Dundalk, and take place by the 31st of August 2018. Winner will be selected on the 31st of August 2017.