Image by Lovelenscapes
If you’re in the Brisbane – Byron Bay area and looking for a Celebrant with a gentle, soulful and mindful style, then Ann Taylor from Ceremona is for you. Ann brings ancient wisdom and ritual into our modern lives, and it’s for this exact reason we have partnered with Ann to bring our Less Stuff community an online Nurture Circle offering. Let’s get to know Ann some more…
Image by Lovelenscapes
How would you describe your style as a celebrant?
I’d say my style covers a bit of a spectrum – it’s a little hard to pin down. If I had to pick some words to describe my vibe, they would be: free-spirited, bohemian, nature based, sincere, full of generosity and love and influenced by shamanic ritual. My couples tell me that I’m relaxed, gentle and calm. I don’t ever claim to be a stand up comedian, but there are always a few moments where the guests giggle during my ceremonies. I try to be authentic and genuine to ensure that my vibe attracts my tribe. I’ve been so incredibly lucky to book couples who truly are my people. I LOVE the connection that I build with them – we usually end up becoming good friends.
My ceremonies tend to be relaxed, down to earth, lighthearted and infused with feeling and meaning. I love the way I feel when I do a ceremony – it is as if the couple, myself and all the guests are able to transcend time and it always hits me that we are touching the realms of magic/divinity/source/universal life force or whatever people like to describe the great spirit as. I always incorporate ritual if I can. It doesn’t have to be cliche, but I find that ritual – however simple or complex – induces and/or enhances that feeling of transcendence.
Image by Lovelenscapes
Celebrants are often really drawn to the LSMM message, how do you feel the ceremony adds meaning to a couple’s wedding day?
I’m totally biased, but I feel that without the ceremony, wedding days would have very little meaning (other than the speeches, maybe). Maya Angelou said:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
To me, this quote is so relevant to wedding ceremonies – they are an opportunity to make people FEEL something in this modern era where they usually don’t ever get a chance to put their phones down and just be present and in the moment. I never expect my couples or their guests to remember the details of what I say during the ceremony, but if they remember feeling an overwhelming rush of love, gratitude for their loved ones or that moment of stillness we create, I’ve done my job well. The ceremony adds so much meaning to the day because it allows everyone to truly acknowledge the rite of passage that the couple is taking part in – to celebrate their love in the truest way and to honour the sheer magnitude of what is happening.
Image by Alex Jackson
What is it that you love about getting people hitched?
Absolutely everything. I love the natural high that I get before, during and after the ceremony. I love connecting with like minded souls, meeting their families and getting to know them on a deep and intimate level. I love being given the privilege of guiding couples through such a huge moment in their lives and being privy to things that sometimes their closest friends and family don’t even know about them. As a celebrant, I am entrusted with this intimate knowledge, I’m looked to for guidance and reassurance and I really take the job seriously. I’m not religious at all, but I see this work as a modern day ministry. I love seeing my couples respond to their ceremony on the day and the way it makes them feel all the feels. I’m especially chuffed when their parents and grandparents tell me they loved the ceremony and it was so “them” – nailing it in this way is what I always aim for.
Images by Blake Mills
What are some meaningful inclusions or rituals that could be added to a wedding ceremony?
I love including a section that I call the ‘Ceremona Reflection’ if the couples like the idea of it. I offer to contact their nearest and dearest friends and family, get some beautiful insights from them directly and then weave it into the Reflection, which is a surprise for the couple on the day.
I also love a good hand fasting, cultural rituals, water ceremonies, ring warmings, indigenous smoking ceremonies and sage smudging. I’m up for any kind of ritual that a couple suggests – if it is important to them and taken seriously by me, it will give everyone goosebumps and achieve its purpose. I think even rituals that a lot of people consider cheesey (like unity candles and sand ceremonies) can be really beautiful if done well.
I am enchanted by cultural inclusions so much that for one of my recent couples, I organised a surprise Maori performance group to do a woman’s haka because one of the brides who has Maori ancestry didn’t have family members coming from NZ who could do a haka. It was the most magical moment and the girls were so touched by it.
Image by Kaitlin Maree Photography
What is your advice to couples looking for a celebrant?
Book someone who you’d consider as one of ‘your people’, someone who speaks your language, has the same vibe as you and who comes across as very authentic and real. If all these things feel right, you will end up with a celebrant who just gets you. Not every celebrant is for every couple and vice versa. The best wedding ceremonies are created when there is a true connection between the celebrant and the couple – this involves mutual respect, truly listening to one another and really having fun just being around each other. It should feel like a dear friend is conducting your ceremony. By the end of a wedding, I’m so attached to my couples that we keep emailing, texting, interacting on social media and I kind of know that they’re with me for life. I love the idea of being able to be their lifetime celebrant – and get to do their blessingways, baby naming ceremonies, weddings for other family members, rites of passage for their kids and even family funerals.
How do you help couples overcome things such as stage fright, or pressure around writing the perfect vows?
I offer a pre-wedding blessing/meditation for my couples on the day and find this really helps to ground them. Regardless of whether they decide to have the blessing, I always arrive early to check in on both people before the ceremony and make sure all their questions are answered, they know exactly what to expect and feel ok about everything. Of course there are always some nerves due to excitement – I reassure them and encourage them to give themselves permission to fully feel ALL the emotions they experience on the day and that each of those emotions are welcome and perfectly normal/ok to feel.
To ease pressure around writing vows, I always offer to help by brainstorming what to include and reviewing drafts. Most of the time my couples surprise each other with personal vows and they feel comforted knowing I’ve read each set of vows and that I can let them know the vows are well balanced in length, tone, etc. I also give my couples an info pack with a variety of vow examples and structure options for inspiration or adoption.
Image by Alcorn Images
What has been the nicest feedback you’ve received for your work?
There have been some really lovely reviews, but these recent kinds words from my beautiful brides sticks out the most:
“From the day we met Ann, it was love at first sight, or ‘celebrant at first sight’. She got to know us, and we got to know her, everything resonated, and we knew we were in safe hands. Her attention to detail, her aura, we will never forget all the ways in which she made the ceremony so personal to us. Ann’s aura is love, and love is love is love…Ann was flawless! We felt so comfortable with Ann, and she helped us shape our ceremony into a moment even more incredible than we could have ever imagined. Even the journey of creating our ceremony will be something we remember forever. It was effortless. Everything with Ann felt so organic and natural. Ann got to know us as the people we are now, but also learnt about who we were. Our histories, our families, what we stood for as individuals and as a couple. She helped us shape the ceremony in a way that was so personal to us, yet inclusive to our guests. Ann’s magic is unifying people, and there was never a moment of doubt that we would have the most epic ceremony. We still have people raving about our ceremony and how it was the best they’ve witnessed. With all the details, the personal touches, the surprise section, our day was absolutely magical.” – Claire & Rachel
Image by Blake Mills
What’s been your most heartfelt wedding experience?
It is so hard to pick, but a Byron Bay beach wedding I did last October was particularly heartfelt. It was just one of those ceremonies that totally landed for all of the guests. The groom’s 2 year old niece was the most confident little flower girl and stole the show walking down the aisle by herself, looking adorable. One of the grandma’s did a reading with the groom’s brother (who was best man) standing next to her to keep her steady. The other set of grandparents pulled me aside afterwards and said how impressed they were with the extended Acknowledgement of Country I did – they work in the reconciliation space and were very touched by the attention I gave it. The couple wrote the most beautiful vows that were personal, original and heartfelt. The love was so thick in the air, you could just feel it and everyone felt grounded with their bare feet on the sand. The couple were very much focused on the substance of the ceremony and having it outdoors on the beach (their happy place together) – everything else was just a bonus. The bride and her maids made all the bouquets and floral decorations themselves. The groom made the huge cheese wheel cake himself, the bride’s brother and his partner decorated the ceremony space and the bride’s cousin was the official videographer. The bride even went on a holiday to Bali with her sister and had her dress made directly by a seamstress there. You could tell this couple had their priorities straight and their day was all about their love and their families.
Image by Alcorn Images
How can couples reduce their wedding footprint from a ceremony point of view?
Eco confetti is an obvious one – I would recommend seeking out a company that does not use plastic packaging for the eco confetti because that kind of defeats the purpose. Location wise, a wilderness elopement would always have a reduced footprint. I love the idea of an adventure wedding and hiking into the bush to get a couple married. If programs are printed, I’d recommend recycled or handmade paper and I’d always encourage couples to avoid things like balloons, bubbles in plastic containers, confetti that isn’t organic, or petals from flowers that aren’t grown locally. Luckily, most ceremonies have a very small footprint to begin with. All you really need to ensure this aspect of the wedding a huge success is a celebrant who will pour their heart and soul into making it epic.
How do you see living purposefully?
I equate living purposefully to living intentionally. This means that there is a good reason behind everything that you do and many ‘ordinary’ daily activities become little rituals. It means weighing up options in every part of life to ensure your decisions match your ethics, your values and are heart-centred. It means that you are thoughtful in all you do and that you take the wider family, community and environment into account when making choices that impact anything external to yourself. I also see intentional or purposeful living as being true to yourself when it comes to a career path, who you surround yourself with and how you spend your time/energy. I’ve found that the more I personally live in alignment with my truest self, I find more peace, equanimity and joy in life. If I do this, I know I am following my bliss and that rubs off on everyone around me. It becomes a gift that I can offer and I don’t think there can be a greater purpose than being a source of inspiration and giving a sense of hope to others.
Image by Lovelenscapes