Tara and Douglas are married by Heather.
Min and Raymond take their vows.
by Brenda Vowden
Heather Fletcher has her dream job, bringing couples together on one of the happiest days of their lives. I caught up with Heather to find out more about her business.
When did you begin Weddings by Heather?
I have been a celebrant in New Zealand for four years and before that I was a celebrant in Canada for 15 years.
What led you to start your business?
My husband and I were married by a celebrant and I thought what a dream job to be a celebrant. I applied and have been happily performing ceremonies ever since.
How would you describe your style as a celebrant?
I would have to say I lean towards a more romantic, modern ceremony. I believe that the couple and their guests should laugh and have a few happy tears shed. I am calm and relaxed which couples appreciate. I specialise in bespoke weddings from traditional to contemporary and simple to sophisticated. I create beautiful ceremonies that reflects a couple's love story.
How many couples have you married?
Just over 700 couples. I am a very busy celebrant and last year was recognised by Births Deaths and Marriages as one of the top celebrants in Hawke's Bay.
Did the civil union law change see more diverse couples coming to you?
Yes, and it was so wonderful to perform civil ceremonies for couples who had been together for years, decades and now could be legally married.
Have you had any unusual requests from bride and grooms?
Yes! I have been asked to come in costume for Halloween, as a cowboy, Art Deco and New Year's Eve themed weddings and an ice hockey themed ceremony in the middle of an ice rink. I did a wedding where all the guests brought their dogs — 50 dogs at the ceremony! I have hiked into the forest, stood in the ocean, performed ceremonies at sunrise and sunset, on an Art Deco bus and done several 'surprise' weddings and once a 'surprise to the groom'.
Tell me a bit about the variety of venues and how they may be changing?
I do a lot of winery weddings which are elegant and beautiful. Weddings performed by the ocean and at our beautiful parks, at couples' homes and gardens. And more weddings are being held at vacation rental homes.
How do you go about writing your ceremony?
I start by talking to my couples to find out what they are looking for in their ceremony and what they envisage their day to be. I have questions that I ask them to help me understand their vision. I listen and work with them to create and conduct a ceremony that reflects who they are and tell their love story. I present options to the couple that are different than most marriage ceremonies, I know of many ways to make a couple's day unique.
Do you get nervous at the wedding?
No, I am very relaxed when I perform a ceremony. My years of experience enables me to feel confident in my role. I am extremely prepared and organised, I never leave anything to chance.
Do you have any strategies for keeping those getting married calm?
My couples find it very comforting when I tell them when I perform their ceremony and they are standing in front of me, they do not even have to remember their own name. I also have couples face each other and hold hands which is very calming, then it is about each other and not the guests or anything else around them.
Why are you the perfect person to conduct a wedding ceremony?
I simply love being a celebrant and it shows in the superior quality of service I give to my clients. I have no other occupation — my focus is completely on my couples. I am well presented, professional and exceptionally well spoken, modern, unique, sincere and fun. I am highly experienced and trained. I listen and will collaborate with my couples to create and conduct a ceremony in a manner and style that reflects their love story.
I am always looking for interesting ways for couples to walk down the aisle and have had some spectacular entrances for the groom and the bride that have at times had the guests joyously standing and clapping before the ceremony has even begun.
I am always thinking about the photographer. I have tips for the couples to ensure their photographer gets the best pictures and photographers appreciate that.
What are some of the highlights of your weddings so far?
Oh my so many. I loved a wedding I did at the Mission Estate Winery, there were seven flower girls from 3 to 9 years old, with baskets of rose petals. They had not thrown very many so once they were in front of me, I told them to throw the petals into the air which they did all giggling and a shower of petals rained down on us, it was a very happy moment.
One of my all-time favourite weddings was in a park where the bridal party came from around a small hill to instrumental music, eight children all holding a white helium balloon came around ahead of the bride and her dad. It was a long descent, the guests started to clap and stand up as the bride walked towards us. The children released the balloons at the "Kiss the Bride" spectacular.
I did a wedding at a private estate with a long driveway. The bridal party drove up in four vintage Mustangs with the bride in the last car, a convertible, sitting up on the back of the rear seat with her dad driving. It was like a movie. I have had the groom come in on a horse and a bride in a rowboat rowed by her dad.
I have married many family members which is always wonderful and I was so happy to do the ceremony for my best friend, it just does not get better than that!
Have there been any surprises or disasters?
One I will never forget was at a luxury resort. The outdoor ceremony had a very long aisle to where the guests sat. The bride was half way down the aisle when a woman who was very late ran down the aisle, pushed by the bride and her dad, then ran all the way to her seat. Everyone including myself looked in horror! I thought to myself that bride is never talking to that woman again!
A couple decided to have doves released after I announced them husband and wife. The doves flew a few feet then turned around and flew back at us, people were ducking to get out of the doves' path!
Once the couple forgot the rings and they borrowed rings from their parents. Another was at an estate, with a grove of trees near the ceremony site, and a very tall tree started to crack loudly for a minute or so, then fell with a loud bang! I told the couple that a tree falling is a good sign for a happy marriage!
The hardest time I have had is during Covid when I had many brides crying, telling me that they had to cancel their wedding. That was heart-breaking. And it is so hard to tell a couple I am unavailable for their date when they really wanted me.
What do you love most about your job?
I never tire of watching a bride walk down the aisle towards her groom and see the happiness on their faces. I perform personalised ceremonies for weddings, elopements, anniversary/ vow renewal, commitment and child naming. I also offer the services of a Master of Ceremonies and am available on short notice. I can help with everything needed to pull off a last-minute ceremony. I am lucky enough to do something I love and I get to experience the happiest day of people's life.
■ Weddings by Heather, phone 02040941101, email email@example.com or visit heathermarriagecelebrant.weebly.com