INTERVIEW WITH PADRE PETER
When planning your wedding a lot of thought and preparation goes into the visual pretty stuff – the dress, the flowers, the colour scheme. But, of course, the most important aspect of your day is the ceremony and the ‘getting married’ part itself. Many of our wedding couples need to be reminded that they have to choose a celebrant to conduct their ceremony (unless they choose to marry in a Church and they have already met the priest). After all, this is the person that will be announcing you Husband and Wife!
Marriage celebrants come in all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and beliefs, but none are as exuberant or fun as our Padre Peter. Here we talk to him about how he became one of the coast’s most recognisable celebrants and his top tips for the perfect service.
It’s wonderful to meet you Padre Peter. Explain to us please how you begun the unique job of being a marriage celebrant…
When I first arrived in Spain I contacted a number of Funeral Directors. However, we’re a long lived lot here on the Costa, and I still found myself with a considerable amount of spare time on my hands…there is a limit to the amount of brandy one can drink whilst sitting in the sun and watching the world go by. A small advertisement appeared in the local newspaper seeking somebody to conduct “humanist” wedding ceremonies. I responded, pointing out that not only could I conduct “humanist” ceremonies, but as a clergyman I could offer a religious option also. The point was taken, and I began operations.
With your goatee and ceremonial ruff and robe, you have a very distinct style. How did that come about?
I prefer to refer to my facial fungus as a “Van Dyke”. There is a subtle difference between that and a “Goatee”. The robe and ruff came about as I draw a careful distinction between a religious ceremony and a “secular” one (I use the word “secular” as opposed to “humanist”, as I do not wish to upset humanists, who take themselves very seriously and, like any decent pacifists, are quite prepared to become very hostile towards anybody who offends them). For religious ceremonies I wear religious vestments. For secular ones I wear clerical sub fuscwith a ruff, which harks back to the sixteenth century – shades of Cervantes – and accentuates my “Spanish” appearance. This appears greatly to appeal to the camera clicking brigade. I cannot imagine celebrating in a suit, or a shirt and waistcoat. No sense of style!
What is the most important aspect about choosing a wedding celebrant?
The most important aspect is that you get along with the celebrant. All weddings are different. It is the celebrant’s job to ensure that the happy couple are at their ease, relaxed, and enjoying themselves. I try to make sure that this comes across from the very first contact that I make.
Do you stick to a particular ceremonial script or do you write an individual one per couple?
I emphasise to each couple that it is THEIR day. I have a series of scripts, which they are free to kick about, alter, conflate, enlarge, or whatever they want to do. We can include things like “handfasting”, “sand ceremony”, smashing plates or glasses; whatever takes their fancy. Most couple are very happy with the scripts as they stand (“beautiful” is a word frequently used, says he, blushing modestly). They can also choose their own Prayer Book, and a number of people opt for a Mass. This is within my purview as a priest, and I feel that the Lord’s Table should be open to all. It is nice for the couple and their guests to communicate together in Holy Communion if they so desire.
What tips would you give bridal couples to feel more relaxed on their big day?
Have faith in your Wedding Organiser. S/he is a professional who is able to call upon the services of reliable suppliers such as caterers, photographers, florists, and the like. By and large, if the supplier is no good – and that includes the celebrant – they will not be employed again, and the happy couple will be spared a disappointment. It is thus up to everybody to give of their best.
Find out in Part 2 why our vivacious clergyman would have liked to have met Henry XIII, the funniest thing to have happened at a wedding at which he has presided, and what other talents he has up his sleeve!