Sometimes lending a friend a helping hand can have unexpected consequences.

Claire Hyde knows. Today she runs Distinctive Ceremonies Mallorca with her husband Bernd Filsinger. 

 – It all started as a roller coaster ride when a friend was taken ill, and turned into a business that we love, says Claire, who has become a wedding celebrant herself.

When Claire Hyde came to Mallorca to live in 2015, she started working as a wedding planner at Magicmed Mallorcaweddingplanners, leaving a successful career as Head of Communications at large companies, such as the National Maritime Museum and Kew Gardens in the UK. 

 – One of our celebrant friends, Paul Betts, was suddenly taken ill in 2018. It was soon clear that his recovery was going to be slow and so suddenly, there were 44 weddings to arrange celebrants for – and just a couple of weeks to sort out the whole season. My husband Bernd Filsinger and I wanted to help, says Claire.

Luckily Paul had a booking system in place, but there were lots of gaps in the information we had available. We hired two wedding celebrants and trained two more. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride with weddings on remote cliff tops, for example, but we managed to juggle everything and loved the special bond we got with the couples and all in all it was a great adventure.

Paul Betts ended up returning to the UK, and Claire and her German husband Bernd, who had started a small events company earlier, decided to turn it into Distinctive Ceremonies Mallorca, a business offering great wedding celebrants to all the wonderful weddings here in Mallorca.

– With my background in communications, and my husband’s in payment technology, we certainly had varied enough backgrounds to support each other. We put together a team of three celebrants – British Paul Archer, German-Swedish Jonas Verner-Carlsson and Swedish Ulf Bernström, and very quickly we were up and running. One of our first bookings was an interesting Chinese wedding at Belmond La Residencia, where the guests didn’t speak any English… 

There was another great challenge at one of Mallorcaweddingplanners’ weddings where Jonas had to learn to speak some Russian and Chinese too, and did it extremely well. The guests were so pleased when he greeted them in their own language.

– Jonas is great at that sort of challenge with his theatre background, says Claire. 

 – They are all fabulous – Paul Archer in his very British way and Ulf with a little cheekiness. It’s interesting that they all very often end up being approached by guests who say ”I expect you must be an old friend of the family”. Of course that isn’t so, but it’s great that they feel the celebrant’s connection with the couple. People give us wonderful testimonials. It was easy to train our celebrants in public speaking and writing personalised scripts for our clients. They all had lots of relevant experience but it’s also something I used to do when media training colleagues as Head of Communications. I was a guest lecturer myself in communications for 10 years too.

 One pair of shoes at Distinctive Ceremonies Mallorca still needed to be filled, however. Until very recently there was no female celebrant to be found. 

 – Yes, I am delighted to be stepping into those shoes, says Claire, who will still be running Distinctive Ceremonies Mallorca with Bernd, and working as a wedding planner. 

 – All celebrants need to have gravitas. But where men have a more vicar-like function there is an added warmth that can be brought by a female celebrant. For us at Distinctive Ceremonies Mallorca it is great to have several celebrants too, as we often get asked to do several weddings on the same day.

Why do you think it’s a bad idea to have a friend of the family lead the ceremony? 

 – A friend will take it very seriously but often they will be starting from scratch with no ceremony backbone or structure, and without the words that create that special emotional feeling, says Claire.

 – The ceremony sometimes becomes very long, and seems more like an after dinner speech than a ceremony, which is a problem because it is so disorienting. Guests feel that they have somehow ended up at the end of the wedding, not the beginning. And often a friend is not well versed in what to do with ushers,  microphone technique, cueing the music, getting out of the photographs when this is customary, and so on, and that affects the flow of the ceremony.

What makes a ceremony ”good” ? 

– One of the most important things is that people need to feel completely comfortable. We want the couple to feel confident and supported throughout. The ceremony needs to be professional and free of anxiety, says Claire.

 – When someone takes charge and is able to guide everyone where to go, sit and what to do it calms people’s nerves. Liaising with the techies, caterers and so on is something we celebrants do as well, especially if there is no wedding planner. It is very important for the ceremony not to be too long. 

Has celebrating the love between two people become more personal? 

 – Yes, people used to think ceremonies were stuffy and impersonal, but no! More and more it’s the love that comes through, freed from tradition, says Claire. 

 – Apart from personalizing the ceremony with the touches we have arranged with the couple prior to the wedding, we also integrate ceremony enhancements, such as a sand ceremony where sand from their home is blended with sand from Mallorca, a beautiful wine box ceremony, handfasting with ribbons made of special material, libations and more.The couple chooses readings for their loved ones to cite, special music for the entrance, calm and ”breath catching” tones for the signing of the certificate, and lovely upbeat music for the finale. The way we run the ceremonies we want people to feel totally at ease and happy with all the elements they wish to bring into their love celebration.

Text: Charlotte von Proschwitz.
Photo: Thomas Engström.

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