In the latest in our regular series profiling wedding businesses features One Life Ceremonies from Yorkshire, UK. As well as weddings Laurra & Maria also arrange funerals, naming ceremonies and vow renewals. Read how they came to start their business and how social media has been key to growing their business.
What does your business do?
One Life Ceremonies is run by myself and my mum, Maria. We specialise in writing and conducting personal wedding ceremonies which are written individually for each couple. We take the time to meet with them to find out more about them and what they would like their ceremony to include and because the wedding ceremony is written just for them it also means they can write their own vows or tell us what they’d like to say and we can write the vows for them..
We can also offer advice on how to make their day really personal and help them to choose poems and readings to complement their ceremony.
Every couple is different, some may prefer a very traditional but personal wedding, others something more unconventional like a handfasting, which is an old Scottish tradition where the hands are bound together (literally ‘tying the knot!’).
We make the wedding ceremony the focus of and most memorable part of the wedding day!
A One Life Wedding Ceremony can also be held absolutely anywhere, including venues which are not licensed for marriage, such as outdoors or in their home or garden.
Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from our own experiences of arranging weddings and funerals for family and friends, Maria had already performed a wedding for a close family friend who wanted to hold their ceremony outside (something a Registrar cannot do) and it was something she was interested in developing.
The push came following my Grandma’s funeral five years ago which was conducted by a Humanist celebrant, and whilst the ceremony was non-religious as she’d requested, it wasn’t exactly the goodbye we had wanted for her.
We had little say in what the ceremony would include and he wouldn’t allow anyone else to speak or choose the readings we wanted -we never even got to see the script before the day, and the ‘life tribute’ was little more than a chronological list of events and dates. We came away thinking, ‘that just wasn’t right’ and began to work on an idea for a business which offers people exactly the ceremony they want.
How did you get started?
We began by researching what was currently available, the result was- not much! We saw a gap in the market and decided to fill it! At the time we were both in full-time employment so setting up at the same time was quite a challenge but an enjoyable one nonetheless! We did some training and attended some Business Link events on how to start your own business which proved invaluable!
Why did you choose this particular business?
We chose it because it is something close to our hearts, we knew that if our experience was anything to go by there must be countless others in the same position. It’s a great business to be in and the wedding industry in particular is thriving at the moment, with more and more couples wanting to set their day apart and do something really different and personal to them. In a way it’s almost the perfect job for Maria and I, as we get to do the things we love every single day, like writing, meeting people and being creative.
What’s been your best moment so far?
We have lots of good moments, especially after a ceremony when a couple contact us to say thank you! Knowing that the ceremony we have written for them is exactly what they wanted and that we have been part of their special day is one of the most satisfying aspects of our work.
Another great moment was in June when we held a Commitment Ceremony for a couple, Bella and Lorna in the Rainbow Weddings Tent at Sheffield Pride. We wrote the ceremony for them after finding out more about them as couple, what ideas they had and what they wanted to say to one another. They also had their dresses provided on the day and had their hair and makeup done in the tent. The ceremony was great and there were over 150 ‘guests’, none of whom had ever met Bella and Lorna, there was a lot of cheering and even some tears- everyone loved it!
Anything you wish you had known when you started?
I wish we had used made use of social media sooner, we have only had our blog for around six months and our Twitter @onelifeceremony and Facebook for even less time than that but the contacts we have made through them have been invaluable! We’ve even made it to number 44 on the list of the Top 100 UK Wedding Tweeters!
What’s your biggest challenge going forward?
Because we offer a service that many people don’t know exists, it can be quite a challenge making people aware that they can have a personal wedding ceremony. The general belief is that a wedding can either be in a church or with a registrar and that there is not much opportunity to personalise it. I think this is probably why many couples focus more on the venue, dress, flowers etc because they don’t believe they have much control over the ceremony itself, which is such a shame because it’s the exact reason they are there in the first place!
Do you have a top tip for someone starting out in the wedding business?
Know your market and try to offer something a bit different- everyone has a niche, it’s just a matter of uncovering yours! Never be afraid to ask for help and use social media to your advantage- it is the best form of free advertising there is!
Photographs by In The Pink and Maryanne Madden
You can follow Laurra and Maria at http://twitter.com/onelifeceremony