Ours was never going to be the easiest of weddings. For a start myself and my partner Jodes, were already married, and we did that in secret 10 years previously with just two people present. What's more we met in Sydney while I was travelling and the whole thing happened at lightening speed.
All these years on and with two daughters in tow, this was the ceremony we really wanted to be special. Step forward the quite amazing Zena Birch.
From the moment she walked through our doors at our house we knew she was the right person to tell our confusing story. It's something we've never been able to explain without feeling lost but Zena really took the time to reach inside our tale and took all the emotion that we had been hiding for so long to put together a romantic, moving, unique, funny and unforgettable ceremony tailored made around us.
It's Zena's little touches that make the difference, her warmth is infectious, her story telling lights up the room. When we walked down the aisles with our daughters beside us we were swept away by the beautiful atmosphere Zena was instrumental in creating. By the end of the day, every single person had approached us personally to comment positively on Zena, expressing how different and wonderful they found the humanist ceremony and why they finally understood our secret wedding and the romance behind it all.
Zena, who we now see as a friend, was simply perfect.
- Adrian and Jody (London, May 2012)
My brother had a church wedding but Zena performed the role of MC for the evening festivities at my parents' home. She was truly wonderful. She made everyone comfortable with warmth and lightness of touch and really went the extra mile for all of us. My parents were particularly grateful as they were able to relax and enjoy the evening knowing that everything would run smoothly in Zena's hands. I would recommend her without a moment's hesitation and have already booked her as a celebrant for my own wedding next year.
Couples take a lot of care when it comes to picking their venue, the flowers, the cake and so on, but they often don't get much of a choice when it comes to deciding who actually marries them. I am so thrilled to be able to choose Zena as our celebrant. She puts a lot of love into what she does – which is exactly what you want on your wedding day.
- Anna (Ed and Nicola, Surrey, September 2012)
Thank you SO much for the most AMAZING ceremony on Friday my lovely. It really was truly remarkable and made all the more personal (and memorable) because of the passion you clearly have for what you do. You nailed it. We will always be eternally grateful for giving us, what was simply, the best ceremony EVER!!!!! x you rock x much love from us, from Ibiza xxx
- Magz and Andrew (Ibiza, September 2012)
Just wanted to say a belated thank you: for conducting a beautiful ceremony for my sister and Tom last week, and for saving my life - and reading - with your wonderful forward planning! Your calm words were just what I needed at that moment. The whole thing went swimmingly thanks to you, and I was so happy (despite weeping copiously) for them both. I hope you had fun too.
- Rosalind (Anna and Tom, London, September 2012)
I think I said it to you on the day, I knew you'd do a great job but had no idea how incredible you would really make it. Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts, it was just perfect and both Matt and my favourite part of the whole day. I know everyone must say it after each wedding you do, but it was just so personal and thoughtful and that's what had everyone bowled over. Well, that and your amazing outfit! Thank you a million times over.
- Jess (Jess and Matt, Kent September 2012)
We have such special memories of our day and are so thankful we couldn't get a registrar otherwise we wouldn't have found you! I've lost count of the number of people who've said they've never been to such a personal emotional ceremony. And so many people admitted they cried all the way through! You got the balance of meaningful and heartfelt and lighthearted and funny absolutely spot on. It was perfect, Zena.
- Lyn and David (Warwickshire, August 2012)
The wedding day was everything we hoped it would be and so much more. Completely amazing. Thank you immensely for all you did and for the fantastic way you conducted our ceremony - it was perfect. People are still complimenting us on our choice of humanist celebrant, so we know that everyone else enjoyed the ceremony as well!
- Sam and Katie (London, August 2012)
Hello Zena. Thank you so much for emailing us and thank you for being part of our day. It was the most surreal, fantastic, wonderful and memorable day, one which we will remember forever. I have just read through the ceremony again and it made me cry it was so special and reading what others thought makes us realize how lucky we are to be so loved.
We couldn't have asked for a nicer person to do the ceremony so thank you once again for being part of the day and doing the reading so beautifully.
- Hayley and Peter* (Newquay Zoo, April 2012)
*Hayley and Peter appeared on CBBC's Marrying Mum and Dad. Because the whole ceremony was organised by the children, I was unable to talk with them when preparing the ceremony, so I composed a ceremony based on questions I was able to ask their two sons. It was a special and unique experience.
A small note to thank you for Saturday. The day was beyond perfect, and everyone said what a beautiful, personal ceremony it was. We both really loved working with you on it.
- Caroline and Jamie (Oxfordshire, August 2012)
I just wanted to drop you a quick email to say how much positive feedback I heard on the day of Jennifer and Rob's wedding and I know they were ecstatic! It was wonderful and definitely something I will be recommending to clients and I have sent your information round to the team. Hopefully see you at Cambridge Cottage soon!
- Sally Holland, Event Sales and Operations Co-Ordinator, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
I wanted to write something especially for you.
Both me and Dan cant thank you enough for making our day just PERFECT! You are a friend for life and we both feel like we have known you for years. In fact Ness said that she thought you were an old friend who agreed to do the blessing as a favor!!! She didn't realize that we had only been in contact for a year and that this was your job!
You are amazing at what you do, I don't know how you do it, but you got to know us based on the little info that I sent across (in the end!) and made the perfect ceremony for us. You truly have an amazing gift and we are both incredibly lucky to have found you.
Thank you once again and lets keep in touch for sure!!!
- Jane (Jane and Dan, Morocco, July 2012)
As our venue was not a 'typical' wedding venue, it was a holiday home, it wasn't licensed for weddings, so we decided to look into a Humanist ceremony and found the amazing Zena Birch who is a humanist celebrant. A humanist ceremony really appealed to us as we arent religious, so it gave us an alternative ceremony, without the religion and we were able to make it completely personal to us as well as get married outside in the grounds of the property.
Zena was incredible. She put both of us completely at ease and made our wedding all about us. We had met with her on a few occasions before the wedding to discuss ideas and the ceremony itself and she was perfect. I loved the ceremony and it was without a doubt my favourite part of the day. So many of our guests have also commented on how much they enjoyed it. Thankyou Zena!
- Alex and Andy (The Cotswolds, May 2012). Taken from this blog post.
We would like to say a massive thank you to Zena for our wonderful wedding ceremony. My Grandpa told me it was 'the most romantic wedding ever' another friend said 'we can safely say that was the best wedding we have attended'. It moved grown men to tears, made us laugh, included everyone and truly reflected us, both individuals and as a couple!
We wanted something different, something fun, colourful and personal but still wanted to have some traditional parts! Zena wrote a ceremony that was all this and more. Aside from her own wonderful writings, she read beautiful quotes that were not run-of-the-mill wedding ones but ones she had found because they fitted!
Zena is warm, happy, super fun and also very professional. Truly a delight to work with, if we get married again we'll definitely ask her again!
- Georgie and Dan
Finding Zena was one of the biggest successes of our wedding preparations. We knew we wanted a humanist ceremony, but weren't sure of much else! So to find someone who is not just full of ideas - but is also full of energy, passion and joy - was a huge help and a massive relief. From then on, Zena became an integral part of the lead up to our big day: working with us to create a personalised ceremony that perfectly reflected who we are as a couple. At the wedding itself, Zena was fantastic - well-rehearsed, charismatic and charming. We had so many people complimenting us on our choice of celebrant.
- Sam and Katie
We got married in October 2012, and we were overwhelmed by how many of our guests said it was the best wedding they had ever been to; we feel very keenly that Zena's involvement had a lot to do with this. Her orchestration of proceedings, the text she had written for the ceremony, and her delivery set the tone for a gorgeous day. Zena is a pleasure to work with, and has the real skill of being able to balance lightness and wit, with respect for the solemnity of the occasion.
Her approach was inclusive and warm, which was particularly important to us given the diversity of beliefs amongst our guests. Having Zena as your celebrant means a bit more homework in preparation than having a civil registrar, but it is completely worth it.
- Felicity and Robert
We just wanted to email and thank you for the truly wonderful ceremony you gave us for our wedding. You captured our personalities and things that are most important us perfectly and all our guests said it was a beautiful service and very 'us'. Thank you for helping organise the barn before the guests arrived and I know that Ben appreciated your calming influence before the ceremony... more for his brothers!!
Both sets of parents didn't know what to expect and were - thankfully - overwhelmed at how wonderful it was. We really couldn't have asked for a more perfect ceremony to start our perfect day, so thank you so much!
- Ben and Kathryn
I wanted to write you a thank you email, but I'm honestly lost for words to tell you how grateful we are for the amazing ceremony! I'm reading through our guest book and pretty much every entry mentions how moved people were by the ceremony, how personal it was and how heartfelt! My 83 year old grandfather apparently asked, as everyone was sitting down, "why aren't we in a church?" but by the end, he thought it was fabulous! Between you and the choir, I don't think there was a dry eye in the house!
Lots of people told me last night it was the best wedding ceremony they'd ever been to and they loved the fact that is was so personal to us. I don't think anyone had ever heard a wedding ceremony that encompassed both European football and cushion etiquette! I'm also really grateful that you took so much time to talk to us (both face to face and by email) before the ceremony. It made a real difference to me to have a friendly and familiar face taking us through the ceremony, rather than someone we'd only met half an hour earlier, it isn't easy organizing a whole wedding from the U.S. I also really appreciated you making the effort to have a rehearsal with the full wedding party and to coordinate the choir!
Writing the 'story of us' and filling out your questionnaire was actually a really good exercise for the two of us to do. Jonno definitely used that as inspiration for his speech - and even talked about the process (and how rubbish he was at doing it!) in the speech. Apparently at one point he wrote a 5 verse poem (which I'm still trying to convince him to show to me!).
If you ever need a reference, or have a couple who are unsure about using you or having the humanist ceremony - please feel free to pass on my email address.
- Niccie and Jonathan
Thank You so much for our wedding on Saturday, It was great, we had the most fantastic day and are still on a bit of a high despite the return to work and normality. Everyone we've spoken to have been so positive about the whole event especially about you and the ceremony.
- Patrick and Jackie
"I wanted to say how much I enjoyed meeting you on Saturday and to say how impressed I was with the entire ceremony. WELL DONE YOU! I have heard nothing but good feedback from all the other guests and Jackie and Patrick have told me that they are still 'riding on hapiness'
- Sue Childs
I would just like to say a huge thank you for giving such a wonderful service for Karen and Craig we thought it was beautiful. Everyone like us who had not been to a Humanist wedding before all said it was the best wedding they had ever been too. In some instances that included their own daughters. Once again a big thank you from her very proud Mum and Dad.
- Carole and Ken
Thank you for your wonderful ceremony on Ivan's and Natalie's wedding day. All three of you had so clearly put so much thought and warmth into it all (and as fond mother and mother-in-law, I was very touched by the fact that you were moved by it too). It was such an amazing day in every way - the two of them looking so lovely and so happy, your ceremony, the college, the weather - it really couldn't have been better. So, many heartfelt thanks.
- Steve and Sue Cox
Zena, we're so so glad you had a great time this Friday: you were simply amazing, and we had and are continuing to have so many comments about what a beautiful, personal, warm and meaningful service it was. We are so grateful to you for your wonderful manner in the service, as well as of course designing and writing it too. It was perfect for us. Thank you.
- Natalie Raybould and Ivan Cox
Zena was the celebrant for our wedding on Saturday 29 October 2011. We could not have asked for anything more - the ceremony was all that we hoped it would be. Zena made everything very personal to us, having taken the time to learn about us and our relationship prior to our wedding day. So many of our friends and family commented on what a lovely service it was. Thank you Zena for making our day so special.
- Laura D
We would like to thank you for Laura & Jozef's wonderful wedding ceremony. You had obviously got to know them very well and this was reflected in a ceremony that was very beautiful and moving, so personal to them, but also full of laughter - absolutely perfect. Thank you so much, Zena.
- Laura's mum and dad (Christine and John)
Planning a wedding can be a daunting affair, especially when it comes to writing vows and organising the service. However, Zena made everything really easy for us, and delivered a service that was personal, intimate, and fun, yet still managed to encompass the commitment and solemnity of the occasion.Zena really helped guide us through the process of designing the service so that it felt easy, taking things my wife and I had written about each other and combining them to make a beautiful service. Many of the guests had never been to a Humanist celebration before, yet everyone said how beautiful it was; moving and fun, but serious in the right places - in short, everything we had asked for.
Throughout the rest of the celebration, everyone commented on how much they loved the service and we couldn't have been happier with the result. We would both thoroughly recommend Zena to any couple who want a special, tailor-made service that encapsulates their relationship and is flexible to their requirements.
We cannot recommend Zena highly enough for all that she helped us with, making the planning of the service really easy, yet delivering a wonderful ceremony that moved us both greatly, just as it should.
- Dan Benedictus
On April 17th 2010, Zena Birch officiated our wedding ceremony. For months following, guests told me that it was the most moving wedding ceremony they had ever attended, and many asked me for a transcript of the ceremony. Zena managed to create an atmosphere in which everyone felt included; her words were eloquent, profound, at times fun - and yet always personal. She made our wedding everything I wanted it to be, and I will forever be grateful.
- Simon Wilcox
Zena Birch was the celebrant for our good friends' wedding. She made the ceremony so personal and so about them. It was, quite frankly, one of the most moving, fun, teary and romantic ceremonies I have ever been to. If you have the opportunity to have Zena perform your ceremony - grab the opportunity with both hands. Her beautiful nature and her perfect way with words mix to create a truly memorable experience.
- Ashlea Mackin
Zena Birch conducted the wedding of my niece Simon Wilcox to Vince Lynch on April 17, 2010 near Los Angeles. Since Simon is the centre of my universe, my expectations were very high, Zena met them and wildly exceeded them.
Zena had obviously gone to a great deal of trouble to learn about Simon and Vince as individuals, and about the history of their relationship. She used that information to personalize the service, ensuring that it reflected their uniqueness in ways that all the friends and family members could appreciate and enjoy.
But she also added many touches of her own, including having guests each write a good wish or good advice on one piece of a pennant, which was then assembled. After they'd said their vows, Simon and Vince had to run through the banner, adding one more unforgettable moment to a charming and moving ceremony.
I got the sense from my niece that Zena was very sensitive to the tone she and Vince wanted for their wedding, and would have done something quite different if they had wanted.
Zena's presence added immeasurably to the joy of my niece's wedding, and I would cheerfully attend any wedding at which she officiates.
- Victoria Wilcox