This is going to be a fun one to write up….
At one of the wedding showcases I performed at last year (for the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners), I met some lovely people who run a couple of amazing wedding related businesses (Postman’s Knock Stationery and The Jolly Good Photo company, since you ask!). A few months later, I get a phone call from them, saying that they’d like me to perform at their wedding, but not as a wedding magician performing during the photo period or after the meal. No, they wanted to know if I would conduct the ceremony!
Now, being a magician and a comedian, I’m used to being asked lots of unusual and silly questions; it’s part of my job (and I quite like it too!), but this was just a little TOO crazy…even for me!
It turns out that they were looking to get married secretly beforehand, then hold a “ceremony” for all their family and friends (without telling them about the whole “we-already-got-secretly-married” bit). They wanted the fake ceremony to be fun, interesting and unlike any other.
Having no experience of writing a wedding script, or any prior knowledge of being a vicar or registrar, I could tell it would be a bloody nightmare…
…so I agreed immediately.
I met with the bride and groom, for a typical registrar’s “pre wedding meeting”…in Sainsbury’s cafe and, over a Diet Coke, we hatched some ideas.
I was provided with a basic wedding script the bride had downloaded off the internet that I could use to hang my comedy stylings onto (I have no idea what that means; I’m 38), but I did have one concern: was there anyone that could get offended by me doing this? How would the guests feel about being duped, as it slowly dawns on them that all is not quite right?
They assured me that all their friends would take it in good spirits, though it may shock a few of the older relatives, but they were happy to go with it as this is what they wanted to do. I also consoled myself with the realisation that, like me, their families have probably come to expect certain “weird behaviour” as a matter of course.
We had a brainstorming session about various gags and ideas we could use and how they would like the congregation to realise the joke. We decided that it would be good to have a “slowburn” type of effect; where the audience gradually realises that all is not as it should be, rather than a more obvious presentation, which would be obvious straight from the get go.
As I’d just started performing stand up comedy, I was getting into the swing of rewriting and editing material on a constant basis so, using the basic wedding script, I scoured it, looking for comedic potential.
I can honestly say that this was the most fun I’d had in ages. Making something that, let’s be honest, as a guest, isn’t the most fun and riveting thing to watch in the world into something that IS fun and riveting to watch was great fun.
I didn’t want to reach for easy options, so no tourettes ridden vicar type characters for me. No real sight gags or magic tricks. Just little things: words, phrases and mispronunciations here and there.
I’ll be honest, I don’t have the best filter when it comes to what would be suitable/unsuitable comedy for a church, so I passed the script to a few people to help out with, just to check I was not going to cause major problems for the bride and groom. After all, this is the ceremony that the family and friends and going to remember. I can’t risk going too far.
Rather annoyingly, one of the best jokes didn’t come from me. Even more annoyingly, it came from my wife, who had a brilliant idea to do a fake reading for the congregation at the start of the ceremony. I would announce it to be a classic 19th Century poem symbolising love and marriage, when it was, in fact, the lyrics to “Call me maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson. This would be a great to way to really create the slowburn effect we are after, and I was really excited about doing it.
I kept working on the script and kept sending it out to the bride and groom for their approval. After all, if I’m going to die on my backside at a gig, it’s much better to do it with their approval (besides, if I get booed, I can point to them and say “they made me do it!”).
The good thing was that, unlike stand up comedy, I didn’t have to learn it verbatim – I could use a script. I just had to perform it more formally than I would a stand up routine, after all, I’m a registrar.
The formality of it was really hard to grasp, performance wise. I’ve spent ages trying to make my stand up comedy material sound fresh and improvised; it has to appear that you’re just chatting with the audience. Now, I have to totally forget that, so everything about my pace and timing had to change.
In short, I had to slow down, and I mean really….slow…..down.
A few run throughs and I was as ready as I would ever be, so we set off early the next day, so I could check out the venue and see if there were likely to be any sound/lighting issues.
Here’s me trying to look like a Registrar checking out a venue for sound/lighting issues:
One of the other things I hadn’t anticipated was the fact that I was going to have to lie to everybody I met that day prior to the wedding, which, when you arrive 90 minutes early, is a lot of people, from venue dressers to caterers and photographers. Each had their own job specific questions about how I was going to conduct the ceremony. The photographer wanted me to check where I was going to be during the “proclamation”, the florist asked me a technical question about where flowers should go during the service. The caterer asked me to stop stealing canapés.
They all had questions.
I was out of my depth, so I did what anyone else would do; I went back to my car.
My wife had come up for the journey with me. In fact, this would be the first of my “gigs” she would see. She was going to sit at the back, partly so guests didn’t wonder who the hell she was, but mostly as a cueing device (we had worked out a very complicated set of signals should I be talking too fast [patting her head], or not loud enough [scratching her nose] – it was real secret service stuff).
Then the room began to fill up…
When it came time for the wedding though, it all went really well. I didn’t get any hand signals from the wife and all the guests laughed in the right places (I would usually put my script here, but, you never know, someone may ask me to do it again and I don’t want anyone stealing my ideas!).
I even managed to take a selfie halfway through the ceremony!
Although I was nervous as hell coming up with the ideas for this script, I have to say that it was the most fun I’ve had in ages. The bride and groom were both really happy with how it went and I got some lovely words from the guests. It kind of makes me hope that there is a market for this kind of thing so that I can do it again.
Maybe I should go and see if I can get ordained so I can do the real thing…?
ADDENDUM: 17TH SEPTEMBER:
Just received this lovely email from the bride and groom:
“Thank you for being our amazing registrar!!! We really can’t say that enough – it was beyond awesome! In terms of feedback it’s wholly and utterly positive. It was exactly what we wanted – flippin’ funny but without making a mockery of marriage. The balance between the humour and romance was spot on; no-one was offended and everyone commented how good it was. …most comments being something along the lines of “best ceremony ever”‘.
If you’re looking for an unusual way to conduct a wedding ceremony (or even if you’re not and would just like some magic for your guests), why not give me a call on 07950 338093 or email me to chat about your special day?