Life. Death. Whatever at National Trust Sutton House

Life. Death. Whatever at National Trust Sutton House Hackney

Last night, I attended the official launch party of the Good Funeral Guild, in an evening gathering held amongst a month long exhibition titled Life. Death. Whatever. taking place at National Trust property Sutton House in Hackney throughout October.

Life. Death. Whatever. labels itself as a month long reflection on life, death and every thing inbetween, and plays host to a varying and insightful programme of informative talks and fun-filled workshops set inside an historic National Trust surrounding.

Life. Death. Whatever at National Trust Sutton House Hackney

The exhibition itself is not only worth visit for the sneak peek you have inside an incredible venue, Sutton House in London’s Hackney area, but visitors are also welcome to admire and study a selection of emotionally provocative, sometimes challenging, yet arguably beautiful artist installations which invite and inspire you to think about the stages of life we sometimes turn a blind eye to, whilst confronting these matters with the absolute respect that’s demanded from them too.

The exhibition is simply incredible. From the perspective of an art lover and an industry member, I thoroughly enjoyed embracing every emotion that was offered to me so openly on my walk around the house. These artists share an understanding of something we all often struggle to give name to, yet are able to feel and experience in our own personal way too.

Life. Death. Whatever at National Trust Sutton House Hackney

But what moves me most about this whole event is the concious effort which has been made to place the subject of death on the lips of the innocent passer-by. Death is a subject which needs to be discussed, and right now it too often isn’t. This needs to change, and events like these encourage that.

Death is as natural as life, and it is a life passage which we are all garanteed to encounter and experience. So, why wouldn’t we talk about it? Why wouldn’t we plan our own exit from the world with as much excitement and gusto as that of a milestone birthday party?

We can plan and plan and plan, but the truth is we might not ever hit 30, 40, 50, 60…..

…but we will all die in the end, right?

Life. Death. Whatever at National Trust Sutton House Hackney

Life. Death. Whatever. allows it’s visitors the opportunity to talk about the subjects that often instil fear and intrigue into our minds in equal measure; grief, death, birth, saying hello, saying goodbye.

For me, I found that last night’s launch was a pleasant opportunity to talk aloud with other people in the ‘#deathbiz’ who truly understand the importance of doing just that. Talking aloud. I’m really looking forward to attending some of the talks and workshops to follow in the next few weeks not just as a celebrant, but also as a human with an interest in inspiring people to speak up about the subject that sometimes scares us.

Life. Death. Whatever at National Trust Sutton House Hackney

Death is beautiful. Death is normal. Death is whatever you want it to be if you allow it, and Life. Death. Whatever in conjunction with the Good Funeral Guild reminds us that we all have the right to choose how we wish to go in the end. There are many examples around the exhibition of alternative and natural ways to leave this world – pink hearses, cardboard coffins, natural burials etc… these are options which are accesible to all of us in planning a funeral, but often we don’t know the options are there for us to choose. Well now we do.

And, if indeed it all gets a little bit too overwhelming – go grab yourself an absinthe-prosecco cocktail and chill out in the coffin ball-pool playroom. Just like I did….

Life. Death. Whatever at National Trust Sutton House Hackney

More details of all the events can be found at:
Images in this article are a few of my own personal photos taken from around the exhibition.

Samantha Kelsie celebrant for Baby Blessing or Baby Naming Ceremony

Ethan Michael’s Baby Blessing

What a joy it was to officiate Ethan Michael’s Baby Blessing and Naming Ceremony near Wycombe this weekend.

Ethan is such a happy bubbly little baby, although this photo of us taken after the ceremony tells another story! Throughout the service, however, he giggled and gargled away quite merrily – we even ended up blowing big raspberries at each other in the middle of his personal blessing!

Samantha Kelsie celebrant for Baby Blessing or Baby Naming Ceremony

Despite the rain, Laura and Paul (Ethan’s mum and dad!) did a great job of welcoming all their family to their home to celebrate together, with some guests even joining us on Skype to be part of the day.

All three of Ethan’s Godparent’s and his Great Grandad Mick entertained us with wonderful poems and readings thoughout, and his parents read their personal promises to look after and nurture this beautiful baby boy from here onwards.

Samantha Kelsie UK Celebrant Baby Naming Baby Blessing

I was honoured to be the first guest of the day asked to place my photo (with Ethan) inside his special keepsake photo album, along with a little message for him to look back on over the future years to come…

… congratulations Ethan, and lots of love to Laura and Paul too! xx

For more details about having Samantha Kelsie officiate your Baby Blessing or Baby Naming Ceremony – follow this link! 

How To Legally Register Your Marriage - Legal Marriage Registration

How to Legally Register Your Marriage

A celebrant ceremony is not a legally binding marriage ceremony, but it is the perfect option for a couple wishing to celebrate their union in a way which is completely personal and unique.

However, if you do wish to legalise your marriage, you will need to register your marriage at a time and place convenient to you.

Samantha’s guide ‘How to Legally Register Your Marriage’ will ensure that you do this correctly, with the lowest fuss, and at the lowest fee too.

How To Legally Register Your Marriage - Legal Marriage Registration

Giving Notice
Both parties will need to attend a register office within the district of their residence to give ‘Notice of Marriage.’

At this appointment, you will need to prove your identity and nationality, your freedom to marry and your residency.  Both parties must have resided at the address for 7 clear days or more.

Full details of this documentary evidence and residency qualifying period is available at

At this appointment you will need to state where you intend to carry out your civil marriage, as the notice is given for a specific venue and if that venue should change, you would need to give fresh notice (and pay again!).

Once you have attended this appointment, your details will be on public display in that registration district for 28 days. Providing there have been no formal objections, your marriage authorities will be issued. These authorities are valid for 12 months from date of issue.

Statutory Ceremony
For a minimum fee you can opt to legally marry in a ‘Statutory Ceremony’ to be held at any Register Office.

This is a low fuss / low fee ceremony where you can simply state the declaratory words and contractual vows legally required to marry in the UK, before signing the marriage register.

You will need to bring two guests as witnesses to this ceremony. However, you do not need to enter to music, say your personal vows, exchange your wedding bands, or wear a big white dress!

Note: Some registry offices only offer Statutory Ceremonies on certain days of the week. However, this ceremony does not necessarily need to take place in the district in which you live. Before giving your notice, check to find a Registry Office which offers a ceremony day to suit you.

Declaratory Words

“I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, AB, may not be joined in matrimony to CD.”


“I declare that I know of no legal reason why I, AB, may not be joined in marriage to CD.”


By replying “I am” to the question “Are you AB free lawfully to marry CD?”

Contractual Vows

“I call upon these persons here present to witness that I, AB, do take thee, CD, to be my lawful wedded wife (or husband).”


“I AB take you CD to be my wedded wife (or husband)”


“I AB take thee CD to be my wedded wife (or husband)”

Standard UK Fees

Notice of Marriage | £35 per person
Payable to the registration service in which both parties live.

Statutory Ceremony | £46 (+£4 for your marriage certificate)
This is the current fee set across England and Wales.

Total | £120 to legally register your marriage*

What to do next?

  1. Book your celebrant and wedding venue for the celebrant ceremony and marriage celebration – your wedding day!
  1. Book a Statutory Ceremony in any Register Office convenient to you – on any day before or after your wedding day!
  1. Make an appointment with your LOCAL registration service to give your notice of marriage – from 12 months to 28 days before your Statutory Ceremony.


*Information correct at time of publication September 2016. Costs are an indication based on the lowest legal requirment. Some local districts may differ.
Publication written by
Samantha Kelsie | UK Celebrant

Need more information? Download Samantha’s personally written PDF Guide: How To Legally Register Your Marriage

Samantha Kelsie UK Celebrant weddings marriage funeral family destination ceremony


Sian and Dean’s Alternative Ska Punk Festival Wedding

Samantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival weddingSamantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival wedding

Last weekend I had the pleasure of officiating a very alternative wedding indeed – a festival wedding with a Steampunk / Ska vibe in deepest Suffolk!

The wedding had been set up just like a festival, with music, portaloos, cans of cider and BBQ on to go… all carefully arranged around a large tent, which was packed with straw bales and gypsophila to add to the country vibe. The ceremony was decorated with voodoo folk touches in the form of mexican dancing skeletons and decorated masks, slotted in amongst the bunting.

Samantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival weddingSamantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival weddingSamantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival wedding

The bridesmaids carried boquets of baby’s breath which had been cleverly dyed to match the colours of their dresses (purple, green and black) whilst the bride herself coloured a rainbow spray of roses. Not one too wear white, the bride entered in a teal green dress and bustle ready to meet her tartan-clad punk rock husband. Their two daughters wore rainbow tutus  which were super cute! There whole room was filled with glorious colour.

Samantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival weddingSamantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival wedding

I couldn’t resist a quick selfie with the sound man – his DJ box was filled to the brim with old CDs and records ranging from ska to punk to reggae to blues – and all that fell inbetween. We listened to an 80s gothic sound track together whilst waiting for guests to arrive, and as I set up for the ceremony we had a little shanty singsong too. I may have bopped about a bit before the proceedings all kicked off… it was too hard to resist!

Samantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival weddingSamantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival weddingSamantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival weddingThe bride and her father entered to an original 1897 sound recording of ‘Daisy Daisy Give Me Your Answer Do’ and guests sang along to the chorus with little lyric cards that were waiting on their chairs following the instruction ‘To be opened on arrival of the bride!’

It could not have been more apt a song for this couple, and at the end of the ceremony they exited the tent on an actual bicycle made for two, riding to the beat of The Cure’s ‘Love Cats’ whilst everybody clapped and cheered at their wobbly ride out across the field!

Samantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival wedding

The ceremony was very emotional, and both the bride and the groom found themselves tearful as together we all celebrated the trials and tribulations that their love had endured. But they stood loud and proud and I couldn’t have loved them more for it. It was a very meaningful day to them both.

There was no exchanging of wedding bands – the couple had opted for tattoos instead – but we did cary out a hand fasting which incorporated not just their union as a couple, but the coming together of their family and two girls as well. Where love was concerned, my couple were traditional at heart and the ceremony was filled with honour and sentiment.

Samantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival wedding

What I loved about this wedding more than anything else, is that the whole day had been so perfectly planned to match my couple, their style and the lifestyle that they live. The day was about them, and they didn’t try to do anything that they didn’t feel was right or appropriate to their way of life. They proudly celebrated their union in a way which said – this is us!  And why not? That’s what love is all about in the end…. being yourself, and being accepted for being you too.

I had so much fun, and their guests did too. I didn’t want to leave! Everyone was either chilling out with drink or dancing around a strawbale by the end. There was love, laughter and happy tears in abundance. My couple made sure that everyone had a good time, and everyone really did – them more than anyone!

You beautiful pair – you were such a pleasure to get to know, and a joy to work with. I’m so honoured that I could help to give you a day which meant so much to you both… x

Samantha Kelsie alternative wedding celebrant steampunk festival wedding

Gemma and Tom’s Testimonial

What a lovely email to start the day with…. I’m so, so pleased my couple Gemma & Tom  love the first draft of their wedding ceremony script! 

Our meeting together on Sunday was so easy and comfortable, and getting to know them both was such a joy, that they inspired me to go away and immediately write something from the heart that I felt summed up their relationship completely… and it seems I got it just right! 

Now I can’t wait for the day to finally arrive when I get to say all these wonderful words at their wedding!

“Thank you so so much for spending time with us on Sunday, we were so relaxed with you and enjoyed the experience very much. We were both a little nervous before you came but we enjoyed ourselves.

We are over the moon with what you have written and have read it over and over, unfortunately not without crying yet, it’s so beautiful and everything we wanted from our blessing.”

If you’d like to know more about having Samantha as your wedding celebrant, follow the link to this page for more information… Or send an email to

Sara and Simon’s Wedding at Luton Hoo

Sara and Simon celebrated their blessing of marriage at Luton Hoo Walled Gardens on Saturday 16th July.Samantha Kelsie celebrant wedding ceremony luton hoo walled gardens

Sara and Simon’s wedding was a beautiful combination of three cultures. Simon’s family are from the Carribean, and Sara’s are from Pakistan, so in the morning they celebrated with a tradional Muslim Nikkah ceremony, before asking me to help them celebrate with a more traditional British ceremony in the afternoon.

Samantha Kelsie celebrant wedding ceremony luton hoo walled gardens

We made sure to include lots of personal references to their cultuire, families, and the coming together of all their traditions in their ceremony script. It was such an honour to help them do this – how lovely to have something so personal spoken about on your wedding day…

I helped Sara and Simon to write a very sweet set of wedding vows, which involved the groom reading the first half of each line, only to be finished off by the bride who completed each sentence.

It was truly moving, and almost brought everyone to tears! So gorgeous!

Samantha Kelsie celebrant wedding ceremony luton hoo walled gardensSamantha Kelsie celebrant wedding ceremony luton hoo walled gardens

The venue was just divine as well, and we were lucky enough to have the sun shining down on us as the flowers blossomed in the walled garden behind us. The ceremony structure was adorened with trailing hydrangeas (which matched the flowers on my dress – pure coincidence!) and we had a snazzy sparkly table set up behind us ready for the couple to sign their personal certificate of their wedding vows…. a cute little keepsake of the day.

Samantha Kelsie celebrant wedding ceremony luton hoo walled gardens

Sara looked truly stunning both in her traditional Muslim costume and later on in her pure white wedding dress. She’s a very lucky lady too, as Simon is quite possibly one of the most romantic gentlemen I have ever had the pleasure of meeting!

Samantha Kelsie celebrant wedding ceremony luton hoo walled gardens

It was a real honour to be a part of their day… wishing you both so much love and happiness x

Samantha Kelsie wedding celebrant UK Destination marriage family funeral

Chloe and David’s Farm Wedding in Winslow

Chloe and David celebrated their wedding ceremony on Saturday 2nd June, on Chloe’s family farm.

samantha kelsie wedding celebrant outdoor farm wedding uk

It was a spectacularly quirky event, with the bride, her father and her two little boys arriving on a tractor. Everyone watched them as they drove down towards the ceremony, which was held in a gorgeous spot on one of the furthest corners of the farm. There was huge round of applause once they arrived!

samantha kelsie wedding celebrant outdoor farm wedding uk

Overall, the day was bright and sunny, but there were a few cheeky black clouds circling around us threatening to keep us on our toes. Luckily, I had brought my two white bridal brollies with me (and my welly boots!) and the Best Man was on hand to whip out the umbrellas when we needed them – which we did, twice!

samantha kelsie wedding celebrant outdoor farm wedding uk

Chloe and David chose to hold their wedding on the farm due to the personal place it held in both of their hearts. But, in respect of their faith, they chose to repeat the traditional church vows we all know so well.

“Think what a better world it would be if we – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.  Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.  And it is still true, no matter how old you are – when you go out in to the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together”.
Reading by Robert Fulgham, read out by a friend.

After an exchange of wedding rings, and two poems read out by different friends, we ended the ceremony with a family handfasting. Chloe and David’s two little boys were involved in helping to bring forward the four ribbons which represented them each as members of the family, and were used to bind their parent’s hands together.  samantha kelsie wedding celebrant outdoor farm wedding uk

It was a gorgeous ceremony, and extremely personal to both the couple and the whole family. Lots of guests commented afterwards on how very unqiue it had been, and how priviledged they felt to be there to experience this moment with them.

We timed everything just perfectly, as the moment the ceremony ended and all the guests reached the reception marquee the heavens finally opened in full flow and I found myself caught in a torrential rain storm so heavy I had to wait in the car for a full 10 minutes before I could safely drive away from the farm!

Oh well, they do say it’s good luck if it rains on your wedding day… x

Thank you to Chloe and David for sending these photos, which were snapped by one of the guests during the wedding ceremony.

Baby Noah’s Naming Ceremony

It was such an honour this weekend to officiate Noah’s Naming Ceremony and family blessing at The Queen’s Temple in Stowe Gardens, part of the glorious Stowe House.

Queens Temple Stowe baby naming ceremony Samantha Kelsie Celebrant
Queens Temple Stowe baby naming ceremony Samantha Kelsie Celebrant Noah’s family and friends gathered for a gorgeous ceremony inside the temple, where not only did we formally introduce this little boy the the world and bless his name, we also celebated in the coming together of all 5 members of his family, including his mummy and daddy Sarah and Glyn, and two big brothers, Harry and Leo.

Noah’s parents and brothers all made personal promises towards their duty in bringing him up in a loving and nurturing home environment, and his chosen godparents (all 7 of them!) were appointed and asked to cement their vow to assist in his care and guidance when called upon as friends. Such a special moment for everyone!

certificate and jar of hearts for a baby naming ceremony Samantha Kelsie Celebrant
Everybody who came to celebrate was invited to write their own personal message of love or guidance on a little paper heart, all of which were gathered and sealed tight in a big ‘Jar of Hearts’ for Noah to keep and look back on with his family in the future. There was so much love in the room for this smiley little sweetheart!

It was a beautiful day, and made even better with sunshine, laughter, a BBQ and a heap of cupcakes to be enjoyed… delicious!

baby naming ceremony Samantha Kelsie UK Celebrant
cupcakes for a baby naming ceremony Samantha Kelsie UK Celebrant
I was so honoured to be presented with a beautiful bunch of lillys and roses in thanks for my help… so very treasurable indeed, thank you so much Sarah and Glyn! The family also left a lovely review for me on Facebook… thank you!

Samantha wrote such lovely words for our sons Naming Ceremony, so personal and perfectly capturing of our family. Absolute pleasure to meet you Samantha, so many of our guests commented on how beautiful the ceremony was… X

baby naming ceremony Samantha Kelsie UK Celebrant  testimonial and review
I’d like to wish Noah and all of his family a life full of health, wealth, smiles and happiness… with all my love x 

Andy and Nikki’s Garden Wedding at Home

Congratulations to beautiful couple Andy and Nikki who were married this weekend! We were lucky enough to keep the wet weather at bay on Saturday afternoon, long enough to enjoy a glorious outdoor wedding ceremony underneath a huge oak tree, stood out on the pretty corner patio of the garden, at the bride’s family home in Farnham Common.

samantha kelsie  out door wedding ceremony celebrant beaconsfieldThe wedding was a quaint affair, sweet and informal, with guests making themselves well and truly at home in Nikki’s father’s house, and friends chipping in and lending hands to the kitchen and cupcake stands, all contributing to a family-like vibe which resonated throughout the celebration.

A harpist played the bride in to the ceremony, and the rings were delivered with the help of Molly the Jack Russel, who behaved just beautifully on cue from the groom!

samantha kelsie  out door wedding ceremony celebrant beaconsfieldAndy and Nikki’s ceremony was an absolute joy to write , and a pleasure to perform. The script held a heavy responsibility not just in supporting the couple’s commitment to eachother, but to their earth-loving lifestyle, and dedication to the environment too. 

“Hiya Samantha, 

Just a quick email before I forget to say a huge thank you for Saturday- everyone commented how great you were 🙂 It all went perfectly and your confidence really helped me get through the ceremony and saying our vows!

Nikki xx” 

Spirituality was in abundance, with a quote by Ghandi, and a beautiful Ohso blessing delivered by a friend, and the vows were scripted with Buddhist teachings, and spoken in unison by the bride and groom.

What was even more unique, were the wedding rings Nikki and Andy had chosen to wear to symbolise their marriage. Not like traditional wedding rings, these rings were made of wood, sourced from an area of the world dear to their hearts, and a central band of crushed shells and sand which represent their personal values, and our human significance, within the greater story of our planet.

samantha kelsie  out door wedding ceremony celebrant beaconsfieldTheir ceremony was truly beautiful, and the bond between this couple, and their dedication to what they believe in is simply admirable. It was an honour to help them celebrate their day…


Best Man Boot Camp by Wedding Speech Guru

A nationwide survey* commissioned by Wedding Speech Guru, reveals that Britain could be heading towards a shortage of best men. Almost half of the UK male population – 43% – would consider turning down the opportunity to be best man because they are so nervous about the prospect of making a speech.

And their nerves would seem to be well-founded. Almost three quarters (74%) of the 2,000 people questioned said that speeches can make or break the wedding. And 79% say that they feel sorry for the best man because of the pressure the speech brings…
the wedding speech guru best man boot camp
Nearly six out of ten (56%) said that they have heard embarrassing and inappropriate wedding speeches, over a third (35%) have been to weddings ruined by drunken speeches and a third of 18-34 year olds are ashamed of their wedding speech.

With so many best men getting it wrong, Wedding Speech Guru is organising Best Men Boot Camp – a workshop to help men talk about a bridegroom with truth and humour, rather than embarrass him with cheap jokes.

“What many best men don’t realise is that rather than embarrassing the groom, the main purpose of their speech is to commend their friend to the guests,” said Robin Bayley, author and founder of Wedding Speech Guru. Once wedding guests see that a speech is coming from a place of love and respect, they are much more likely to respond with laughter.

At the boot camp, which is being held in central London on July 16th, the best men will learn how to gather their material, hone it into stories that illustrate the groom’s character, and practise delivery in front of the other best men.

But if best men aren’t willing to step up to the plate, it seems that women are. One in five – 20% – of UK weddings have best women rather than best men. Women are judged to make better, less cringe-worthy speeches, less likely to get drunk and also to steer clear of rude jokes about the bride.

62% of Londoners think that it should be normal for women to make wedding speeches, and 57% said that women are more natural because men try too hard to be funny. Nationally 53% of 24-34 year olds believe that women’s wedding speeches are better than men’s.

*Nationwide survey by Populus, March 2016. 2,000 respondents, aged 18+


Wedding Speech Guru was founded by author, life coach and serial best man, Robin Bayley.

Wedding Speech Guru’s mission is to ensure that speeches honour the bride and groom and come from a place of affection and emotional truth. Alongside group workshops, such as Best Man Boot Camp Wedding Speech Guru provides tailor made, one-to-one speech coaching for anyone making a wedding speech. Robin helped to set up Wedding TV in 2008 and is a registered minister, licensed to conduct weddings in California. He has just been asked to be best man for the sixth time.

For more information contact Robin
or visit

Post written by Robin Bayley and publised on