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  • Writer's picturelindakeys

Why it's easy (and essential) to use inclusive language as a Wedding Celebrant

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

Early on in my career as a celebrant, someone suggested to me that I should create two questionnaires to send out to people. One for straight couples, and one for LGBTQI+ couples. I was slightly aghast. As far as I could tell, this was well-intentioned; a wish not to clumsily make anyone feel excluded through heteronormative/ cis-biased language. But still. A separate form?

I have never needed a separate form. And it has not been remotely difficult to make one questionnaire work for all couples, all sexualities, all genders. Here is the start of my questionnaire for couples:

Partner 1 __________________________________

Bride/ Groom/ Other ________________

Known as _________________

Pronouns (he/ she/ they etc) _________________

Partner 2 __________________________________

Bride/ Groom/ Other ________________

Known as _________________

Pronouns (he/ she/ they etc) _________________

Are either of you changing your name?

What will you be called? ____________________

Are either of you being walked down the aisle? By whom (name and relationship to you)?


If any celebrants have been struggling with getting this right and this feels it 'ticks the right boxes', please feel free to copy and paste. Likewise, if anyone would prefer/ advise I slightly adapt my language here, I am always willingly learning and evolving!

A green post-it with "language matters' written on it
Image from Stella Hervey Birrell's #atinylife blog

The "pronouns" bit was the most recent addition. I am aware that even being asked this question will befuddle some couples or individuals who aren't yet familiar with the rights of non-binary or gender non-conforming people. At this opportunity to educate, I feel simultaneously delighted (what a pleasingly simple, sneaky wee lesson) and depressed (thinking of my fellow humans who aren't seen, never mind understood).

As for how to address people, my dear friend - the author Stella Hervey Birrell - has created a brief and very useful blog on some nice terms of address/ endearment. During ceremonies, I usually address guests as, "friends" (and nowadays never use, "ladies and gentlemen").

As celebrants, we inhabit a role in which we help to hold up people's relationships to be seen and celebrated within families and communities, and we contribute to the evolution of our culture by doing so. There are people in our society who are made to feel invisible (on a good day); wrong, unnatural or broken on a bad day. Human beings are being degraded, harmed, and not even believed about their own identity.

We have a vital opportunity to assure people that they are seen and celebrated. From the first questions we ask them, to the way we address them in person, to the way we talk to their family, friends and community during their ceremony. We MUST use language that recognises all human beings, in all their colourful, beautiful diversity.

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