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What it feels like to: marry hundreds of people

Marion McGunnigle, marriage celebrant.

As a celebrant I've conducted 48 weddings over the past two years. I consider it a privilege. It's an eye-opener too – you get to meet so many different people and see a snapshot of their lives.

Everyone always says they want the perfect wedding but, without sounding awful, that's simply not realistic. Not everything is going to go to plan and I see my role as smoothing over any bumps along the way. Even if all the technical stuff goes right, you can't predict people's emotions. I'm a perfectionist but even I recognise that. It's the unexpected stories and events that give a wedding character. Often the most memorable moments are when things go wrong.

One of the first weddings I did, the best man signalled to me, which I thought meant the bride had arrived. I said, "Could, everyone please stand to receive the bride," but she didn't appear. We had this eyebrow conversation back and forth, with him at one end of the room and me at the other.

Eventually I told everyone: "Hang on, I'll check what's happening -" So off I went, only to discover the bride had gone to the toilet. It was quite a relaxed crowd so I went back down the front with a deadpan face and said: "I'm really sorry everyone, but the wedding is off." There was a gasp, then everyone realised I was joking. It went down well – even with the groom.

Another time, the mother-of-the-bride fainted. As a direct result of that I've since trained as a first-aider. A couple of weekends ago I did a wedding where the couple turned up with their five dogs in matching diamante collars. I had mentioned the family pets in the ceremony, but I had no idea they were bringing them. The ushers were looking after them. It was quite surreal. There was a white carpet and they were jumping around with dirty paws but it all went fine. It is getting more popular for people to involve their pets. I know that the old saying is never work with children and animals, but generally I find they are usually the best behaved at a wedding.

There can be unusual requests. One of my colleagues did one where the ring-bearer was a favourite childhood cuddly toy. Some people might think that's strange, but it obviously meant something to the couple.

I'm licensed to conduct ceremonies anywhere, so in Scotland the world is your oyster. It's one of only six places around the globe that has this freedom for weddings. Here, you can effectively get married anywhere: from the top of a Munro to a beach. I've not done one on a mountain yet, but I'm definitely up for it. People getting married at home is getting more popular too, which I love as it feels so intimate.

Wacky themes and unusual locations are fine, but if people were in fits of giggles when taking their vows I don't think I could let them. It has to be a sincere commitment. Afterwards I have a quick word with the couple, perhaps chat to their parents, then I go. I'm always invited to stay but I politely decline. I head home and leave them to their knees-up.

I'm engaged and the plan was to have our wedding next year, but I've had to put it off again – I'm too busy doing ceremonies for other people. When I do get married I'll definitely go for something unusual.

foreverscottishweddings.co.uk

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