Experiencing a hearing impaired wedding, one Celebrant was inspired to write this Real Ceremony experience as a help to others
I am always very excited when I received an enquiry by email for a Celebrant wedding. This one particularly interested me in that the bride, Emily, said they were looking for a Celebrant whom her partner, Dan, would be able to understand. Apparently the groom was partially deaf, he did wear hearing aids but did not want anyone doing sign language as he could read lips.
I kept asking myself, how difficult could this be? Was it just a matter of slowing down my speech or would that also be quite patronising? With little experience of working with the hearing impaired I was keen to discover what could I do to ensure that I would be understood.
So I reached out to my best friend Google and did some research.
Emily and Dan arrived and without even thinking I immediately asked where they would prefer me to sit so they could watch me as I spoke. Dan chose his spot and sat straight on facing me, but at a distance and not too close.
We went through the vision of their special day and I let them do most of the talking. Once they had shared all their ideas I summarised what I had learnt and what I had understood. I did not slow my speech down but I was aware that I was enunciating words more than usual.
Soon Dan’s hearing impairment ceased to matter, he was just The Groom.
I discovered how the couple both worked with the section of the Girl Guides for youngsters, known as the Brownies. They saw them as their second family and wanted to include them as much as possible in their ceremony. In fact, the Brownies had known about the proposal before the bride did! In addition, the ceremony venue was to be the lovely setting of the Hertfordshire Guide Center.
On the day of the ceremony, a friend of the family sang and played guitar as the bridegroom Dan, waited for his bride to arrive. The couple’s two little dogs waited patiently for the moment they would be called with the rings attached to their collars that were personally made by the couple themselves.
The Brownies walked down the aisle and went and sat on the logs around the bonfire area. Then the beautiful bride made her entrance looking absolutely stunning with a little secret to share.
Now you will recall that I mentioned that the bridegroom was partially deaf so I positioned myself in front of the arch and asked them both to stand at a reasonable distance away so that he could look at me and watch my lips. This meant that I could tell Dan if I needed him to do anything, before making any movements.
The Brownies sang at the beginning and the end of the ceremony and also participated with readings throughout. It was so lovely to see how much they loved this wonderful couple and just how much the couple loved them.
I mentioned a little secret and this was all revealed when I asked family and friends to commit to share their support for Dan and Emily including “baby-sitting skills” - the reveal to many that the couple were expecting which prompted lots of happy tears.
Quite simply, I learnt to ask questions of my partially deaf groom and make sure I understood what worked best for them as a couple. It could be the distance to be able to lip read or it could be to sit down when readings or songs are being sung. Whatever a couple’s special needs, it really is important to ask and understand what works for them.
For further reading about wedding ceremonies for the hard of hearing:
Photography by kind permission of James Howard
Sonal Dave is a Ceremonies Celebrant, Lady Toastmaster and Professional Public Speaking Coach. Speaking English, Gujarati and basic Hindi, Sonal's services include symbolic Asian rituals, the sand ceremony and many other symbolic Indian or Western elements.Read Sonal's profile here
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