Spotlight on Jane Blackman
In our latest wedding supplier spotlight, we’re putting wedding celebrant, Jane Blackman, firmly in the limelight.
We’re pleased to have worked with Jane Blackman many times on memorable wedding days throughout the South East – witnessing the relaxed, joyful and personal approach she brings to non-religious wedding ceremonies. So much so, that next year she’ll be hosting Brian and Helen’s vow renewal ceremony!
We had a chat to Jane to hear about becoming an award-winning celebrant, why she loves a love story and hear about her ‘weird’ celebrity crush…
Hi Jane, how did you get into weddings?
I got into celebrant work through Humanism. When I was a Primary School Teacher and Headteacher – having always taught in community schools where a broad and balanced religious education is provided – I got interested in the humanist approach to life.
Alongside teaching children about different faiths, religious views and traditions, I also always taught them about those who live a good, respectful, responsible life without religion – and that there is choice available to everyone.
So when I left headship, I trained with Humanists UK to lead funerals initially – never intending to become a full time celebrant (as I was still involved in education, working as a consultant) and not planning to do weddings or namings (because weekends were always so precious to me!).
But once I’d completed the funeral training and gained my accreditation I was so surprised by how many requests I had to take funerals. I started doing them and became really busy. I eventually had to make a choice and decided I would take the leap and cut down my education work. I was persuaded then to train to do weddings, vow renewals and baby namings.
Six years on, and I’m now a full-time celebrant (often working 7 days a week in peak wedding season!); lucky enough to have created and conducted hundreds of ceremonies for some incredible people, in all sorts of wonderful places.
That’s amazing! What had you done before?
Being a Teacher, Headteacher, and prior to teaching I worked for a few years in a bank, I’ve acquired a wealth of skills and experience that transfer really well into the role of celebrant – like: public speaking – feeling fine speaking to very large groups; writing (such a huge part of a celebrant’s job – you’ve got to LOVE writing, as it takes up the vast majority of time!); being super-organised and disciplined with deadlines; timetabling and scheduling; planning; dealing with extremely difficult personal circumstances (particularly with funeral work and bereavement); responding calmly to last minute changes; thinking on your feet; listening very carefully and relaying clearly but creatively what’s been spoken about; understanding the importance of confidentiality; showing genuine empathy; sensitivity . . . the list goes on!
How would you describe what you do?
With weddings, I’m all about making sure that the ceremony is at the very heart of a couple’s day and that it shouts from the roof-tops who they are as a pair. It should NEVER be the ‘boring bit’ or the ‘formality’ to get out of the way.
For far too long, ceremonies have been the dull, one-size-fits-all (when it very clearly doesn’t!) part, and the bit to get done and dusted before everyone can really let their hair down.
The ceremony should most definitely be the way in which the celebrations are started! It should totally be about getting the party going – bringing warmth, joy and celebration to the proceedings – in a way that engages and excites everyone in attendance.
I know I’m biased, but I feel so passionately that the ceremony should be very BEST bit of a couple’s big day.
Creating memorable, feel-good, uplifting and fun, but always personal, touching and meaningful ceremonies, is what I aim to do for every single couple with who I work.
What do you love most about what you do?
The wonderful people that come my way – the variety – the freedom to be creative and tailor-make an experience – the buzz and excitement of a long-anticipated, eagerly awaited wedding day. I’m a sucker for a love-story!
What’s been your highlight so far?
Being able to build my business, so that I am now able to work full time as a celebrant is something I never imagined I would achieve, as there is a great deal of competition in the celebrant world – a huge number of people are now doing the job – so that has been a brilliant and very pleasant surprise (and the result of a lot of hard work!).
But I think the overall highlight so far, has to be, winning the prestigious accolade of ‘Celebrant Of The Year 2020’ at the Wedding Industry Awards back in January.
Having won the regional award (for the South East of England) in 2019, as well as winning the same award this year as well – to go on to be the overall winner for England in the National Awards, was amazing!
It’s an extremely highly regarded award – the one that everyone in the world of weddings wants to win – because the voting is done by real wedding couples, making winning it an incredible achievement – knowing that those clients who I’ve provided ceremonies for have been sufficiently pleased and motivated to vote and give such positive feedback. And I’ve been up against some amazing celebrants who I regard so highly – the competition was fierce!
What would be your top tip for choosing a wedding celebrant?
Find a celebrant with experience – one who has plenty of bookings – and who clearly knows what they’re doing – so you feel in really safe hands. Most importantly it should be someone who feels a very ‘good fit’ for you as a couple.
Read their reviews – look at their photos (and videos if they have them on their website) – if they feel like your kind of person get in touch fast! Good celebrants get booked a long way in advance – don’t leave finding a celebrant to the last minute. You could end up disappointed. And don’t skimp – cheap celebrants are often cheap for a reason!
Five second questions
The song I love to dance to most is…
Goodness – there are SO many. Too hard to choose! I LOVE music. Music is a MUST for ceremonies. If pressed for something to dance to, it would have to be a track by Caro Emerald. I’m a big fan. Perhaps ‘That Man’ or ‘Back It Up’. I love 80s and reggae too.
What biscuits would you like to see most in the biscuit tin, and why?
Plain chocolate digestives every time – a lovely sweet hit – the perfect partner to a well-earned cuppa when I return home after a meeting or taking a ceremony.
What bit of advice would you give to your younger self?
Worry less. Live in the here and now. Be grateful for all the good things in life – celebrate even the smallest of wins.
Who is your secret celebrity crush?
Not much of a secret but I acknowledge it’s a weird crush . . . Alan Davies (AKA Jonathan Creek)
If you were to host the ultimate dinner party which four guests would you invite and why?
Alan Davies – for laughter
Greg James – for great music and chat (and a measured view of life)
Miranda – for even more hilarity
Barack Obama – for amazing stories . . . and kindness
Cats or dogs?
BOTH – I adore all animals – dogs are warmly welcome to any of my ceremonies. I have two naughty rescue cats who I love very much. I’ve had cats all my life and have promised myself I will also become a dog owner in retirement. In the meantime I am sponsoring a dog with Shoreham Dogs Trust.
Tea or coffee?
BOTH but it has to be breakfast tea, mid-morning coffee and then back to tea in the afternoon – and neither in the evening, else I can’t sleep (unless it’s decaf)!
Many thanks to the lovely Shelley Welti for the help in putting this feature together for me.