Gwen Downs, Life-Cycle Celebrant & Officiant
Heartwarming Ceremonies

Handwritten ceremonies from the heart


What is a Celebrant?   

Celebrants are trained to officiate personalized ceremonies. If your ceremony is important to you, a Celebrant has the skill and takes the time to understand your beliefs and values and officiate the ceremony with clarity and meaning. A Celebrant also considers all the needs of the family and guests, and most of all, makes sure that your ceremony is a true reflection of who you are, and what it all means to you. I studied at the Celebrant USA Foundation - the international leader in this field. I am certified and an active member of the Foundation.

Is a wedding by a Celebrant legally recognized? 

All celebrants are individually responsible for acquiring what they would need and fulfilling their regions requirements to legally solemnize weddings in their state. I have met the requirements for North Carolina. I am an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church Ministries. I do not preach beliefs from any specific religion. I use my ministry as a vehicle to perform weddings. Most couples who come to me are best described as spiritual, not religious. If that applies to you, and you want a unique experience, a truly personal ceremony that celebrates your love and honors the commitment of marriage, without any religious affiliation, then I am your officiant. 

Can you perform same gender weddings?   

Yes! Love is love and it is my privilege to officiate your wedding regardless of who you love. The process is the same for all my weddings. I will work with you to be inclusive and welcoming to all your guests. I am particularly mindful of any areas that might be of a sensitive nature.  

How does the process work?   

After you meet with me for a no-obligation consultation, either in person or by phone, and you book me by signing a contract and sending me a 50% retainer fee, I will start the process of really getting to know you as a couple. I will learn what is important to you, how you met, and what you want your guests to walk away with after your ceremony. I do this by interviewing you in your conversations and with a well thought out questionnaire that you both complete as your assignment. I do my best to make the experience fun for you. Good communication is essential to the process and I pride myself in my openness and attentiveness to your contacts.     

From what I learn, I will create a first draft of your love story and the ritual elements you desire to be included in your ceremony. I have an arsenal of resources to suggest based on your cultural, spiritual, ethnic and life interests. I also spend time researching options for you to consider. The tone of the ceremony is reflected as well. 

Whether you are looking for a light, high-spirited, serious, or all-of-the-above feeling ceremony, you and your guests will be caught up in the mood you want to create. No two ceremonies are the same. Yours is yours alone. You then have full editorial rights. Sometimes I get it right the first time. Often, I will go back and forth with you until it feels right for your ceremony.     

I will coordinate with your other wedding vendors to help assure that your ceremony goes smoothly and that you enjoy your day. Throughout the process, you have unlimited access to me through emails and phone calls.  

Can we write our own vows?     

Absolutely! Your words from your heart are more than welcomed. If writing scares you and you are interested in trying, I am there to guide you. I have many resources to inspire you. If you don’t want to write your own, I will still create your own vows for just the two of you. 

How can we personalize our ceremony?

This is your ceremony and almost anything goes! You can choose your own readings, vows, rituals, music and wedding choreography. You can incorporate traditions and customs from your ethnic or religious heritages, as well borrow and re-invent traditions that you find meaningful. You can include your guests, your family and even your beloved pet if the venue allows.     

How long is the ceremony?     

A meaningful ceremony that you co-create with me can be as short as 10-15 minutes or as long as 20-25 minutes or even longer depending on the rituals and special elements included. Most venues allow for 30-minute ceremonies. It’s not about the length, it’s about the substance and thought that goes into the ceremony. 

How far in advance should we book you?     

It is best to book six months to a year in advance to assure that your date and time are available. If I have an opening, and there is some flexibility, weddings can be scheduled with short notice. Just ask, I will do my best to be available.   

Should we have a rehearsal prior to the day of the ceremony?     

This is totally optional. If there are multiple rituals, readings and participants involved, it is beneficial to do a walk through prior to the day of. If this is not practical or not needed, I can do an informal rehearsal with the bridal party, minus the bride, if you like, just prior to the guests arriving.    

How do we get our marriage license?   

Getting married in North Carolina is relatively simple. You can obtain a marriage license from the Register of Deeds office in any county. This license is good immediately upon issuance and can be used to get married in ANY county in North Carolina within 60 days. To obtain the license you must: complete the application, appear in person, provide proof of Social Security number and identity, pay the $60 fee in cash and meet the age requirements. Then all you must do is agree to marry each other in front of an ordained minister and two witnesses and have that minister pronounce you married. The beautiful thing about that simplicity is it opens up a lot of room for creativity in your ceremony! 

How far will you travel?     

I love to travel and I believe that all weddings are actually “destination weddings” since it is your destination for your wedding. There may be additional fees for travel beyond my home location. Generally, any location that is within a 50-mile commute is included in my fees.

Is there a contract that we must sign?

Yes. After you meet with me and you decide to book me for your wedding, I will have a simple contract that protects both you and me and spells out the agreement between us. When this is signed and a 50% retainer fee is received, your date is secured and your real planning officially begins.