WLE Meets: Officiants Philippe and Susie

Ever been to a wedding and wondered what it’d be like to be the one who marries the happy couple? WLE met up with Susie and Philippe to chat about becoming an officiant, getting married in France and their insider knowledge of the best wedding locations in Paris.

Bonjour Philippe and Susie! So what is an officiant? What do you do?

Philippe: An officiant is someone who organises the proceedings and coordinates all the different elements of a ceremony. I perform non-religious ceremonies but you could compare it to the role of a priest in a church wedding.

WLE Officiant and Celebrant: Philippe

Photography by Olivier Lalin of WeddingLight 

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Susie: I have done a few religious ceremonies but mostly I do non-religious, non-denominational weddings. I’ve done a couple of spiritual ceremonies, one of which incorporated some elements of native American spiritual rights.

WLE Officiant and Celebrant: Susie

Photography by Olivier Lalin of WeddingLight 

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Have you always wanted to be an officiant?

Philippe: No… In short, it happened by chance relatively recently. In 2006 I changed my career path and got into media, then I started taking photos, short films and things like that. Then in 2008 a wedding planner phoned me and asked if I could be the officiant at a ceremony and I said yes. I really liked it so I continued. It’s a fun job because I get to discover different places, meet different couples and learn their stories… it’s not repetitive at all, even if I go to the same places the ceremony is different every time.

Susie: I became a celebrant by accident… I was recommended by a friend. Someone was looking for a native English speaker who could produce a text that made sense, that had a good translation, and someone who had some performance skills. So I said I was available to help, because why not help a couple to fulfil their romantic dream of getting married in Paris? The first one went really well so I was asked to do it again, word of mouth spread and now I do it from time to time… it’s not my regular gig (I’m a screenwriter) but it’s a pleasant little diversion  during wedding season. It’s really nice to meet couples from all over the world and it’s really fun to help them celebrate their day and realise their dream.

Philippe with Jennifer and Jeff at their wedding in the French countryside

Photography by Olivier Lalin of WeddingLight 

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Do you use the same speeches for every ceremony or can the proceedings be personalised?

Philippe: For me there are two scenarios; firstly there is the ceremony for French couples, who I meet six months to a year in advance on several occasions in order to discuss what they want from their ceremony. We discuss their witnesses, choose the text and the music; I create an original, personalised ceremony for them. The second scenario is the ceremony for Anglophone couples getting married in France. Often they only stay for a few days, so I don’t have the opportunity to meet them in advance. Usually they arrive the day before the wedding and they have a lot of things to organise, so there just isn’t time. For this type of ceremony the text is written in advance. These couples don’t usually want a long or elaborate ceremony because it is only symbolic.

Susie: Generally I like to work with couples to create a text sur mesure for them but often there are last minute calls… people like to elope. For them I have a set text that I use and I try to gather as much information as I can before hand to tweak it so it’s personalised for them. When I can work with a couple to create something that’s just for them I do.

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In your opinion, is it difficult for a foreign couple to get married in France? Do you have any advice?

Philippe: It could be but there are plenty of wedding planners that specialise in helping foreign couples. They can arrange everything that might pose a problem for an Anglophone couple to organise, including the officiant! If you’re asking me whether it’s expensive, it depends on what the couple wants, on what kind of budget they have. They could have a simple wedding in a public garden and take the metro, which costs nothing except for the officiant, or they can get married on a boat on the Seine which costs more, or a Parisian monument. So in that sense, no I don’t think it’s difficult.

Susie: My advice is to arrange as much as possible in advance so that on the actual day of the wedding you can be in the moment; things in Paris do not work the same way as they do in North America. Things take a little bit longer, they’re a little bit slower… it’s part of the charm of Paris but if you’re feeling impatient or eager to get started it’s going to make your day less enjoyable. Paris is about taking your time, so do as much as you can in advance so that you have nothing more to think about than being carted around, married and enjoying yourself. That’s the best way to do it!

Our clients, Jennifer and James, who enjoyed a wedding in Marie-Antoinette’s gardens at Versailles.

Photography by Olivier Lalin of WeddingLight 

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Are the weddings emotional for you?

Susie: Usually with couples I’ve found that no matter how calm they start out, I have to remind them that it’s time for them to speak and say “I do”… it’s kind of cute. I’m always told there will be no tears, especially from the groom, and it’s usually the groom who winds up in tears at the end! I’ve actually had a couple who were so sweet they made me cry a little bit!

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What’s your favourite wedding location in Paris?

Philippe: I have really good memories of a lovely place called the Chapel Expiatoire in Paris. Although I’m a Parisian I had never been in there before and the first time that I found myself there I was really amazed by the place. For a French person it has historical significance so it was very interesting. I also have some really good memories of ceremonies on boats in Paris. I like them because the ceremony is also a cruise, which is great in the summer. It also gives me the time to get to know the couple a bit more and since I’m Parisian I can give them a little tourist commentary as we go along.

Susie: My favourite location is probably the Chapel Expiatoire – in warm weather! Not in the winter, it’s so cold! Because of the majesty of the cathedral itself, it helps to add to the inherent drama and meaningfulness of the day.  The acoustics are great and it’s wonderful to see the couple arrive from the park into the chapel itself… it’s stunning. Plus it’s really exclusive, it’s a place that most people never go.

Our clients, Sophie and Bert, entering the Chapelle Expiatoire

Photography by Olivier Lalin of WeddingLight 

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Do you prefer indoor or outdoor weddings?

Susie: Indoor weddings are nice because they’re uninterrupted but outdoor weddings are fantastic if you want to share your moment with an audience… Paris is the city of love so everyone is really enthusiastic. I did one ceremony where a group of school children happened to come by on a field trip and they all decided to make a circle around the couple. When the couple kissed and I pronounced them man and wife, not only did they applaud but they cheered and then broke out into a song! It was fabulous!

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Tell us about your favourite place in Paris.

Philippe: My quarter! I live next to Place de la Nation in the 20th arrondissement and I really love it. It’s near to the Bois de Vincennes which I love because there are trees and big avenues. If I don’t have a reason to travel around Paris I stay in my quarter because it has everything I need. So yes… my favourite quarter is my own!

Susie: Probably the Parc André Citroen in the 15th, not many people know it… that’s why it’s one of my favourite places! I really like Parc Monceau as well, it’s more of an English style park so it reminds me of Central Park a lot. I love all the parks!

Our clients, Todd and Michelle, who married in Parc Monceau

Photography by Olivier Lalin of WeddingLight 

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Thanks Susie and Philippe! To contact Susie and Philippe and book them through our agency , please send us an email at info@weddinglightevents.com

To see more of Olivier’s beautiful photography, head over to his blog.

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