Warm Wedding Glow at Warwick Weekend

December 11th, 2013

by Duncan Battman

Celebration was very much in the air at Annual Conference held this year, at the University of Warwick’s excellent Scarman Conference Centre. The successful progress of the BHA amendments to The Marriage Act 2013 book-ended the conference plenaries (if we are allowed to pluralise adjectives) wrapping the many wedding celebrants present in a warm, autumnal embrace of a campaign well handled.

The only caveat to the joy of the converted, gathered to applaud both our esteemed Chief Executive and his ally in Parliament, Julian Huppert MP, was the fear that we may not be prepared for the possible tsunami of future wedding ceremonies. It is a good problem to have.

Isabel Russo’s first year as Head of Ceremonies was a successful and smooth debut, even getting the show on the road herself with “As Others See Us …” the reliving of her interview for the post she now occupies so well. She and the evergreen (a reference purely to his Irishness and the age of his jokes) Noel Scott compered the many acts that were invited to entertain and inform us over the weekend.

Our second plenary was Roger McCarthy’s “Ceremonies Market-Research Report” with its figures, percentages, graphs, tables, maps, more tables and more graphs and lots and lots of numbers. It was terrifically researched and wonderfully compiled and appealed to the mathematician in me leaving me convinced that all problems can and should be solved by statistics. It also hinted at something already discussed … a need for more celebrants.

Plenary 3 entitled “Funerals: who needs ‘em? Meaning-making in an age of muddle-mindedness and death-blindness” and presented by Charles Cowling, author of “The Good Funeral Guide”, certainly hit the muddle-mindedness note. Starting with a warning that we wouldn’t like some of what he had to say, and wouldn’t agree with much of it, he lived up to his word (actually admitting, at one stage, to not agreeing with some of it himself!) and was entertaining, controversial and thought provoking in equal measures. It was a warning against complacency and sat well positioned, as it was, at the centre of our conference.

“The Chaos of Bereavement” delightfully presented by the author, Virginia Ironside, was the penultimate plenary and was a very personal take on dealing with loss and the dreadful clichés associated with it. Her book title “You’ll Get Over It” packs the ironic punch intended and the discussion that her presentation provoked reminded all of us, who deal with death on a daily basis, that there is no defined way to appease the grieving.

A wide range of topics were discussed, debated and dissected in the many workshops. These were prepared and presented by Poppy Mardall, Ros Curtis, Bill Stephenson, Carrie Thomas, Trevor Moore, Jim Trimmer, Elliot Russo, Noel Scott, Hannah Hart, Sylvie Summer and Barbara Chandler all bravely putting their heads above the parapet and allowing us to fire shots at them from all angles.

It is not all about work, though! The fabulous comedian Iszi Lawrence took the mic in every sense, following our evening meal on Saturday night, and broached subjects from village fêtes to Ann Summer’s pasta shapes. Describing herself as ‘nerdy, wordy and purdy’ she was the perfect choice for a room full of BHA celebrants. Well done to you who booked her!

Organised time aside, the joy most of us derive from this annual event is the seeing of old friends and the opportunity to make new ones. It is an event I look forward to every year and am surprised more of us don’t attend. We all work in a very solitary job and this chance to meet and greet our peers should not be missed. This year was no exception and the company and the craic (reference Noel) were excellent and, coupled with three excellent real ales on tap, led to another late night talking drivel in the bar with the usual suspects. (You know who you are!)

One last thing. We shared the conference hall with an under 16 international football tournament with teams from the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Liverpool and Chelsea. If the BHA had thought ahead we could have entered. I’ve still got my boots!