After marrying around 4,000 people during his forty years as the registrar in Derry, Brian Barr was never going to take to the idea of retirement easily. It was then, the Derry (now Moville) man decided to follow his dreams and set up his own business creating the perfect ceremony. Once dubbed “Father Brian” by locals, Brian’s new venture, Irish Ceremonies, certainly breaks the mould.
What is Marriage? The bible describes marriage as being an institution of divine origin. Abraham Lincoln once likened marriage to “purgatory”, for many there is no definition for what a modern day marriage should be, or for what a ceremony should consist of.
But one retired registrar, with more than forty years experience believes he can offer something a little bit different to your bog standard Irish wedding.
Irish Ceremonies, a unique online business offers you the chance to create the perfect ceremony, whether it be a wedding, naming, funeral service or for the more romantic amongst us, a renewal of your wedding vows, was set up by one of Derry’s, and Moville’s, best known faces, Brian Barr.
“There is no such thing as a one size fits all for weddings and other ceremonies anymore. People want other options. From my time working in the Guildhall, I met thousands of people, each different and unique in their own way, so it was them who gave me the inspiration to set up Irish Ceremonies.
“Although I loved my time working in Derry, and I tried to make each ceremony I conducted different and special, I feel Irish Ceremonies really give me the opportunity to reach my goals and I hope people will continue to support me.”
Brian, who has been dubbed as “Father Brian”, has devoted his life to the people throughout the North West by taking them through the most definitive moments of their lives, whether it be registering their marriage, the birth of their child or even the death of a loved one. Since, he has become famous for his personal touch that he extended to everyone who darkened the door of the Guildhall looking for help guidance or even just advice.
“The job of a registrar is not simply to be responsible for the civil registration of births, deaths and marriages, but to be there to support the couple as they embark on a journey - whether the journey be their wedding day, when they are registering the birth of their new born baby or when they are registering the death of a loved one, a good registrar will see a couple through the trials and tribulations these momentous occasions bring.”
It is this distinctive gift that saw Brian, after retirement, being inundated with requests from people to be a part of their special days:
“I’ve always found it a real joy being part of what most couples consider to be the greatest day of their lives.
“The greatest day in any couple’s life is when each promises themselves to each other forever, and when people approached me to become involved in their wedding, even after I was retired, was a huge privilege,” says Brian.
The first couple that approached Brian was a young man from Derry, now living in Manchester. Conor Heaney came to Brian and asked him to perform the ceremony in Manchester.
“Brian gave us the perfect wedding service. He made it very personal and lots of our guests commented on how the service reflected myself and Catherine’s personalities. The touches of humour also lightened the mood and made everybody smile.
“I think it’s a common misconception that civil ceremonies can be a bit dull and impersonal - our ceremony was interesting, highly individual and thoroughly enjoyable!”
And so it was the success of his first ceremony out of his usual comfort zone that gave Brian the push he needed to set up Irish Ceremonies.
“Just now in Ireland, people need a recognised clergyperson or local registrar to conduct a wedding ceremony. These ceremonies are often very basic and may not reflect the couple’s own needs or beliefs.
“The ceremonies I offer can include the registrar who takes care of the legal end of things and I get on with creating the personal imaginative side of the ceremony.”
However, it is not just the traditional wedding ceremony that Brian and Irish Ceremonies offer. Naming ceremonies, civil partnerships, commitment ceremonies, renewal of marriage vows and even funeral ceremonies are amongst the services that are available to people.
“We want to offer everyone, despite their religious - or other - beliefs a chance to benefit from their own unique ceremony. Renewal of an already married couple wedding vows is a prime example of this.
“This type of ceremony is becoming more and more popular with couples who want to, for whatever reason, renew the vows they made to each other on their wedding day. They are a chance to celebrate with family and friends to say ‘thanks for the memories’ to each other.”
Having already married people in some strange locations through the past couple of years, he is excited by what each and every one brings.
“The most amazing location I’ve ever married someone is in an eighth century Celtic fort, Grianan of Aileach,. It was a brilliant day and the view from the top was absolutely amazing. But I recently conducted a wedding ceremony on the Lagg Beach in Malin, who knows, Banba’s Crown could be next... the sky’s the limit with my ceremonies!” Brian said.
Naming ceremonies are another service that are more frequently in demand these days. With fewer people than before leaving behind religious beliefs there is often no other option for parents to honour their children.
“Since my retirement, I have been approached to do quite a few naming ceremonies. Times have changed and we’re now living in an era where many people feel that a traditional christening in a church is not for them.
“Baby naming is a ceremony to honour the baby’s state of grace and beauty. It enables parents and all present at the ceremony to reflect on their responsibilities to the new-born child. A Naming Ceremony enables parents to think of their hopes and dreams for the child. It can include music and readings by friends and family and can include, if requested, religious and spiritual beliefs,” Brian explained.
As with as new ventures uncertain in these difficult economic climates, the future for Irish Ceremonies remains to be seen, however, Brian, believes he is more than equipped with necessary life and practical experience that he needs.
“I am married to my wife Carmel for almost 37 years and we have six grown-up children, and seven grandchildren, so life was always a celebration of something in our home.
“Lennon and McCartney once said ‘All you need is love….’ Well I don’t know how true that is, but it is certainly a good place to start, especially when it comes to my ceremonies!” he smiles.
For more information about Irish Ceremonies, see www.irishceremonies.com or by joining the group on Facebook.