Welcome to Vendor Dispatch, where we chat with our vendor partners about their approach to working with couples, the ceremony from their point of view, and the magic that happens behind the scenes. Want to be featured? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who: Anne Widdop
Does: Founding Director of Fuze Ceremonies, which she launched in 2011 to provide top training for celebrants (the Scottish equivalent of officiants) who conduct unique and bespoke weddings, funerals, baby-naming ceremonies, and vow renewals
Daily routine: I work from home in the Scottish Highlands in a wee village called Arisaig overlooking the Isle of Skye. My routine includes exercising before work. I like to include some meditation before the full-on day starts. If possible, I like to get out for a brisk walk in the natural light, especially in the Scottish winters.
Describe your career path: Before starting Fuze, I was a global director for IBM. Not long before I decided to leave, my mother died suddenly of a brain tumor. Sadly, I have lost several of my close family in tragic circumstances. I never felt satisfied that their stories were told at their funerals. Heartbroken as I was, I decided—with the help and support of my remaining siblings—to write and deliver a tribute to my wonderful mum. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Before the funeral, which was in the church she attended, I sat alone with her coffin for an hour and said my own goodbyes. I wanted to do her proud and tell a little of her story. I had to summon all my strength to be able to read the tribute without breaking down. After conducting my mum’s funeral, people started asking me to help with ceremonies and I started conducting funerals. I was then asked by a close friend to conduct her wedding, so Fuze was officially born!
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned when starting Fuze Ceremonies? Starting a business is hard. You have to build a great team around you. You also have to protect yourself from people stealing your ideas and your intellectual property. It’s hard when people have abused the trust you put in them. So make sure you are covered legally, right from the get-go!
What advice do you have for those looking to make a jump into the wedding business? Invest time and effort in building a great online marketing strategy and put effort into directly marketing yourself locally. Get to know the other wedding suppliers in your area and work with them.
How has the business evolved from day one to today? It started with just me and now Fuze Ceremonies now has a head office with over 50 celebrants operating across the UK. We have an online booking and payment system, outstanding and internationally recognized Celebrant and Public Speaking Academy, and a first-class team.
What’s your favorite part about being a business owner? I love having a product that helps people at a difficult time (funerals) and also one that makes people so happy (weddings and baby-naming days)! I’m also proud that we support equality and diversity through our diverse team of celebrants and in turn to our couples and families as an LGBTQ+ aware wedding supplier.
What are the biggest challenges? Covid is the biggest challenge at the moment. It’s something that Fuze has to constantly consider and we are always looking for ways to innovate. For example, at the height of the pandemic we provided a live streaming service which allowed restricted guests the opportunity to attend their loved ones’ wedding ceremony, in the virtual world, at least. The challenge of rescheduling wedding dates for our couples, sometimes up to four occasions for some, was no mean feat but our team pulled together to accommodate over 1,000 requests.
How did the pandemic impact your business? It has been very difficult as weddings stopped completely for around five months before starting back up in a very limited number capacity, before building back up to something close to what we knew as normal, pre-pandemic. I’m incredibly proud of our HQ team who worked tirelessly to accommodate and rescheduled dates whilst maintaining the highest level of communication and customer service throughout. We have over 550 Trustpilot reviews with many couples commenting on our help, support, and evident humanist values shown through this period.
How do couples usually find Fuze? Google, Facebook, and Insta. We also exhibit at some of the biggest shows in the wedding industry, as well as more intimate venues. We have many partnerships and collaborations as a chosen recommended celebrant supplier.
What makes Fuze unique? Our team works together. Many officiants work on their own, which can cause many issues. We have focused on having a back-up process, so if something untoward happens on the day, we will provide an alternative celebrant. We also QA the officiants, to ensure the quality of the ceremonies. All of the team are highly trained, qualified, and we regularly run additional training with the team. Team Fuze (or “Fuzilleers,” as we call ourselves) are a loyal and dedicated team who always go the extra mile for our customers.
What’re the most common questions couples have when first reaching out? Couples want to understand the legalities, who can be witnesses, and where they are allowed to marry. For elopements, we provide specialist guidance on the legal process and visa requirements. We find that couples also trust the relationships we have with other wedding suppliers, and very often ask for recommendations of photographers, videographers, bands, and bagpipers, amongst many others.
What do you wish couples knew before they booked with Fuze (pandemic aside)? The legal side of getting married is always something that we would like our couples to know about. Of course that’s easy to say! We deal with that topic every day and our couples don’t. We always work to educate couples on the legalities, especially if eloping from overseas. We are happy to share many years of knowledge and signpost official website government links. It’s something we like to discuss early on, as after all, without the legal part of a wedding it’s just a big party, so to speak.
What’s the most far-flung place you’ve traveled for work? I’ve traveled the world in my role with IBM, but probably Bali and Malaysia were the most exotic!
Do you have a favorite venue or spot for ceremonies? Not a favorite venue but a favorite place—Castle Tioram, which is close to where I live in the Highlands. It’s an impossibly romantic ruined castle that overlooks the Atlantic and is a hidden gem not many people know about.
Favorite wedding traditions? I love including poetry and involving the family in the ceremony. Some particularly Scottish symbolic gestures that are popular include a Celtic Handfasting (where the phrase “tying the knot” comes from). Drinking from the Quaich is also a traditional Celtic marriage ritual where the couple share their first drink together following the legal paperwork being completed. The Quaich represents the cup of life, and sharing their first drink represents all that they will now share as a married couple from that day forth.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for couples making the switch from a big wedding to a micro wedding or elopement? I would say that couples should stop, go back to basics and think about why they’re getting married in the first place. This often stirs up many emotions they had forgotten about and places their love for each other at the front of their mind. Although important, it’s not about cars, bands, flowers, suits, and dresses—it’s really about two people and if that means they celebrate only with their closest of humans in the world standing next to them, then so be it.
What new trends have you noticed for this wedding season? One definite and current trend we have seen are grooms having two best men on their big day, a lovely way to recognize two best friends or siblings. Barn conversion weddings are also big just now as they allow for a blank canvas for the couple to dress and decorate as they wish. And metal neon light-up signs have taken off massively recently with most companies able to create bespoke messages to fit the couple.
What’s on the horizon for Fuze? A continued focus on supporting our rescheduled couples to ensure their ceremony is exactly what they hoped and dreamt of. Alongside this we will continue to grow our team and look to expand further into other areas of the UK. And the continued training and development of our existing celebrant team will be a consistent focus as we strive to achieve even higher levels of customer satisfaction and maintain our 5-star excellent review reputation on Trustpilot.
Can couples hire you for their wedding? I don’t conduct many ceremonies any more; I’m too busy running the business, but I have an awesome team who operates across the UK and are happy to travel abroad, too, and can bring you an authentic Scottish ceremony, wherever you are.
Thinking about eloping to Scotland? Get in touch with Anne and Fuze Ceremonies here.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.