The wonderful Martin Fox Roberts aka zany drag sensation Maria Hurtz has created a unique celebrant business that caters to all tastes. Jason Reid found out more…
Tell us about Proud Fox ceremonies. Why you started the business and how’s it going?
At the beginning of the pandemic and the first lockdown, I, like many others, was extremely anxious about my work, wondering how it was going to adapt to the new way of being. I’ve always believed in armouring myself with new skills to bring in an income. I work as a British Sign Language interpreter. I’ve trained as an ITEC3 holistic massage therapist, and also perform and host as a drag queen. But of course, all that work had to stop. Fortunately, my interpreting work continued, working remotely. However, I had no idea how sustainable that was. So I looked to what other skills I could acquire to make me feel secure in continuing to get an income.
So, I set to thinking about where the opportunities of making money are. Well, in life there are three things that happen: births, deaths and marriages. Now, no one is going to let me near a birth…. marriages…err, well, they weren’t happening, so I looked towards deaths. What could I do in connection to death? Needless to say that some inspiration had come from watching Phaedra Parks in Real Housewives of Atlanta.
I started my research — flicking through Google trying to get some ideas — and by the powers of the algorithms and Facebook, the work of celebrants flashed up on my screen. And I suddenly got excited, I could do this… it’s perfect… I’ll become a funeral celebrant. So, I continued with my research and I contacted a few training providers. Each one advised against training in funerals, and to consider weddings: it’s more positive, all that love etc, and you get to learn the structure and the business aspects. So I took a risk and took the plunge into wedding celebrance.
After my training was complete I immediately set up my independent celebrant business, Proud Fox Ceremonies.
It’s going really well and I’m loving meeting couples and making their dreams come true for their special day. I should explain that celebrants are different from registrars. Registrars do the legal paperwork for your marriage. It’s a 15 min appointment at the registry office, and they will offer you a ceremony too. However, these ceremonies are very restricted in what you can do, where you can have a ceremony, how many people you can have if it’s held within the council building — the registrar could be late coming from a previous appointment and then rushing off to the next couple’s appointment. You can end up feeling that you’re on a conveyor belt of weddings. This is where I step in! Go do the 15 mins legal part at the registry office and then let me craft the wedding ceremony you’ve always wanted; where you want it – we’re not restricted by having to be in a licensed venue. Think of it like this – you celebrate your birthday on the day of your birth, not the day your parents went to the registry office to register your birth. My couples have had their weddings in mansions, converted barns, by a lake, and in woodland settings. I’ve yet to do a beach wedding…. who’s first?
Ironically my first Celebrancy job was a funeral, which I will do more of, but weddings are amazing and working with different couples is really exciting. At the core of the ceremony is the couples ‘Love Story’. I work with the couple months before the big day, getting to know them and writing their ‘Love Story’, which is then presented to guests. I love it when family and friends when hearing the love story, learn something new about the couple. It can also create a great ice-breaker or talking point amongst other guests.
What sets Proud Fox apart from the rest?
For me, it’s all about giving couples a choice. We throw the rule book out the window and do whatever you want. The style of the wedding is completely down to you. We can still have the procession down the aisle, the vows, the exchange of rings, and the kiss, but they don’t have to follow any particular order. It’s great to get everyone involved and with my ceremonies, there are so many different ways we can do this.
I also offer additional aspects to the ceremony, known as Unity Rituals or Cultural Rituals – these range from Handfastings or Tying The Knot, Smashing the Glass, Gin/ Wine/Shot Ceremonies, the list goes on; but we can really make it special by creating our own!
When people attend a wedding they tend to want the ceremony to be over with, so they can get on to the party. With me, the party starts with the ceremony!
Now, there are so many celebrants out there – many who say they focus on LGBT+ ceremonies and call themselves allies, which is great, but I do wonder about their values and understanding of our community. Also, as a community, we have fought for the equal right to be able to have marriage and I want couples to feel safe and confident with the suppliers whom they deal with; who share the same values to create a wedding which really celebrates the couple’s marriage.
I’m from the community and for the community. I’m also different because I’ve combined all my other skills and put them into packages for couples to choose!
So you can simply have me as me #TheFoxyCelebrant — and as I’m a fully qualified and registered BSL Interpreter, I can officiate wedding ceremonies in British Sign Language, so deaf couples and BSL users can have their wedding in their first language, without having to rely on an interpreter — #BSLWedding. And as I’m a massage therapist, I offer a couples massage session for when those wedding plans start to feel stressful – Happy Beginnings to Happy Endings [laughs]. And finally, I can offer you a drag-style wedding with #DragYouUpTheAisle
Is #DragYouUpTheAisle where you’re alter-ego, Maria Hurtz, comes in, and what’s her involvement?
YES! Maria Hurtz has got in on the act. Again it’s all about giving couples a choice. You can choose to have a celebrant in a grey suit, reading from a grey file, producing a grey ceremony… or you can have the fabulous, colourful and utterly camp Maria Hurtz to deliver your ceremony. Although she is very careful not to steal the limelight away from the couple. Maria Hurtz is perfect for a drag-themed or cabaret-themed wedding — or if you just want to surprise your guests with something totally off the wall. She might also be available after the ceremony to entertain the guests with a set. I can’t say that I’m the first drag queen to deliver a wedding ceremony, but currently, I’m really proud to say that I’m the only certified drag queen celebrant in the UK.
Sum up the Proud Fox Ceremonies experience as a food.
It’s like walking into a restaurant where you can choose any food you want. No rules, you can have something spicy with a traditional dish, or something luxurious, or a bog standard street food dish — maybe a dish which you’ve never tried before and at the centre of your plate, a pleasant and humorous surprise. It would be a meal which is like a party on a plate. A meal which you will never forget and one which everyone talks about.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Please feel free to check out my website: https://www.proudfoxceremonies.com
And follow me on Instagram @ProudFox_Ceremonies.
A Foxy Celebrant for Foxy Couples!