Beach wedding, photo credit: Your Island Photographer
Lisa Sanders spent nearly 20 years living on Alderney. Having holidayed on the island during her childhood, she always felt a deep connection to the place. Alongside her husband, they decided to leave their businesses in the UK, seeking an escape from the rat race.

Sitting on Longis beach one September afternoon, they scribbled figures on a scrap piece of paper, realizing that they could make a living by running a Guest House. Six months later, they had relocated from a small village in North Essex to Alderney.

Today, Lisa operates a small luxury guest house, Villa Mondrian, with her husband. Additionally, she works as an Authorised Celebrant.

In our conversation, we delved into the process of becoming an Authorised Celebrant, discussed insights for couples seeking legal marriage by an AC, and explored the experiences of running a guest house in Alderney.

Can you please share a bit about your background as an Authorized Celebrant and what inspired you to pursue this role in Alderney?

In November 2020 I became a Jurat in the Court of Alderney and around that time the Bailiwick Marriage Law was about to change within the next few months. The law change would enable couples to get married pretty much anywhere in the Bailiwick (with landowners permission) by an authorised celebrant in a civil ceremony.

There was some publicity about the law change and adverts for anybody interested in becoming a celebrant could apply. Along with my duties as a Jurat and running our B & B with my husband, I felt that becoming a celebrant was an interesting and fulfilling role that I wanted to pursue.

We are curious to know how one becomes an Authorized Celebrant. What training or courses did you have to undergo?

The application process was very straightforward. The Greffe in Guernsey issued the criteria required for becoming a celebrant and I had to submit my “celebrant” CV outlining why I felt I met the criteria. I also had to have a basic Police check. Once I had been approved, training was given by the Registrar in Guernsey. This was to show us what as a celebrant you are required to do under the Marriage Law. I then did my own extensive research on the other aspects of being a celebrant to make the couples special day personal to them.

Can you please share with us the process of how you work with couples? What are the steps that need to be accomplished before they can ultimately say ‘yes’?

When a couple have contacted me I offer a no obligation meeting, either in person, video call or phone call and discuss their requirements with them. Once they have decided they would like me to be their celebrant, if needed I can guide them through the application process.

Usually, I would then have a face to face meeting or video call and discuss their requirements for the ceremony. Some couples I have worked with know exactly what they want and others are happy for me to make suggestions and guide them more.

I then work with the information I have gained from them and personalise a script for the ceremony. If needed I can also help with the logistics like suggesting a photographer, taxi companies or arranging chairs, flower arches or sound systems to play music. Usually we would have a rehearsal before the big day to make sure they are happy with the arrangements.

Beach wedding, photo credit: Eames Photography

Beach wedding, photo credit: Eames Photography

What are your favorite aspects of your job?

The emotional reward is priceless as I’m playing a significant role in one of the most important days of a couple’s life. Every couple are different and each wedding is different so I get to adapt styles and preferences, which makes each ceremony fresh and exciting.

Are your services exclusively available to couples from the Channel Islands? Can you please outline the additional steps in the process if a couple from Germany decided to have their wedding on the beach in Alderney?

My services aren’t limited to couples from the Channel Islands. If a couple from Germany would like to get married on the beach in Alderney, the only additional steps they would need to take would be to have their documents translated into English by a company approved by the Greffe in Guernsey. Other than that the same notice of application process would apply.

Apart from being an Authorized Celebrant, you also run a small luxury guest house with your husband. What vision or concept did you have in mind when you first started the guest house?

We have been running Villa Mondrian for 9 years, coming into our 10th season. But from 2005 to 2008, when we first moved to Alderney, we setup and ran another Guest House called Maison Bourgage. We ran Maison Bourgage, which was a 4 bedroomed Guest House with a more traditional setup.

We were really happy with our lives as they were but Alderney was experiencing a bit of a property boom and we decided to see if we could sell the house and maybe do something else. We were really fortunate and sold the house within a week with completion to be at the end of our season in October.

My husband has always wanted to build a house and with this in mind we found a location that we liked and bought what was a small cottage on quite a big plot. Trevor, my husband designed the house and although at that time we weren’t planning on running a Guest House, the design meant it would be adaptable in the future. After a few years of me working in an admin job, we decided the time was right to get back into the Guest House market.

What sets your luxury guest house apart from others in the area?

Our Guest House concept is like none of the other Guest Houses on Alderney. We had travelled a couple of times to Australia and New Zealand and stayed in places where simple breakfasts were taken in the room at a time to suit us. We liked the idea of not feeling under pressure to get up for breakfast, or of having a full English just because we’d paid for it.

Our rooms are spacious, have a table and chairs and also a mini-fridge so our guests are totally self contained. We are around if they need us but equally they don’t feel they have to interact with us or other guests if they don’t want to and can feel totally at ease.

All our rooms have an outside decking area which none of the other Guest Houses have. We realise this setup is not for everyone but we have developed a good business with enough repeat guests and recommendations.

Villa Mondrian, photo credit: Lisa Sanders

Villa Mondrian, photo credit: Lisa Sanders

We are curious to know what it is like running a guest house. What challenges do you face?

Trevor and I find running the Guest House a dream job. We get to meet lots of interesting people and enjoy making their stay with us as good as it possibly can be. We love it when we are complimented on our service and have some great reviews on Tripadvisor. We don’t have any real challenges, we’re both practical people and can usually fix things if they go wrong. We do most things ourselves from room changes, ironing to general maintenance.

What advice would you give to someone considering setting up a guest house?

If someone was looking at setting up a guest house, I’d say only go into the business if you are a people person. It’s so easy to put a smile on your face and have a chat to someone rather than being irritated that you’ve been asked a question. If that’s going to be difficult to do then don’t!

Can you please share with us what a typical working day looks like for you?

I don’t really have a typical working day as no day is the same. I could be in court in my capacity as a Jurat and then coming home and putting the marigolds on to clean a toilet. I think that’s what I love about my life is that it is so varied, but also that I’m in control and have lots of flexibility.

Living in Alderney, where do you go when you need to unwind?

Our garden is a real haven and in the summer it’s great to relax on the sun bed. I also play golf. Our course has stunning views and is never busy, I never fail to be amazed at the beauty of our tiny island.

What is your favorite spot in Alderney for Sunday brunch, lunch, or coffee?

It depends on the time of year. In the summer The Moorings is fantastic, in the winter The Georgian or Jack’s are great. We do have an amazing amount of fabulous places to eat and drink that are all good in their own way.

If you’re seeking a delightful place to stay in Alderney, be sure to explore the Villa Mondrian website, managed by Lisa and Trevor. For additional details about Lisa’s role as an Authorised Celebrant, visit her website Alderney Celebrant. 

Note: The featured image is credited to Your Island Photographer.