Should Celebrants Cry At Ceremonies?

When I was training as a funeral celebrant, we frequently talked about what we would do if we were overcome by emotion. At a funeral, you’re exposed to people when they’re in a raw state of grief, and you’re bound to feel that grief, and to remember griefs in your own life. So, we asked ourselves this question.

Is it okay for us celebrants to give in to their emotion and cry during a ceremony?

Many people in our group came to the conclusion that it was okay to shed tears, as long as you kept control of your delivery and carried on with the ceremony. Crying would allow you to show your human face, to show that you empathise with the people you’re delivering the ceremony to.

But I feel myself that I’d prefer not to cry, at funerals or at any other ceremony.

I have huge respect for my fellow funeral celebrants. They are full of compassion, and they’re comfortable showing that compassion through tears. I’m just concerned that if I cry, it’ll lessen the impact of the story I’m trying to tell. People will hear the tears, not the words.

All ceremonies are emotional, whether it’s a wedding, funeral or baby naming. But the emotion belongs to the people at the centre of the ceremony and their family and friends, not to me. It is their grief, their love, their joy. I’m there to be a channel for that emotion, to help them process it through the words I write and deliver.

If I’m doing a ceremony for you, I want that ceremony to be about you, not me. After the ceremony is over, I don’t want people to be talking about the poor celebrant who was in floods of tears and wondering if I’m all right. I want them to be talking about the moment the couple said I do, or about what a beautiful reading the family chose for their loved one’s funeral.

There are a few techniques I will use to channel my emotions and stop myself from becoming overwhelmed.

Breathe!

Seems obvious, but when you’re emotional, your breath is the first thing to go. Your chest gets tight and your breath becomes shallow. It becomes really hard to think straight. We were taught breathing techniques on our celebrant training course that help you control your voice and your stress.

When I see a bride walk up the aisle or a family filing in behind a coffin, I’ll breathe in for a count of and out for a count of eight. This brings welcome oxygen into my body and gives me something to concentrate on while I wait to deliver my ceremony.

Identify Flashpoints

When I’m preparing for a ceremony, I can spot which parts of the ceremony are likely to set off a wave of emotion in your ceremony guests – and in me. It could be the lighting of a memorial candle.


This shows me lighting a memorial candle at a ceremony. The candle is on a table in front of two pictures, and I’m crouched in front of it. I was concentrating so much on lighting the candle that I had no time for tears. (Photo Credit: Lopez Photography)

Or it could be words I say that will show you the true significance of this ceremony. You are welcoming a child into the world. You are committing to each other for life. When I come to these delicate parts of the ceremony, I can let the wave of emotion pass without letting it spill over.

Find A Spot On The Wall

At times of high emotion, distraction can be useful. It takes you away from that emotion for a moment and gives you something else to focus on. When I reach those heart moments, I’ll pick a spot in front of me to look at.

Since ceremony venues are often beautiful places, it’s easy to find something to direct my gaze at – flowers, trees, even a guest’s beautiful dress. I let my brain fill with that image and that gets me past the emotional danger zone.

Of course I know there are going to be times when emotion will get the better of me, when the circumstances surrounding a ceremony are particularly poignant.

Or sometimes I’ll just bond with a family and tap more easily into the emotion they’re feeling. If that happens, I will take a deep breath and carry on. And I’ll let my tears be absorbed into the emotion of the day.

What would you think of a celebrant that sheds tears during a ceremony? I’d love to hear your perspectives. You can email me on info@celebrantderv.ie.

What Is A Civil Funeral?

Many names are used for us celebrants and the ceremonies we give, and I get that it’s hard for you to distinguish between us all. I’ve described myself on my website as an independent celebrant, but I could also say that I’m a civil celebrant.

What does the term civil celebrant mean? And what does that mean when I’m delivering a civil funeral?

Officially, a civil funeral is a funeral that upholds the values of civil society and a person’s human rights, rather than religious or cultural belief. That’s what The Celebrants Network in Australia says anyway.

I’d put it more simply. A civil funeral respects who the person was. You are the person who decides what that ceremony will be. You may be arranging a funeral for a loved one or even planning it for yourself. Either way, if you’re planning a civil funeral, you’re in charge.

Here are the different parts of a ceremony that you can decide on.

The Eulogy

The eulogy is the centrepiece of a ceremony, where you tell the story of a person’s life. It’s what makes a funeral ceremony personal. You can share colourful stories about the mischief the person got up to and tell jokes to show what sort of person they were.

In your eulogy, you can paint an honest picture of the person, sharing challenges that they overcame and endearing quirks in their personality. Your eulogy will show the world who this person really was and what they meant to you.

The Right Words

There are lots of words in a funeral ceremony. You have the opening words, the readings, and the words that introduce each part of a ceremony. Then you have those all-important closing words. Each set of words gives you a chance to celebrate the uniqueness of your loved one.

This is a decorative picture, illustrating the values of a civil funeral.

This is a picture of a yellow rose growing against a wall, showing that a civil funeral can bring hope and comfort even at the darkest times.

You can open your ceremony with a quote that inspired your loved one, choose their favourite poems and readings and close with a piece of wisdom that they shared with you. And even though a civil funeral isn’t religious, you can include prayers or spiritual readings if they were important to the person. After all, the goal of a civil funeral is to reflect the person’s values.

Funeral Music

Like with words, you can choose whatever music you wish for a civil funeral ceremony. You can be guided by what music the person liked. You don’t have to worry about whether the music is too spiritual or not spiritual enough. As long as it fits with who the person was, that’s what matters. You can choose any type of music, played whatever way you wish.

Funeral Rituals

Civil funerals tend to centre more on music and words, but a funeral celebrant will be happy to make room for rituals if you wish. The most popular ones are lighting of candles and offering of gifts, which are familiar from traditional funerals.

Lighting candles can be a symbol of hope, while offering gifts is a touching way of showing people what was important to your loved one – a football jersey, a newspaper, a trophy. You don’t have to stick to those rituals either – within reason, anything goes.

A civil funeral gives you the chance to say goodbye to your loved one the way you want, and the way they would want. If the idea of a civil funeral appeals to you, contact me on info@celebrantderv.ie

Five Places to Host Your Memorial Ceremony

As we come out of COVID restrictions, funeral sizes are increasing and more venues are opening up. And people who were forced to say goodbye to their loved ones during the height of restrictions will begin to look at ways of remembering them the way they deserve to be remembered.

Memorial ceremonies will offer people the opportunity to say the goodbye they wish they could have said at the time of their loved one’s passing. If you’re looking to plan a memorial ceremony, you’ll be interested to know that you’re free to hold your memorial ceremony anywhere. All you need to do is check that it’s okay to bring your loved one’s ashes in an earn, if that’s something you want to do.

There are lots of beautiful places you can consider for your memorial ceremony, and I’m going to share a few ideas with you in this post.

Converted Church

As the church-going population declines, more and more churches are being turned over to the community, or to enterprising people who see their potential as a space to welcome people. If your loved one was a spiritual person, a converted church sill be an atmospheric choice of venue for a memorial celebration.

This photo gives an example of a venue that people can use for memorial ceremonies, in this case a converted church.
This is a picture of a grey and white building that looks like a church, with a blue sky above. The building is Copper Coast Geopark in Bonmahon, Co. Waterford, which you can use for all kinds of ceremonies. Photo Credit: Copper Coast Geopark

Clubhouse or Community Centre

Was your loved one a sports fanatic? Did they spend all their spare hours at the golf club? Did they coach teams at the GAA or soccer club? What a lovely idea it would be to pay tribute to them at the club where they devoted so much of their time and energy. It doesn’t have to be a sports club.

It could be a community centre or Scout hall, and the ceremony could celebrate the contribution that person made to their community. As an added touch, the club members could do a guard of honour for the person, which they mightn’t have had a chance to do at the time.

Arts Venue

Maybe your loved one was more of an arty type, a musician, an actor or an artist. If so, then you can organise a colourful celebration of life at their favourite arts venue. It could be a gallery, an arts centre, a theatre or concert venue, or even a pub!

You can celebrate the person’s life through their art, with their pictures on the walls or music playing. Better yet, you could have live performances of their music, poetry or plays. Including their art in the ceremony will show that their loved one lives on through their creativity and their stories.

Hotel/Restaurant Venue

If there was a favourite place your loved one liked to go to for a meal or for entertainment, you can pay tribute to them in a place that’s full of happy memories. Along the way, you can enjoy some delicious food and drink and raise a toast to your loved one.

If a hotel or a restaurant has a small room where you can gather, it’ll help you create an intimate ceremony for the ones who were closest to your loved one. You can share a meal together to give thanks for your loved one’s life.

Outdoor Venue

If you decide to hold your memorial service outside, it will give you great freedom. The whole of nature is available to you as a backdrop for your ceremony. If your loved one was a hiker, a biker or a walker, you can hold your ceremony in a place where they found peace and wellbeing.

The place you choose will create its own atmosphere, and you can breathe in fresh air and enjoy beautiful scenery, which will give you comfort at this difficult time.

Use of any venues is subject to permission from the venue owners, but I’m happy to do a ceremony in any venue you wish. You can give me a call on 087 6959799.

Why Small Weddings Are Mighty

It’s brilliant news for couples in Ireland this week as wedding ceremonies can go ahead again. But they’re going to be small, and that will be a challenge for some couples. Irish families tend to be big, so Irish weddings tend to be big. Cutting down the guest list could lead to you making deadly enemies.

But small weddings are mighty. I know this because my own wedding was small. I’m going to tell you what made my small wedding mighty, to encourage you to make the leap and plan a small, intimate wedding day.

You’re Surrounding Yourself With Those Closest To You

There were thirty people at my wedding, including our families – and us of course.  It was a real privilege to be able to share the day with the people who meant the most to us. We felt that by inviting them to our wedding, we could show our appreciation to them for the role they had played in our lives and for the support and love they had given to us.

I’m aware of what a privilege it was to have all the people we loved in the same room. And our guests were able to get to know each other, and the chat and laughter flowed all night.

You Can Talk To Everyone

Because the crowd on the day was small, we didn’t have to worry that we wouldn’t be able to get round to everyone. We were able to exchange more than just a passing hello with our guests – we were able to have full-length conversations with them, to chat, laugh and share memories.

If you have a small wedding, you won’t be left with the nagging fear that you didn’t get to talk to everyone. You’ll strengthen the connections with the ones who are most dear to you.

Find out more about my wedding ceremonies, big or small, on my Weddings page.

Flexibility In Your Choice of Venue

My wedding reception was in my family home. We were able to do that because we had a tidy crowd. Having a smaller guest list opens you up to a host of cosy, quirky small wedding venues you mightn’t otherwise have considered.

There are lots of converted churches, arts venues and restaurants opening themselves up for weddings. Why not avail of the opportunity to host your wedding in a venue with a difference. You’ll create a really intimate atmosphere for your guests that they’ll always remember.  

Your Guests Will Feel Involved

Because of the small crowd, lots of the guests played a central role in the wedding ceremony.  The ceremony was in a church, so some guests did readings and prayers of the faithful. I had my sisters as bridesmaids, my husband had a groomsman and my mother gave me away. That gave people a sense of involvement in the wedding.

There are lots of other ways to involve your guests in your small wedding. You can ask them to make cakes, help with decorations or style your hair. They’ll love feeling that they’ve helped to make your day special.

This photo is largely decorative and captures the atmosphere of my wedding day.

This is a picture of me in my red wedding dress with matching red fascinater. I’m in  surrounded by grass and flowers, and there are mountains behind me.

It’s A Less Costly Option

Let’s face it – cost is a factor in planning your wedding. If you are on a budget, a small wedding will be less of a headache for you. You’ll be able to enjoy your day without worrying about getting into debt. I felt I was able to give my guests a five-star wedding experience on a much smaller budget. I was also aware that weddings can be expensive for guests and it felt good to know that I wasn’t adding extra expense for my guests, like accommodation and drinks costs.

My small, intimate wedding gave me memories to last a lifetime, and I want to reassure you that yours will too.

I’m really looking forward to officiating small, mighty weddings in the future – in fact, I have one booked for next year. If you’d like to join my list of wedding bookings, drop me a WhatsApp on 087 6959799.

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