How I’m Committing To Being An Inclusive Celebrant

Inclusion and diversity are big buzz words these days. I’m not into buzzwords. I’m into taking action, and following through on what I say I’ll do. To use another naff corporate phrase, I’m into walking the walk. So, when I say I want to be an inclusive celebrant, I mean it. And I’m particularly committed to being inclusive of people with disabilities in my ceremonies.

As I’m visually impaired myself, I feel naturally drawn to couples and families who live with disability. Maybe one or both people in a couple has a disability, or one of the children in a family lives with one. I find myself rooting for them. I feel I understand where they’re coming from, and I want to go the extra mile to make sure they enjoy their ceremony as fully as anyone else.

Still, I’m aware that just because I don’t see very well myself, that doesn’t mean I know what other people with disabilities need. They may have very different disabilities to me, and even if they have a sight problem, their sight could be a lot worse than mine. So, I enlisted the help of inclusion coach Clare Kennelly of World Inclusion Training. Thanks so much to her for her input.

This picture shows a certificate framed in purple, which is the colour people wear on International Day of People with Disabilities. It says that Derbhile Graham has received certification in the Become Disability Confident Course. It also gives the date and the certificate number. There's a logo which says Inclusive World, with Inclusive in black and the World in purple. The V in inclusive takes the form of a tick.

Here’s the certificate I obtained when I completed Clare Kennelly’s Become Disability Confident training course. Nice little early Christmas present.

Based on the insights I gained from my coaching session with Clare, here are some ways I’m going to be a truly inclusive celebrant for people with disabilities.

Just Ask

The simplest way that I or any other celebrant can be inclusive is simply to ask them what they need. I’m not going to assume that I know just because I have a disability myself. When you ask the person what they need, you’re giving them the power to decide how their ceremony will be. You’re including them fully in the planning process. And you can then be sure that the ceremony you deliver for them will be fully accessible to them, as well as colourful, creative and full of meaning.

Make Ceremony Scripts Accessible

When I’m preparing a ceremony, I write a script containing all the words I’ll say in the ceremony. There are lots of ways to make these scripts accessible to people with various disabilities. For visually impaired people, it can often be as simple as writing the script in a clear, sans-serif font like Arial and enlarging the font.

It’s good to make ceremony scripts available in multiple formats. For example, I can record readings for visually impaired people that might be a good fit for their ceremony. Or I can create a visual running order for the ceremony. For example, if it’s a wedding, I could write Love Story and put a heart beside it, or unity candle ceremony with a candle glowing beside it. This can make it easier for people with dyslexia and autism to take in details about the ceremony.

Delivering an Inclusive Ceremony

On the day of the ceremony, there are a few simple things I can do to make it easier for people to take part. For example, if one of the people giving a reading uses crutches or a wheelchair, they can do the reading from where they are sitting. I actually saw a woman do this at a funeral I watched online recently, and her words still had the same impact.

But the biggest difference I can make on the day is for people with hearing loss. I can arrange for a sign-language interpreter to attend the ceremony, and they can allow Deaf people to experience the ceremony in the same way as hearing people. They will feel they are being spoken to, rather than just reading words on a page.

Championing Accessible Venues

To be approved as legal wedding venues, venues must be able to demonstrate that they are accessible to people with disabilities. They must have ramps for wheelchairs, and also enough space within rooms for electronic wheelchairs to be able to turn around. But the definitions of access can vary from venue to venue.

I’m going to make a commitment right now to only work with venues that incorporate accessibility into every aspect of their operations. There’s an app called Mobility Mojo that rates the accessibility of hotels. People can consult with the app to see if the hotel they want to stay in is fully accessible. As far as possible, I will work with hotels that are signed up to this app,

It’s really important to me that I get accessibility right. I’m not the crusading type, but I do think people with disabilities have the same right to ritual as anyone else. And by delivering ceremonies for people with disabilities, I’m showing that people with disabilities are just people. People who love, people who experience loss, and people who want to celebrate live.

If you’re a person with a disability who wants a ceremony for any reason at all, I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email on

How Independent Celebrants Make Your Wedding Ceremony Meaningful

Many marketing gurus tell us that we need to find our unique selling point if we’re to attract customers. In plain English, that’s the thing that helps you stand out. This can be a bit of a challenge when you’re an independent celebrant.

There are many types of celebrants, and we all promise a ceremony with a personal touch, a ceremony that’s outside of traditional religious norms. All celebrants also promise that you can have your ceremony anywhere, at any time.

My unique selling point is this. You can have prayers at your wedding ceremony if you want.

This might not seem like a big deal to you. But you may be surprised to discover that some celebrants or officiants don’t allow any mention of religion or spiritual belief in their ceremonies. And some celebrants follow certain belief systems that shape the wording and structure of the ceremony.

You might not share in these belief systems. Maybe you don’t go to church anymore, but that doesn’t mean you have no belief. You may have particular beliefs of your own. Or you may have relatives with strong traditional religious beliefs and you don’t want them to be alienated by a ceremony with no reference to spirituality whatsoever.

Independent Celebrants Support Your Beliefs

Independent celebrants put you at the centre of the ceremony, not a belief system. It’s your beliefs, your values and your personality that decide the shape of your ceremony. You can indeed make no mention of God if you want. You can have spoken word poetry performances, death metal music and vows in Klingon. You can mix it up, with a Bible reading and a Seamus Heaney poem. And of course, you can have a ceremony with prayers and hymns at the centre.

You can invite your religious relatives to say prayers or do a religious reading at the ceremony. This will help them feel included. Lots of independent celebrants say that people come up to them after their ceremony telling them that they hadn’t expected it to be so spiritual or moving, which is a great endorsement to get. If you go down this route, I’d encourage you to ask one of your guests to say the prayers, as I don’t want to take over the role of a person who has strong religious beliefs.

Time and Place of Ceremony

Then there’s the time and place of your wedding. Again, all celebrants give you freedom in this regard. Even the civil registrars will travel to your wedding venue if your wedding is on a weekday. And if you’re not doing the legals, i.e. signing the register, you can have your wedding anywhere, at any time.

But if you do want to sign the register, your wedding has to be in a venue approved by the registering body. Independent celebrants are the one group of celebrants who can guarantee that you can have your wedding in any place, at any time. If you want your wedding in a lighthouse at midnight, we’ll make it happen.

To get a flavour of the type of ceremony I can deliver for you as an independent celebrant, have a look at my Weddings page.

Independent Celebrants Are There For You

I’ve said that independent celebrants put you at the centre. That isn’t just on the day of your wedding; it’s at every stage of planning your wedding ceremony. We’ll listen to you and find out what you want, and we’ll go above and beyond to make sure you get it. Our goal is to make sure you don’t have a moment’s worry, in the run up or on the day itself.

This picture shows the kind of atmosphere an independent celebrant creates at a ceremony, full of colour and passion.

This is a picture of me at a wedding ceremony in my pink celebrant suit. I’m holding a microphone in one hand and a black folder with pages inside it. To my left, here’s a group of people in colourful clothes sitting on chairs, and there are trees behind me. Photo Credit: Lopez Photography

Then when we deliver our weddings, we commit 100% to the delivery. People who become independent celebrants tend to have big personalities and to be confident in front of a crowd. That helps us to deliver ceremonies full of colour, passion and character.

Two Separate Wedding Ceremonies

Independent celebrants can’t legalise your wedding ceremony. That means that you’ll need to make a separate appointment to sign the registry. This is how weddings are done in various parts of the world. I know Irish couples are used to doing both the legals and the ceremonials in one place, but it’s easier to organise than you think. I’ve put together this blog post showing you how the process works. If it means you get the ceremony you want, I reckon it’s worth it.

As an independent celebrant qualified with the IIOC, I’d be delighted to help you organise your wedding ceremony. Please give me a call on 087 6959799 if you’d like to find out more.


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