When you think of a ceremony, you think baby naming, wedding, vow renewal. As an independent celebrant, I deliver all those ceremonies and I’m delighted to do so. But what if you don’t get married? What if you don’t have a child? Does that mean you don’t get to have a ceremony?
Yes, you can have a ceremony. Not only that, but you deserve to have a ceremony. You deserve to celebrate you. That’s why I’ve created Ceremonies For You – to help you celebrate who you are, what you’ve achieved and the positive choices you’ve made. You decide what life event you want to celebrate, and I’ll create a ceremony especially for you and the people who matter most to you.
Here are a few ideas for moments you might want to celebrate.
Have you beaten cancer? Did you finish a college degree later in life? Have you started the career of your dreams? You can celebrate these and loads of other great life events with a Milestone Ceremony. In this ceremony, you’ll have the chance to reflect on your achievements with your loved ones and look forward to a brighter future.
For many of us, our friends are as important as our family. If your friendship group is celebrating a special anniversary, say 20 years since you met at college, or just want an excuse for a party, you can have a ceremony to celebrate your friendship. You can share memories of fun times and celebrate the wonderful qualities that have held you together as a group.
If you’ve found someone that you know you can commit to for the rest of your life, that’s worth celebrating. You can have a commitment ceremony which allows you to come together in freedom and promise to commit to each other forever. In your commitment ceremony, you can do rituals that strengthen your bonds and celebrate the family unit you’ve created.
If you want a ceremony that’s outside the box, please get in touch on email@example.com or 087 6959799. This is a ceremony for you, so feel free to come to me with any ideas you may have. I’m looking forward to helping you create a ceremony that celebrates you.
Not many people can say they made new friends during lockdown. But I managed it, thanks to a tribe of lighthearted women. That’s what we call ourselves. The Lighthearted Women. We laugh. We share wisdom. And we keep each other’s spirits up. We also do business with each other.
Another great thing about The Lighthearted Women is that we’re all able to be honest with each other. That’s why I blurted out one day that I missed doing ceremonies. And they said, ‘Why don’t you do a life ceremony for us?’ You could practically see the lightbulb glowing above my head as I said, ‘Yes, I’ll do a Ceremony of Transformation.’
A lot of the women work in the fields of coaching, health and wellness. And all of us are big believers in growth, change and positivity. We’ve all risen to the challenge of lockdown and used it as an opportunity to transform ourselves. So, I knew a Ceremony of Transformation would resonate with them – and with me.
Gathering for the Ceremony
On a Saturday night in October, we escaped the horrors of Saturday night television and gathered on Zoom for our virtual Ceremony of Transformation. I sat before them in my celebrant-druid costume, with my pointy storytelling hat and my red cape, holding a purple quill in my hand. ‘Ladies, hats off, shoes off, bets off,’ I said, ‘It’s time for the Lighthearted Women’s Ceremony of Transformation.’
Well, I did tell you we were very honest with each other!
A Ceremony Quest
For this ceremony, we went on a quest. You know the way everyone’s on a journey these days? Well, I reckon what they’re really talking about is a quest. A quest can be a journey, but it’s no ordinary journey. It’s a journey with a goal in mind. In fairytales, the quest is for treasure, for gold or some other valuable goods. Our quest was to find the value in ourselves and in the world around us. A powerful metaphor that fit our group perfectly.
For my quest, I took them on a virtual trip to the Ardmore Cliffs on the coast of Waterford. By that, I mean, I stuck a photograph of the cliffs up on the screen and asked them to imagine they were there. The cliff walk is the start of a longer pilgrimage walk taken by St Declan in the fifth century CE. Since a pilgrimage is a type of quest, this felt like the right place to start.
I chose two readings which matched the quest theme. One was the utterly joyous poem by Dr Seuss, The Places You’ll Go. It’s easy to see why this is such a favourite in ceremonies. It shows that the whole world is open to you, if you have the right spirit of adventure. The second reading was more contemplative. Just Another Walk by Kathy Forsythe is a pem inspired by the teaching of the Buddha. It encourages you to pay ttention to the world around you, and to remember that while you walk, you are not alone.
The true joy of the ceremony came from the two rituals we did together. It didn’t matter that we weren’t in the same room – these rituals united us. First, we wrote wishes for ourselves on pieces of paper, then attached the paper to a piece of ribbon, and hung the ribbon for a place where we could always see our wish. On those grey, listless days, we can look at those wishes and remember why we’re doing what we do. And we can look to a brighter future.
Sand Ceremony Ritual
Our next ritual was a sand ceremony. We all held little pots of sand in our hands. On my signal, we all poured our sand into other decorative pots. All of us had started off with our own sand, but now our sand was all mixed together. You could no longer tell which sand was mine and which belonged to the other women. This mingling of sand showed that we were now one. Even virtually, we were all able to feel that sense of coming together, of lives that are now intertwined.
It sounds like there was a lot in this ceremony, but each part of it actually went really fast. This left room for another very important part of the ceremony – sharing the transformations we had made during these difficult pandemic months. Our transformations centred on confidence, abundance, and trust in our own abilities. This was a profound moment for us all. There was a sense of celebration, but also of awareness of the sacrifices we had made, and how we had dug deep to find our inner strength.
Finishing the Ceremony
I finished the ceremony with a short verse I had written myself called The Lighthearted Women’s Blessing. I’ll keep those words within our lovely group, but I’m hoping it ended the ceremony on a high note. Afterwards, there was a lot of banter, about graveyards and crooked pictured. We finished the night knowing that our bonds were stronger than steel.
This ceremony got me thinking. Usually celebrants deliver baby naming, wedding and vow renewal ceremonies, and these are all wonderful occasions? But why should people have to wait for those milestones? Why shouldn’t everyone have a ceremony of some kind?
There’s lots to celebrate about you, and that’s why I’m launching a service called Ceremonies For You. It’s for people who want a ceremony that’s different from the usual ones, a ceremony that celebrates the life choices they’ve made.
If you’d like to find out more about how I can create a ceremony that celebrates you and your friends or to mark milestones that are important for you, send me a mail on firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
Funeral celebrants are a strange breed. Most people, when they go on holidays, visit beaches, scenic areas, buildings of historic interest. On my staycation last week, I visited the Island Crematorium (link) in Cork, South-West Ireland. I tapped into the power of my network to arrange the visit, and the crematorium manager Brian Johnston said he’d show me around.
The Island Crematorium is located just outside Cork City, where the River Lee meets the sea. It’s in an area with a strong military tradition and the building itself used to be a gunpowder hold in the eighteenth century. This means its thick stone walls have really lasted the test of time – though 200 years of grime had to be scrubbed off the walls during the restoration process.
What’s The Crematorium Like?
Being a slightly warped funeral celebrant, I was fascinated to see the area where the cremations actually happen. But only authorised personnel are allowed in that area. Still, there was plenty to see in the public areas of the crematorium. The entrance alone is quite striking. It’s a long corridor that curves through the stone, with strip lighting on either side of the path.
You find yourself in a long room, softly lit with lamps. Chairs are spaced out across the floor, in line with COVID restrictions. There is a lectern to the side where the celebrant delivers the ceremony. And the coffin rests in a platform called a catafalque, cut into a wall. The platform is surrounded by blue gates, and when the time comes to say goodbye, the blue gates gently close.
Three Questions From A Funeral Celebrant
As a funeral celebrant, I had three questions in my mind. How long can a family spend in a crematorium? Who handles the music? And who presses the button at the end? I know that if you’re grieving, that last question isn’t something you want to think about it. And I don’t want to think about it either. I want to deliver a beautiful, dignified ceremony for you, and these questions are all critical in helping to deliver that.
First, ceremonies at Island Crematorium happen every hour, on the hour. This is different from other crematoriums where ceremonies happen every 20-30 minutes. I’ll still make sure to keep my ceremonies at 20-25 minutes. That gives you and your family time to settle in and then have a little chat afterwards, Plenty of time at either end for you to give each other comfort, and for me and the crematorium staff to comfort you.
You can find out more about the funeral services I deliver on my Funerals page.
The crematorium staff then handle the music. If I’m your funeral celebrant, I’ll have helped you choose some music: a favourite song your loved one listened to, or a song that you feel will fit the mood of your ceremony. I’ll then tell the crematorium staff what music you’ve chosen. They’ll load it up through the power of digital music. And then all they have to do is press a button at the right time to start the music.
And finally, there’s that incredibly poignant moment when you say goodbye to your loved one for the last time. This is why I’m so anxious about who presses that final button. I want you to be able to say goodbye with dignity. The crematorium staff make this very easy, for me and for you.
The Final Moments
As I say the final goodbye words, the blue gates on either side of the coffin begin to close. They close very slowly, while music plays. We know that this moment is going to be heartbreaking for you, and we’ll tell you that in advance, so you’ll be in some way prepares.
And then while that moment is happening, everything will be done to ease your pain as music as possible. All you’ll see is those blue gates, sending your loved ones onwards to their final journey.
If you’d like to find out more about the funeral services I deliver, in a crematorium or elsewhere, send me a message on email@example.com
In my blog posts, I tend to focus on what goes into a ceremony – for example last week, I spoke to you about the love story. But there’s another important aspect to a celebrant-led ceremony that’s also important and that you mightn’t have thought about – how long a ceremony is.
You may be delighted to know that a ceremony led by an independent celebrant is a lot shorter than a traditional ceremony. Because we’re not bound by any legal or religious obligations, there are fewer procedures for us to follow, so we can deliver your ceremony in as much or as little time as you want.
In a way, asking how long a ceremony is like asking how long is a piece of string. You’ll decide the length. Sometimes people do want a long ceremony with loads of rituals. Some people like it brief and to the point. There is no right or wrong way. There is just your way.
Still, there are average lengths of time that a ceremony can last for, so I’ll give you a run-through here.
First, the big one – weddings
Your average celebrant-led wedding will be around 30 minutes long. Within that, you’ll usually fit in two readings, three pieces of music, a love story, a ring and vow exchange and that all important pronouncement. You’ll be surprised how fast the time goes. I know I always am!
Then there are baby namings.
At baby namings, there are lots of little ones in the audience, so I’ll make it snappy. The first time I did a baby naming, it was 30 minutes long, but with the benefit of hindsight, I’d go for 15 minutes, 20 minutes tops. I’d concentrate on rituals, with a quick reading to break those up. In that time, depending on how many people are involved, we could get three rituals done.
Now for vow renewals
The length of a vow renewal will depend on the type of vow renewal cereninbt you’re going for. Some people want their vow renewal to be like a wedding. In that case, the vow renewal will take about 30 minutes. But some people prefer a no-frills vow renewal with an emphasis on family rituals. In that case, the ceremony can be completed in 15-20 minutes.
And finally, funerals
The length of a funeral will also depend on the type of funeral you’ve chosen. A ceremony in a crematorium will take 20 minutes because that’s the length of the slot you’re given, and there’ll be other cremations taking place after you. Or you may just want a brief graveside or scattering of ashes ceremony and those would take about 10-15 minutes. On the other end of the scale, you may be holding the funeral or memorial service in a funeral home, a public venue or in your own home. There’ll be no time limits, so you can go for a true celebration of life that can last for up to an hour.
Why A Short Ceremony
There are lots of reasons why a short ceremony is a good idea. One is attention span. Our heavy use of social media and smartphones has cut our attention span to the bone. So, if I keep it short and snappy. I’ll be sure to hold the attention of the crowd.
Also, the sooner I finish my ceremony, the sooner you can get on with celebrating your day, and there’s no way a celebrant like me would want to hijack that precious family time. After all, as celebrants we’re all about family.
Whether you want a brief but brilliant ceremony or a long and lavish celebration, I’ll be here for you. Give me a call on 087 6959799.
In my other life, I give creative writing classes. So, I’ve decided to bring my two worlds together by giving creative writing workshops to celebrants. These workshops will show celebrants how to create beautiful love stories for wedding ceremonies.
We celebrants create stories for all the ceremonies we do – eulogies for funeral and memorials, stories of renewed love for vow renewals and tales of great adventures to come for baby namings.
But in my celebrant creative writing workshops, I’ll be concentrating on the wedding love story for couples. The love story forms the centrepiece of the wedding ceremonies delivered by independent celebrants like me. It’s our gift to loving couples.
I create my love stories in partnership with the couple. This is the biggest story of their lives, so it’s hugely important that they’re happy with how I tell it. I want to make sure they feel it truly reflects who they are and what their relationship means to them. This is usually the happiest part of the wedding consultation. The couple go all misty-eyed and exchange private looks and lots of giggles, as happy memories flood into their minds.
Structure of Love Story
There’s a natural structure to the love story and I’ll be going through that structure in the workshop, which I hope will take some of the heavy lifting out of the story. And it’s also a heap of fun tonight. You get a chance to hear about the most thrilling and special moments of a couple’s relationship, starting with when they met.
When you discuss that with the couple, they’ll go all misty-eyed. The meeting is always memorable, even if it’s memorable for being ordinary. Sometimes it’s hate at first sight, sometimes it’s a slow burn, and sometimes the couple just know. When you describe the meeting, you set the scene for the story, and people will look forward to hearing how the story will unfold.
You then go on to describe how the couple’s relationship evolves: the first date, the first kiss, the first holiday. You’ll share the highs, the things that cemented their relationship. These could be huge life events like the birth of a child or buying a house. But you can also share those everyday delights of a relationship, like the cup of tea left by your bed every morning.
Challenge and Triumph
In every story, there’s always an element of challenge. On your wedding day, you don’t want to dwell on the things that went wrong, but challenges are part of every relationship too. It’s really up to the couple. Some couples will want to share their challenges – they may feel their challenges brought them closer together. Other couples prefer to keep it light. If that’s the case, you can focus on the will they/won’t they tension in the run-up to the proposal.
Ah yes, the proposal. This is where your story will end, and it’s usually another hugely memorable moment – for the things that go wrong as well as the things that go right. Even the most low-key proposal is filled with tenderness and romance. If you do it right, it’ll be the biggest aw moment in your story, especially if you let a dramatic pause fall before the person being proposed to says yes.
Want to find out more about the ways I can bring meaning to your story? Have a look at my Weddings page.
Celebrants are naturally good storytellers, but I hope this class will help them gather their thoughts and tell a story that hits the right note. Above all, I hope I can help them tell a story that will make their audience laugh and cry, and that everyone will be talking about long after the ceremony is over.
If you’d like me to create an aw moment in your ceremony with your very own beautifully crafted love story, give me a call on 0876959799.
As a funeral celebrant, I’m in the delicate position of meeting people when they’re in a time of deepest grief. Pre-COVID, I would have visited their houses, but now I’ll have the conversation to plan the funeral ceremony over Zoom or WhatsApp. And because of this delicate situation, I’ll use the most delicate words I can, so I won’t cause any more upset. That’s why I’ll say that the family’s loved one has passed away, not died.
‘Passed away’ has become a very popular way to say that someone has gone out of existence. Some people find it comforting, a phrase that softens the blow. Some people see it as a way of diluting the truth of the situation. Why not just say they died? That’s what happened. I’d be more in the second camp. But it doesn’t matter what I think. I’d there to give service and comfort to the families. So, I’ll use the words that soften the blow.
Besides, I’ve discovered that the phrase ‘passed away’ didn’t start off as a way of avoiding the truth. And it’s also not an American phrase as many people think. It’s a phrase that originates in 15th century England, and it meant that a person’s soul has passed over to the other side. I think that’s rather lovely, and gives the phrase more power than I knew it had.
Using the Family’s Language
In general, I let the family guide my choice of language. If the family want me to say their loved one died, I’ll say they died. I’ll listen to the words the family use to describe what happened to their loved one and I’ll use those words. This is particularly important when the death is traumatic, the result of a killing or a suicide. I could write a whole post on that alone.
At the other end of the scale, the person who has passed away may have been a real colourful character, someone who was a bit cheeky and naughty in their humour. In circumstances like that, it’s perfectly appropriate to use humorous language.
You can say, ‘he was a bit of a rogue,’ ‘she’d call a spade a shovel.’ You’re reflecting who the person was and it’ll give people at the funeral a laugh, and a chance to remember their loved one fondly.
Sometimes the family didn’t get on with their loved one who has passed away. That’s the reality. And sometimes the language they want to use can be pretty brutal. When that happens, it’s my job as a celebrant to encourage them to soften that language.
I’d remind them that there will be people there who did get on their loved one and who’ll be upset by language that’s too harsh. Saying, ‘He was not an easy man’ usually covers all bases. It’s honest, but it’s also kind.
Overall, that’s the balance I’m aiming to strike as a funeral celebrant when I’m choosing my words – honest but kind. I am to offer comfort, but I also aim to be authentic, to truly reflect who the person was. Ultimately, it’s the family who’ll dictate the choice of words. I have to take myself out of the picture. I will choose the words that give them solace, and if I achieve that, then I know my work is done.
Has your loved one passed away? Are you looking to find the right words to say your goodbyes? I’d be happy to help. Have a look at my funerals page to find out how my funeral ceremonies work.
When you pick a celebrant for a ceremony, you’re probably not thinking too much about what type of celebrant they are. For most people, a celebrant is a celebrant. And generally, all celebrants have the same aim – to deliver a ceremony that’s personal and that shows respect for your beliefs and life choices.
But there are subtle differences between the types of celebrants that offer their services to couples and families. You might want to bear these in mind when you’re choosing a celebrant for your ceremony. I’m going to lay out the different types of celebrants you can choose from, so you can make an informed choice about who you want for your ceremony.
Humanist Celebrants are people who have been members of the Humanist Association of Ireland for more than two years. Humanists believe in being ‘good without God,’ the idea that you can live a moral and ethical life without the influence of a supernatural power. Humanist celebrants offer ceremonies that are completely secular – there are no hymns, payers or spiritual readings. So, they’re a good fit for people who have no religious or spiritual beliefs.
Spiritualist Celebrants are at the opposite end of the spectrum – they’re all about the spirit. Spiritualist celebrants perform ceremonies according to the rites of the Spiritualist Union of Ireland. Spiritualism is a recognised religion that is centred on the belief that it is possible to communicate with the spirit of a person once they have passed away.
That doesn’t mean this will happen at a spiritualist ceremony, but space can be created in a ceremony for the spirits of loved one who have passed away. A spiritualist celebrant is a good option if you are not religious, but have strong spiritual belief.
Interfaith Celebrants: Interfaith celebrants or ministers are trained and ordained by the One Spirit Interfaith Foundation and they take a blended approach to ceremonies. They receive training in a variety of faith systems so they can deliver ceremonies that incorporate lots of faith traditions. Interfaith celebrants are a good option if there are two or more faith backgrounds in your family. Their ceremonies allow everyone’s faith to be represented.
I’m not any of these types of celebrants. So, what type of celebrant am I?
Well, I’ve said on my About Us page that I’m a creative celebrant, an authentic celebrant, a celebrant full of passion. But officially, I’m an independent celebrant. That means I’m not associated with any organisation, religious, legal, spiritual or civil.
The thing that distinguishes an independent celebrant like me from any other type of celebrant is you.
The ceremonies I create put you at the centre, not a belief system or a set of laws. It’ll have your personality stamped all over it.
I am completely free to design the ceremony that you want, without restrictions. If you want lots of prayers and hymns, you can have them. If you want no prayers or hymns, you can have that. Or you can have a mixture of both. Your ceremony will be all about you.
If you think I’m the kind of celebrant you want, I’d be very flattered. But before I get carried away with delight, I’d better tell you how to get in touch with me. You can all me on 087 6959799 or email me (Derbhile) on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone who reads my blogs and social media posts may have noticed that I always add a photo description to each post. The photo description tells search engines what’s in your photograph, but it also tells anyone who’s visually impaired or blind what’s in your photo. I felt it was only right to set a good example and add these photo descriptions, because I myself am a visually impaired celebrant.
I can see enough. That’s the best way I can describe it. Thanks to my trusty magnifier, I can see print and images on my laptop easily enough. But move print any more than six inches away from my face and it disappears. I have a turbulent relationship with steps, which turns some ceremony venues into an adventure for me. And it takes me a little more time to get to grips with the finer details of some ceremony rituals.
Challenges in Celebrancy Training
When I was doing my celebrant training, my sight proved more of a challenge than I expected. I’ve had the same sight all my life, so it doesn’t knock a feather out of me at this stage. Usually once I have the handouts in front of me and can listen to the presenter, I fly through course material. But our course manual was printed in the smallest, faintest font known to man. And I couldn’t really tell what the tutors were doing when they were showing us the rituals, particularly the handfasting.
I had explained my situation before I began my celebrancy training with the IIOC and asked the tutors to spend a bit of extra time with me on the rituals. They let me actually do the ritual, so I could feel the ribbon in my hands and see up close where it was meant to go. I was grateful for the extra time they spent and managed to do a perfect handfasting at the mock ceremony I did on the day of my celebrant exam.
I also let the course organisers know that the manual wasn’t accessible and I’ve been told they were planning to update it since. COVID may well have made that situation easier, as the IIOC is currently delivering its courses via Zoom. That means that any visually impaired attendees of the course can use their magnifiers or their screen readers (software that reads all the information on a screen for blind people) to access the course material.
So, how do I then deliver a ceremony?
Well, mostly I use my superpower – my ability to memorise large amounts of information. After I write my ceremony, I learn it off word for word. I find this the best way to manage. If I were to read it in the normal way, my face would be buried behind the book. If I memorise it, I can look out at the crowd and let them see my face. I still have my ceremony book, with the script in giant writing in case I get lost. But mostly I never use my celebrant book.
I’ll also spend time practising the rituals. All celebrants do this anyway, but I know I need to spend a little extra time on them so I can feel comfortable lighting candles and tying ribbons under pressure. Taking this time literally gives me a feel for the ritual, so I’m not just relying on my sight to pull the ritual off during the ceremony.
Then on the day, I spend extra time scoping out the venue. Celebrants are advised to turn up well in advance of a ceremony anyway, so I’ll turn up about two hours before the ceremony and walk around the venue to see if there are any steps that may trip me up. Funny enough, flights of steps are okay, but one step can be a landmine, so it’s good to know that step is there.
My Ceremony Helpers
It’s good to have an ally on the day, someone who knows the score and can step in if needed. If it’s a wedding, I’d probably inform the best man about my eye condition, and if it’s a funeral, I’d let the funeral director know. But my biggest ally of all is my husband.
As many ceremony venues are away from public transport links, and there can be a lot of materials to carry, he drives to the venue with me and helps me to set up. He’s a good logistics man with a sharp eye for detail, so he’s the secret weapon to my success as a celebrant.
Because of my own background, I’d love to work with couples and families who have disabilities of all kinds. I’ll do all I can to make sure the ceremony experience I create is accessible for everyone. If you want to get in touch with me about my ceremonies, please contact me on email@example.com.
This week, I bring you the last blog in my video blog series of ceremony readings – a funeral reading. Time flies so fast! So, it’s appropriate that for this final week, I turn my attention to the final ceremony that comes to many of us – the funeral.
All loss is tragic, but some is expected – it’s part of the cycle of life. But sometimes funeral celebrants have to deliver funeral ceremonies at times of unimaginable loss, loss that’s incredibly traumatic. At times like these, it can be a real struggle to find the right words.
That’s why I was incredibly grateful when I came across a beautiful poem on the Facebook feed of a lady I know who lost her father to suicide. Untied by Erin Hansen is essentially an act of forgiveness by the author to the person that has gone.
The author is telling their loved one that they understand why that person felt they had to go. I believe that makes this poem a powerful choice of funeral reading at funerals of loved ones lost through suicide.
Here’s me reading an extract from Untied by Erin Hansen. I hope that this poem will give you the words of comfort you need if you have lost a loved one through suicide.
Funeral Reading – Untied by Erin Hansen.
I would be honoured if you chose me to bring you words of comfort at your loved one’s funeral. If you would like me to do this, send me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can’t believe I’m already on the third video in my video blog series of ceremony readings. This week, it’s the turn of the vow renewal, a ceremony which gives couples a chance to renew their commitment to each other. The vow renewal reading I’ve chosen is called I Rely On You by Hovis Presley.
By the time you’ve reached the point where you’re considering a vow renewal, you’ve learnt more about the true meaning of love. You know that love isn’t just about the grand romantic gestures. It’s about the everyday things you do for each other to keep the flame of love alive.
This week’s reading, I Rely On You, celebrates the power of that everyday love. This poem will be sure to raise a smile at your vow renewal ceremony. It’s an ideal choice for unsentimental couples with an offbeat sense of humour.
Here I am reading a verse from I Rely On You. Hope you enjoy it.
Vow Renewal Reading – I Rely On You
If you want a vow renewal that’s free from sentiment and full of laughter, send me a message on email@example.com.