Two Wonderful August Wedding Ceremonies

I know I’ve been quiet for a while now, but as lockdown eases, we’re all starting to lift our heads up and look towards the light – including wedding couples. And I’m delighted to say I’m back to full throttle with my celebrancy and my phone has been ringing and pinging with wedding enquiries.

August Wedding Ceremonies

I’m even more delighted that two of those enquiries turned into bookings. Both the wedding bookings are for August. One is for this coming August, 2021 – and the other is for August 2023! I think I can safely say that no lockdowns will affect that wedding.

With August just around the corner, plans are well under way for my first wedding. It’s an outdoor wedding, happening in the couple’s back garden at their house in rural Waterford. And it’ll be an intimate gathering of twenty-five people. A few weeks ago, I sat down with the couple in their garden and we chatted about the kind of ceremony they wanted. They also showed me the parts of the garden they were thinking about using for the ceremony.


This pic shows a bride sitting on a motorbike, which matches her white dress. Behind her is a blurred background of trees, with leaves scattered all over the ground.

If you’d like to find out more about the wedding ceremonies I do, have a browse through my Weddings page.

Shape of August 2021 Wedding Ceremony

I had a great time finding out about their relationship and how it grew and developed. And I watched their faces light up as I talked about the kinds of rituals they could have. They were particularly tickled by the tradition behind a Celtic handfasting, that a marriage could be reviewed every few years and the couple could then decide whether to continue it.

I’ve sent a ceremony script to the couple that, telling them what I will say when I’m delivering their ceremony. They’re very happy with it, and it’s great to know I’m on the right track. In the coming weeks, we’ll tweak the script when they choose music and readings, and I’ll work out the logistics of delivering an outdoor wedding ceremony, which is new to me. I’ll also be hiring a microphone and speaker, to be sure that everyone can hear me on the day.

August 2023 Wedding Ceremony

The August 2023 wedding is a long way off, but it’s never too early to plan. I’ve chatted to the bride on Zoom and she’s already really excited about their wedding. It’ll be another small wedding in the Rhu Glenn Hotel, just outside Waterford. And it’s already shaping up to be a ceremony full of laughter and colour, with lots of family rituals that will include their children.

Would you like to plan a wedding ceremony in August, or any other month? Then give me a call or a WhatsApp on 0876959799. I’m tragically glued to my phone so I’ll reply to you straight away.

How Celebrants Deliver Safe COVID Ceremonies

This is a strange time to be delivering ceremonies. None of us could have anticipated when we were training as celebrants that we would have to wear gloves at a ceremony. Or that we wouldn’t be able to shake people’s hands. Still, we’ve resolved to keep delivering the best ceremonies we can during this COVID time. We’ll keep on joining couples in their love, comforting the grieving and celebrating in whatever way we can.

On the left-hand side of this pic, you see the words 'Guidelines for Celebrant-Led Civil Ceremonies during the COVID-19 Pandemic. To the right, you see the green logo of the IECS, in the shape of a tree with a circle around it. Behind those, you see a celebrant holding a folder that's open on a page, and a couple standing at a safe distance from them.


This pic is from the IECS, who provided celebrants with guidelines for delivering safe wedding and other family ceremonies.  

And we’re determined to deliver our ceremonies in a way that’s safe, for the families we work with and for ourselves. We’re not going to treat people like lepers for something that isn’t their fault. I’m greatly reassured that I can follow the guidelines laid down by two celebrant organisations I belong to.

The Irish Ethical Celebrant Society has drawn up guidelines for weddings and other family occasions. Meanwhile, The Association of Funeral Celebrants Ireland has created guidelines for the safe delivery of funerals. I am massively grateful to the committees of both these organisations for the time they took to prepare these guidelines for all of us celebrants.

Numbers Allowed At COVID Ceremonies

As celebrants, we’re very anxious to stick to the government guidelines on numbers allowed at wedding and funeral ceremonies. To make sure we comply with those guidelines, we’ll ask the couple how many guests they are inviting to the wedding and to make sure they have contact details for them all. We’ll do the same with funeral directors.

For funerals, there can be the extra consideration that people will gather outside the funeral home or graveyard to pay their respects. If this happens, we’ll ask the funeral director to indicate a safe way that we can exit the building or graveyard. It’s not our responsibility to keep the numbers at the government limits. But it is our responsibility to make sure we don’t walk into a situation that’s unsafe for us or for anyone else.

Have a look at my Funerals page to see how I deliver funeral ceremonies.

Social Distancing At COVID Ceremonies

Sadly, we will not be able to shake hands with families we’re delivering ceremonies for, or to stand close to couples while they carry out wedding rituals like handfastings. We will maintain a two-metre distance at all times, which means that for example, a family member will tie the ribbon for the couple at a handfasting.

People who are doing readings would read from where they’re sitting rather than going up to the lectern. That’s because sharing microphones is not a good idea – it also means sharing germs. We’ll still wear masks at all times, even when we’re delivering the ceremony. We just want to make sure we’re protected and can protect others if social distance can’t be guaranteed.

Handling Ceremony Materials

Celebrants now need to manage our ceremony materials more carefully than ever. First of all, we’ll need to rely more on families to bring their own materials, especially for weddings. Usually celebrants bring materials for the rituals like ribbons and candles, just to make sure they’re there on the day. Now we’ll be asking the couples to do it. We’ll ask them to put the vows, ribbons, sand or anything else they’re using in a box and we’ll pick it up on the day.

We’ll be handling the materials with gloves when we do pick them up, so gloves are now a must in our celebrant checklist. Overall, the checklist for what we celebrants bring to ceremonies is now way bigger. As well as surgical grade gloves, masks are a must – more than one if possible. We’ll also bring wipes and hand sanitiser so we can wipe down every surface and every item we touch.

Ultimately, it’s up to each and every celebrant to weigh up the risks for ourselves and the people we’re delivering ceremonies for. But I feel confident that if I follow these excellent guidelines, I can deliver a safe ceremony for you. All of our lives are precious, and I’m committed to keeping you safe. One thing I can guarantee – the ceremony will be as memorable and meaningful as I can make it, restrictions are not.

Even in these strange times, milestones deserved to be marked. You can get in touch with me on 0876959799 if you want to arrange a safe ceremony.

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 info@celebrantderv.ie.

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.

Christmas Ceremonies For You

We all know that Christmas will be different this year. And we’re all wondering whether Christmas will have the same magic if we’re not able to be with our families in the same way. As a slightly sentimental celebrant, I believe it will. You can still enjoy ceremonies, even if you’re in different parts of the world, and that’s why I’ve created some special Christmas ceremonies just for you.

Christmas Wedding Ceremonies

Christmas weddings are always magical. Wedding venues are beautifully decorated for Christmas and people come home from far and wide. And you can still experience some of that magic, with a socially distanced wedding of 25 people or less if you’re living in Ireland.

If you’re in a vulnerable group, or have relatives who are at risk, you can organise a Zoom wedding. People from all around the world can still gather to help you celebrate your love. When I deliver a Zoom ceremony, I make sure it feels as much as possible like the real thing. If love is in the air, you don’t need to be in the same room to feel it.

Christmas Memorial Ceremony

For some people, Christmas is a sad time as they remember their loved ones and that’s especially true this year. If someone you love passed away this year, you may not have been able to mourn them the way you deserved to. A Christmas memorial ceremony will allow you to mourn them, but also to celebrate your life. It will give you the space to process your emotions and hopefully let you begin healing.


This is a picture of a remembrance wreath that would be suitable for use at a Christmas memorial ceremony. It’s a flower arrangement arranged in a circle, with three orange flowers and several purple and white flowers intertwined with green leaves. Photo Credit: Casia Flowers.

Christmas Family Ceremonies

A lot of families won’t be sitting around the dinner table this Christmas, but you and your family can still come together through the magic of Zoom for a special Christmas family ceremony. You can do ceremony rituals together that help you celebrate your bond as a family.

For example, you can all pour sand at the same time, to show how your lives are intertwined. Or you can tie wishes to ribbons and pin them up in a place where you can easily see them. A family ceremony isn’t just about rituals. Why not swap funny and touching stories of Christmas past, or sing one of your favourite songs. This ceremony will help you feel you’re together, even though you’re apart.

Whether you choose to have a virtual or socially distanced ceremony, I’m looking forward to helping you make your Christmas as special as ever. You can give me a call on 087 6959799 to discuss your needs.

My First Funeral Ceremony

I always had a hunch that I would be a funeral celebrant. But as I finished my funeral celebrant course and promoted my funeral celebrancy services, I still wondered: is funeral celebrancy for me? Three weeks ago, after I finished my first funeral ceremony, I knew the answer. Funeral celebrancy is for me.

Getting The Call

The call for my first funeral came as a bolt from the blue. That’s the nature of the job. People can pass away at any time, and funerals in Ireland happen within days of the person passing. So, I always knew I would have to act quickly when the call came. It came from Falconer’s Funeral Directors, right around the corner from my home in Tramore.

‘Can you do a reposal ceremony tomorrow and a committal ceremony the next day?’ the funeral director asked. Straight away, I said yes.

There was no time to lose, so after taking several deep breaths, I called the widow of the man who had passed away. I’ll be discreet about the details, but the man had passed away relatively young after a long illness, leaving a wife and daughter. He was a big wheel in the world of sport, so despite COVID restrictions, there would be a lot of mourners.

I sympathised with the man’s wife and asked her what kind of a person he was. Irish families tend to be big, so I asked her about his family. Then I outlined the kind of ceremony I could deliver for them. The most important parts of the ceremony are the readings and music. I asked the family to think about what music they’d like and also told them I ‘d send them some readings to choose from for the ceremony.

And then I got going. I drafted a script for the reposal ceremony and then also for the committal ceremony. I’ll share with you the three lessons I learned from writing these ceremonies.

Your Ceremony Draft Will Be Torn Asunder

The wording of the two ceremonies changed constantly, as more and more people said they wanted to speak about this man and do readings. The people doing the readings wanted to choose their own, so only one of my original choices made the cut.

I was also freed from the responsibility of delivering the eulogies, saying the thank yous and saying the very final words before the deceased man left for the graveyard. I went with the flow and was happy to make any changes the family wanted. Being adaptable is a vital part of the job.

Make No Assumptions

I assumed that the family would know that the ceremony music was intended to open and close the ceremony. But they weren’t sure when to play the music or how long to play it for. As celebrants, we usually make it clear that the family and the ceremony venue are responsible for playing the music at the ceremony. But when I realised the family didn’t know about opening and closing music, I explained more clearly when to play it, and to let it play in full.

Take Control

Being the funeral celebrant means I’m in charge. For once in my life, I have the power to tell other people what to do. It’s important that I give clear instructions to the family and to the undertakers, so the ceremony can run smoothly. Also, you sometimes get well-meaning family and friends wanting to add their input. I need to be clear with them that I’m acting on the chief mourner’s wishes. Then I can make sure those wishes are honoured.

The Funeral Ceremonies

As I mentioned, this was a two-part funeral, and both parts took place in the funeral home. I delivered a reposal ceremony in the evening time, after people had come to pay respects.

This picture shows people the funeral home where I delivered my funeral ceremony.

This is a picture of Falconer’s Funeral Home in Tramore, Co. Waterford, where I delivered the ceremony. It’s a grey building with a big black metal gate surrounding it. The pic was taken from the Falconers website.

The next day, I delivered a committal ceremony, which is the ceremony you do before a person goes to their final resting place. Both of these were in the funeral home. The reposal ceremony lasted twenty minutes and the committal ceremony, which was the main funeral ceremony, lasted forty-five minutes.

For both of those ceremonies, I took on an MC role, introducing readers and speakers and making sure the ceremony flowed. But I did add some words of my own, about the ways in which people can live on, even if we don’t have a belief in an afterlife. I have no way of knowing whether my words offered comfort. I can only hope that they did.

Overcoming Challenges

Naturally, there were a few challenges along the way, especially at the committal ceremony. Because I was speaking to a web cam, I had to be positioned behind the audience, which made it a bit difficult to build a rapport. I also had a few last-minute changes to deal with, which led to a few pauses here and there.

And at the very end, the music failed to play. As I said, I wasn’t responsible for the music, but I did have the family’s choices on a playlist. Just as I reached for my phone, the Bluetooth cooperated, and the final, very fitting choice of music played.

The COVID Question

As I said, a lot of people wanted to pay their respects to this man, but the funeral directors did an excellent job of crowd control, making sure there were no more than 25 people in the main viewing room at any one time, as the COVID guidelines suggest.

Still, I was exposed to more people than I had been since March. I acted according to guidelines laid down by the Irish Ethical Celebrants Society, sanitised my hands, kept a two-metre distance and wore a mask at all times until it was time to speak. When I was speaking, I was at least two metres away from the audience. So, despite the crowd, I felt safe.

The Verdict

I’m always keen to draw a distinction between sad and depressing. For me, a depressing experience is without hope and leaves you feeling depleted. But with a sad experience, there is still hope, and it is still possible to feel uplifted. That’s how this funeral was for me. Though there was great sadness in the room at the loss these people were experiencing, there was also love, and great kindness.

This funeral ceremony was arranged through a funeral director, and I do work closely with funeral directors. But you’re also more than welcome to approach me yourself to arrange a funeral. You can call me on 087 6959799 or email info@celebrantderv.ie. Or have a look at my funerals page to find out more about my ceremonies.

Ceremonies For You

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.

The beauty of Ceremonies For You is that you can celebrate whatever you want.

Here are a few ideas for moments you might want to celebrate.

Milestone Ceremony

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.  

Friendship Ceremony

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.

This picture shows nine boxes, with nine women in each box. I'm in the second row on the left, wearing a tall grey hat and a red cape.
This is a group of women that I created a special Ceremony of Transformation for. It would loosely come under the category of Friendship Ceremony. All the action happened on Zoom and it felt just like the real thing.

Commitment Ceremony

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 info@celebrantderv.ie 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.

How You Can Have A Life Ceremony About Anything

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.

I even had the privilege of doing a vow renewal ceremony for the group’s founder, Anna Healy.

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.

This is a quote from the Dr Seuss reading used in this life ceremony, and gives people an idea of what was read.

This is a quote from the Dr Seuss reading The Places You’ll Go, in white writing on a blue background. There’s a little white man running at the bottom of the photo. The writing says, ‘You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.’ – Dr Seuss. Photo Credit: Yvonne Cahalane

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.

This picture shows how the sand ceremony worked and how people approached it in creative ways.

There’s sand in a small bottle, which is tied to a purple ribbon resting on a table. There’s also a piece of paper with a wish on it. This again is Yvonne Cahalane’s work. She found a beautiful way of tying the wishing and sand rituals together.

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 info@celebrantderv.ie. I’d love to hear from you.

When The Funeral Celebrant Visited The Crematorium

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.


You see a long corridor made of stone, with stone walls on either side. There’s a slight bend in the corridor and you can see strip lighting on the left and right-hand side of the corridor. I took these pictures on my crematorium visit by kind permission of Brian Johnston.

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.


The picture shows a long, dimly lit room, with wooden chairs on the right-hand side and a black lectern on the left. On the left-hand wall, you can see two blue gates. These are the gates that close around the coffin at the end.

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 info@celebrantderv.ie

How Long Is A Celebrant-Led Ceremony

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.

This photo illustrates the idea that timing is important for ceremonies.
There’s a picture of an old-style alarm clock. It’s black and white and has bells on it. There’s a hand pressing one of the bells.

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.

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