Write Your Own Baby Naming Vows

Way back when I was planning my first-ever baby naming, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you could have vows at a baby naming, like you do at a traditional christening. With a christening, the vows are shaped by the Christian tradition, but with a baby naming, you’re freer to write your own rules.

A lot of the vows I came across when I was writing the ceremony were quite sentimental. If you’re sentimental, they’d be a perfect fit, but I decided to put my own spin on them. Inspired by that experience, I’ve put together this blog post to inspire you to write your own vows, promises that you can make to your child and to each other.

I am wearing a red robe with a pink flowered dress underneath. I wear a tall grey hat on my head with a black rope around it. I hold a tall wooden stick in my right hand. Behind me is a grey stone wall.
Here I am, doing my thing at my first-ever baby naming ceremony. I was in full druid mode.

Of course, it’s your baby naming. If you don’t want vows, you don’t have to have any. But if you do want to have vows, I hope this post will be useful.

Who Says The Vows?

Again, that’s entirely up to you. You can make vows to each other and to your child. You can ask your guests to say vows together. They can promise to act as your tag team on your great parenting adventure.

You can also appoint guide parents for your child, who can make promises to support your child and guide them through life, much like godparents at a christening.

Format of Vows

The most popular vows are still the question-and-answer vows that you’ll remember from christenings. Or you can just list out the promises you want to make to your child. If you’re feeling nervous, I can call out the list and ask you to repeat it, sentence by sentence.

So, I’m going to have vows in my baby naming ceremony. What vows should I write?

Vows Based On Values

If you have values that you hold very strongly as a person and as a family, you can make promises to uphold those values on behalf of your child. For example, if you value honesty, kindness and respect, you can promise to teach your child to tell the truth, to treat your child with kindness and to show your child how to respect others.

Vows Based On Interests

If you’re a family who’s passionate about a certain hobby, you can use that hobby as a metaphor for your vows. Sport in particular lends itself to this. You can talk about being a cheerleader for your child or supporting them whether they win or lose.

If you’re arty, you can also draw metaphors from the arts. You can promise to help your child turn their life into a masterpiece, help them write their own script or help them strike the right note.

Playful Vows

If the idea of saying vows seems a bit po-faced to you, why not have fun with the idea. You can create vows that reflect the reality of family life, such as promising to love your child when they daub paint on your walls or throw a tantrum in the supermarket.

Or you can promise to turn a blind eye if your child allows three weeks’ worth of plates to accumulate under their bed. It’ll give your guests a laugh but it also outlines an important point – you’re going to accept your child for who they are, warts and all.

Above all, don’t forget the love. You may think it goes without saying, but the most powerful vow you’ll make is the vow to love your child for the rest of their lives, no matter what.

Format of Vows: The most popular vows are still the question-and-answer vows that you’ll remember from christenings. Or you can just list out the promises you want to make to yoru child. If you’re feeling nervous, I can call out the list and ask you to repeat it, sentence by sentence.

I’m conscious as I write this that you may not been able to welcome your child into the world the way they would like. I’m also conscious that your family may not have been able to welcome them either. A baby naming will help you give your child the welcome they deserve and to celebrate their arrival.

Have you held a baby naming? Did you say vows at it? I’d be interested to hear about how you approached the vows. Email info@celebrantderv.ie to share your thoughts.

Strengthen Your Bonds With A Family Ceremony

I’m giving a rather unusual ceremony this Sunday. It’s not a wedding, a funeral or a baby naming. And it’s not a coming of age ceremony, which is becoming more and more popular. It’s a family ceremony. Family ceremonies did not come up on the list of ceremonies I learned about on my celebrancy course, but people have approached me a few times about them since I qualified.

Reasons For Holding a Family Ceremony

Family ceremony is a flexible term for any ceremony that gives you a chance to celebrate your family and the bonds you share. If you’re the sort of couple who don’t like a fuss, your family ceremony makes a low-key, fun alternative to a wedding, anniversary celebration or vow renewal. Do you wish you could have had a baby naming for your older children? It’s not too late – you can celebrate all your children together with a family ceremony.

If you and your partner have children from previous relationships, a blended family ceremony is a great way of bringing you all together and create a new bond. You’re celebrating the shape of your new family and showing everyone in it that they are valued.

Have you recently adopted a child? Why not welcome them into your family with a family joining ceremony. This is particularly valuable if the child you have adopted is older. You are telling them that they have made your family complete.

Family ceremonies are great for families with young children because they’re so inclusive. You’ll have no worries about your children being bored and restless during a ceremony – they’re going to have a starring role in the ceremony.

Because you’ll be celebrating together, they’ll be doing the rituals with you. And if you want to hold their interest, the shorter the better. That’s why I’d recommend keeping your family ceremony at 16 minutes.

So, what happens in a family ceremony?  Well, that’s up to you.

Because it’s such a new type of ceremony, you can feel free to invent your own. But here are some ideas.

The Power of Trees

Trees give life, and as a family, you give life to each other. Celebrate your growing family by planting a tree in your garden. The tree will grow along with your family, and every time you look at it, you’ll be reminded of the special family you shared.

You can also create a tree of life in your garden. You tie ribbons to the branches with pieces of paper attached to them. On those pieces of paper, you can write wishes for the future or words that you feel capture the spirit of your family, like loving, kind or fun.

Making Memories

Memories are the glue that hold a family together, and as part of your ceremony you can create a memory box to capture and store those memories. Ask everyone in the family to share memories of great times you’ve had, in the form of a drawing or a piece of writing.

Then you store them in a special box that you will then hide in the house and open again in five, ten or twenty years’ time. You’ll be able to feast on memories from that day which you might otherwise have lost.

Celebrate Unity

There are lots of colourful family rituals you can do which remind you that your lives as a family are forever intertwined. They help you to strengthen your bonds and remind you that while you’re all individuals, you’re also one unit.

You’re always looking out for each other and always loving each other. Rituals that are ideal for young children include putting your handprints on a page or a family sand ceremony, where each of you pours sand into a decorative pot. These will then become permanent mementos of your day.

This picture shows how you might arrange the sand in a family sand ceremony, to create a perfect memento of your day.

This picture shows two jars of sand, one white and one blue. Beside them is a picture in a frame, made of layers of white and blue sand.

Family Words

You can break up the rituals with more reflective moments – as long as you keep them short. There are lovely poems that capture the magic of childhood or family that you can use as readings.

You may decide you want to make promises to each other as a family. If you’re having a family ceremony as part of a wedding or vow renewal, you can make promises to each other and to your children, and your children can make promises to you.

Family Music

Singing a song together is a truly joyous way of ending a ceremony. It doesn’t matter whether you can sing or not; just belt out those words. Get your children involved in choosing a song.

They might like a song from their favourite film or a silly song that gets everyone up and dancing. Something upbeat that you can dance along to would be perfect, and it’ll leave you with a good taste in your mouth and warmth in your heart.

Have you any thoughts about what you think would make a great family ceremony? Email info@celebrantderv.ie to share your thoughts.

Celebrate Your Wedding Day With A Zoom Wedding

In the next few months, I’m going to be delivering virtual wedding ceremonies to couples via Zoom. I never imagined when I qualified that I would be officiating virtual ceremonies. And I’m sure many couples never imagined they’d be celebrating their special days on a screen either. But when it’s a straight choice between spending the day dwelling on what might have been and marking the day with joy, most people will choose joy.

If you’re choosing joy and choosing a Zoom wedding, it’s important to get one thing out of the way. It’s not going to be the same as your wedding day. That day will come, if you have a new date fixed. This ceremony is just a way to keep the dream of your wedding alive, and to remind yourselves that in these strange times, your love remains strong.

Your Zoom wedding will still be meaningful.

You can dress up in your wedding clothes. Your loved ones will be there to celebrate – from a distance. Zoom allows you to invite up to 100 people to a meeting, so you’ll have an audience. And your Zoom wedding will include all the ingredients that make a wedding ceremony special. They’ll just be modified for the virtual world.

Preparing for Your Ceremony

I know you’re probably worried about the technology and whether it will let you down. That’s why we’ll have a rehearsal before your virtual ceremony, to iron out any kinks. We’ll check your connection, your sound and your lighting. Lighting can be really tricky. You want daylight but you don’t want too much glare. A lot of problems can be solved by drawing the curtains or pegging a sheet to a window. As long as you can be seen in all your glory, that’s what matters.

Next comes the question: to record or not to record. When we’re planning your Zoom wedding, I’ll ask you if you want it recorded. If you say yes, then just before the ceremony starts, I’ll tell all your guests that the ceremony is being recorded for posterity. If they don’t want to be part of the recording, I can turn off their screens so they won’t be seen.

Virtual ceremonies are just as much about the look as about the words. Why not decorate the room where you’ll be for the ceremony just as you would dress the ceremony room in a hotel? You can also ask your guests to dress up according to a theme. One celebrant on a celebrant forum I’m part of shared her experience of officiating an Easter wedding where all the guests were asked to wear yellow.  

Now, let’s talk about the day of your Zoom wedding. What will happen?

Your Entrance

In the real world, you’d make a grand entrance, either together or alone, with your partner waiting. For your Zoom wedding, you’ll be the first ones invited to the Zoom room, and you’ll wait for your guests to join you.

All your guests will be put on mute, to cut down any background noise that might spoil the atmosphere. Only your screen will be left unmuted, because you are the heroes of the house. I’ll let your guests know that they’ll be on mute.

Ceremony Readings

Readings will come across well on Zoom. You can involve one of your guests by asking them to deliver the reading. I’ll send you a selection of readings the way I would for a real-world ceremony, and then you pick one and choose someone you know will be comfortable with reading it.

This picture shows a couple who had a Zoom wedding in their home, dressed in their wedding clothes.

This photo shows a couple in their wedding clothes, getting married via Zoom. They have a white wall in the background, and the room is decorated with tall plants in plots. {Photo Credit: BBC News).

Ceremony Rituals

You can carry out rituals online the way you would in the real world. You can light candles for a unity candle ceremony or you can do a handfasting if you have someone else in the house to tie the ribbons for you. If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, you can gather sand for a sand ceremony.

A couple of fun, low maintenance rituals you can do include blowing bubbles to make a wish and giving each other a rose as a symbol of eternal love. And everyone will see you doing the rituals. You’ll be in Gallery View on Zoom, which means all eyes will be on you.

Ceremony Music

As we’ve probably all experienced, music can be tricky on Zoom. It’s probably easier not to have music at your Zoom wedding, for copyright reasons as well as reasons of sound.

But if your professional musician is willing, you could ask them to play you a song at the start and the end of the ceremony. Or you could ask a musical member of your family to play or sing for you.

The End of The Ceremony

I’ll pronounce you married in whatever way you wish, just as I would in a real-world ceremony. Then a lovely way to round off a Zoom wedding is to ask everyone to raise a glass for you, to toast your future happiness. It’ll finish your ceremony on a festive note. I’ll then leave the meeting and let you all get on with chatting to each other, so you can keep the party going a little while longer.

If you want to find out more about how to organise a Zoom wedding, you can call me on 00 353 87 6959799 or email info@celebrantderv.ie.

Creating A Meaningful Memorial Ceremony

I’m feeling quite sad this week. A few days ago, I heard about the passing of one of my ski tribe. I thought about his partner and children, who like so many people at this time, are mourning without a supportive crowd around them. Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about someone in my circle who’s had to endure a lonely funeral.

But I am looking forward to attending the memorial ceremony for this man, who was a talented athlete and musician. There are going to be a lot of these memorial ceremonies, because we don’t want this virus to stop us from being there for the people we care about. And because we want to define people by how they lived, not by how their lives ended.

This picture shows a tree with bar branches stretching up to a cloudy sky, but you can also see the sun turning some of those clouds yellow.
Pic from Irish Ethical Celebrants Society which featured my article about memorial ceremonies.

I qualified as a funeral celebrant just before the virus began to close the world down. And I want to help you mourn your loved ones the way both you and they deserve. So, I’ve put together some ideas to help you plan a memorial ceremony for your loved one when restrictions are lifted. You can adapt your memorial ceremony  to fit the type of person your loved one was and pay tribute to them in a really personal way.

The Two Types of Ceremony

There are broadly two types of memorial ceremony you can arrange.

The Story Of Your Life

You can organise an informal celebration for your loved one that tells the story of their life in music, words and pictures. Hire a venue that your loved one enjoyed going to, fill it with family and friends and feast on your memories. Invite people from different areas of the person’s life to tell stories about them and intersperse each one with songs the person liked.

Ideally, you’d have a talented musician in your family play them live, but you can also sing along to a recording. And while you’re reminiscing, you could arrange a slideshow of pictures of the person to play in the background. Just be sure you designate someone to be the MC for this event, so it all flows smoothly.

Funeral-Type Event

You can also have a more traditional memorial ceremony. This is closer to a funeral in form. But it can still be highly personal, a ceremony that celebrates the person’s life and the contribution they made to all of your lives.

Here’s a flavour of the elements you can include in your funeral-style ceremony.

Opening Remarks

It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget about welcoming people when you have so much to think of. All you have to do is say that everyone is welcome and thank them for coming. And don’t forget to use your loved one’s name. Your name is intertwined with who you are. By using their name, the name they were known by, you invoke their presence and bring them to life. 

Memorial Ceremony Readings

Did your loved one have a favourite poem or reflection? You can include that as a reading in the ceremony, to showcase your loved one’s personality. There are also readings written especially for end of life rituals. These are designed to give you comfort and to show you that the person can still be present in your life.

Depending on your loved one’s beliefs, you can choose a prayer, a spiritual reflection or a poem. You can spread readings throughout the ceremony: for example, a reading after the opening remarks, after the eulogy or before the final words.

Gathering of Memories

As this is a memorial, the memories you share of your loved one will form the centrepiece of your ceremony. This is the time to let your loved one’s personality shine. You can share these memories in a formal way, with a eulogy delivered by a friend or member of the family.

Or you can ask a few close friends or family to tell stories about your loved one, stories that capture the spirit of your loved one and celebrate the high points of their lives.

Rituals for Your Memorial Ceremony

We all need rituals, and rituals can be powerful symbols of love and of life in the midst of death. A lot of people offer gifts that represent the person – maybe a football jersey, a newspaper or a souvenir from a brilliant holiday. You can also light a candle for your loved one, to show that their light will never go out.

Musical Magic

Music speaks to the soul and it reaches places that words can’t reach. Let yourself be inspired by your loved one in the music you choose. What tunes did they like? What did they dance to? Or is there a piece of music that you feel fits their personality to a T. Or maybe there was a song that your loved one always sang at family gatherings. What a fitting way to round off a ceremony, having everyone sing along to that party piece.

Closing Words

The end of the ceremony will be the most poignant part for you all. You already said goodbye at the funeral and now you’ll be saying it again. But the end of the ceremony is a good time to give thanks. Thank your loved one for the riches they brought into your life and thank all those who gave you support in many ways.

And finally, thank everyone for coming and let them know if you’ve organised refreshments for afterwards. Focusing on the gratitude you feel will take some of the sting out of that goodbye.

Have A Laugh: There’s still a feeling that we must be solemn at funerals and memorials and of course there are sad occasions. But they’re also celebrations of life, as I said. So, make room for laughter in your ceremony. Tell the jokes your loved one would have told. Share funny stories about the crazy things the person did. Let your laughter mingle with your tears and you will all leave with a happy memory.

I’ve produced a version of this blog post for the Irish Ethical Celebrants’ Society if you want to take a look at that. If you want more ideas or help with putting together a memorial ceremony, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on info@celebrantderv.ie

My Wonderful Week of Celebrancy

Marketing experts advise you that your blog posts should be SEO friendly. They should solve problems for people and educate people about the big world of celebrancy, and that’ll make it easy for Dr Google to find them. I’m happy to follow that advice most of the time, but sometimes I just need to let rip and share the joy of my job.

This is just such a week. I did have a sensible blog post planned, and I’ll bring that to you next week, but this week, I want to celebrate. It’s been a wonderful week in my life as an independent celebrant, the biggest week since I qualified. And it’s not over yet.

In these strange times, it’s hard to find the balance between carrying on with your business and being sensitive to the stress people are under. But I wanted to share my success with you, to show that even in these times, there is still cause for celebration. It’s okay to be happy. And it’s okay to dream of better times to come.

So, here’s a rundown of my big, wonderful celebrant week.

Monday – Flagging Celebrant Directory Blog

I put up a boast on social media about the fact that I’m to be a guest blogger on The Celebrant Directory on Friday. I thought I’d generate a bit of excitement about the blog post first, and I got lots of lovely comments on social media. It really made me feel l like an influencer!

Tuesday – Got Local Media Coverage

A lovely journalist called Dymphna Nugent (@the_english_teacher_ on Instagram) featured in an article in one of my local papers, the Waterford News and Star. She interviewed me for a column called Well Said, where local people reflect on life and what makes them tick. As someone who grew up in a large family, I welcome any chance to talk about myself without interruption! And I was delighted to have the chance to share my passion for all things celebrant.

Wednesday – Booked A Wedding

I confirmed a booking for a wedding! This has been bubbling for a little while. Through this fine website, I was contacted by a couple living in America who are already legally married. They’re planning a wedding in October in a rather lovely hotel called Barnabrow House in East Cork, near the groom’s home town. I’ll be sharing all the details with you as they evolve. We’re being optimistic that everything will happen as planned – we’re daring to dream.

This picture shows the wedding ceremony room at Barnabrow House. You can see red carpeting in the aisle and rows of wooden chairs. White lanterns containing candles are dotted along the aisle.
Photo Credit: Barnabrow House

Thursday – Virtual Vow Renewal

Amazing how all your ships come in at once. I made an arrangement to do a virtual vow renewal in early June. I’ll be at my home near the sea in Tramore, Co. Waterford, and this couple will be in a forest clearing in West Cork with their children, many miles away. But my ceremonial words will reach them through the magic of Zoom.

Friday – Guest Blog Post Day

Friday 1 May is the schedule date for my blog post on The Celebrant Directory. I’ll have access to zillions of eyeballs on this site, which is an international directory of celebrants. It also offers marketing tips and inspiration to celebrants. I’m hoping that my post, a shinier version of the post I wrote for this blog about legal wedding ceremonies in Ireland, will add to that vibe of inspiration. I’ll stick up a link to it on this blog tomorrow so you won’t miss it.

If you are missing a chance to celebrate big occasions with your family, I’d love to help you find ways around it. These special moments deserve to be marked, and planning a celebration will give you something to look forward to. You can email me on info@celebrantderv.ie or call 087 6959799.

How to Fill Your Secular Ceremony With Meaning

Last week, I talked about how to add spirituality to your ceremony. But spirituality isn’t for everyone. So, this week, I’ve decided to concentrate on secular ceremonies, which I’m also delighted to offer as an independent celebrant.

I believe a secular ceremony is just as meaningful. It gives you the freedom to be true to who you are and to share the values are important to you, whether that’s friends and family, nature or creativity. And above all, you get to show people how much you love each other.

In this week’s blog post, I’m going to share some rituals, readings and music that I hope will inspire you to plan the perfect secular ceremony.

Ideas for Ceremony Readings

There’s a wealth of beautiful literature that you can dip into for ceremony readings, poems that eloquently express your deepest feelings. You can go for a classic poem from Shakespeare, Dickinson or Yeats, or try a fresh, modern voice like Raymond Carver or ee cummings.

This is a quote from a poem by ee cummings. It says, 'I carry your heart with me. (I carry it in my heart.) The writing is white and it's within a pink circle. Behind that, you can see the sea, in black and white.
A quirky poem by ee cummings, which expresses love in an offbeat way. Suitable for any ceremony, but particularly weddings.

Plenty of people write poems specifically for ceremonies, like ‘A Message to My Child by Jessica Weslock’, which is popular for baby namings. I’m also dying to show people poems written by writer friends of mine. If they choose those poems, that can be sure that those poems will be completely new to the people who attend your ceremony.

Meaningful Rituals

We all need rituals in our lives, no matter what your beliefs are. Rituals are as old as time, and they’re powerful symbols of love, unity and family. You can choose a ritual for your ceremony that fits with who you are. Wedding rituals like sand ceremonies and unity candle ceremonies are a powerful reminder that you are now united.

Rituals for baby namings like creating a memory box or planting a tree help you make memories. You can then share those memories with your child as they grow up. And at a funeral, you can find comfort in rituals like offering gifts and lighting candles, which show that your loved one’s light will never go out.

If you want to find out what rituals you can avail of, hop onto my ceremonies page. Then pick the ceremony you’re most interested in finding out about.

Musical Moments

Music adds joy to a wedding or baby naming ceremony and can bring great comfort to mourners at a funeral. For a secular ceremony, your choice is wide open. You can be guided by your own musical tastes, whether you like a heartfelt guitar ballad, a dramatic song from the musicals or even some heavy metal!

For traditionalists, the sweet strains of classical music can add a touch of class to your ceremony. At the end of a baby naming I officiated, we all sang ‘The Bare Necessities.’ What a glorious way to end the ceremony!

I would be only too happy to chat to you about your secular ceremony. Being an independent celebrant gives me a brilliant excuse to chat about poetry, music and candles. Drop me an email on info@celebrantderv.ie

How To Add Spirituality To Your Non-Religious Ceremony

The thing I love about being an independent celebrant is that I have the flexibility to cater for all faiths and none. If you’re religious, a church ceremony will be really fulfilling for you. If you’re a a non-believer, a humanist celebrant or state registrar will deliver a ceremony free of any mention of God, the spirit or belief. But what if you fall somewhere in between? What if you want a non-religious ceremony that’s still spiritual?

That’s where an independent celebrant like me comes in. We put no restrictions on what you want to include in your ceremony. You can use any wordings you like and pick the music that makes your soul sing. You’re in the driving seat. You get to decide how spiritual you want your ceremony to be. Your ceremony may not be happening in a church, but it can be full of spiritual meaning just the same.

So, how can you add spiritual touches to your non-religious ceremony? In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the different sections of the ceremony where you can add a splash of spirituality.

Spiritual Readings

Readings are at the heart of any ceremony and they can capture the depth of our love in just a few words. The Bible is a rich source of readings that convey the sacredness of love. You may have heard quotes like ‘For everything there is a season’ or ‘Love is patient and kind.’ These come from the Bible.

This is a quotation in cursive white writing on a blue background. It says, 'Love is always patient and kind' - Corinthians.
This is a famous quote from St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, a hugely popular reading at wedding ceremonies.

But you can draw inspiration from any spiritual background. The Celtic blessing, ‘May the Road Rise to Meet You’ fits well with any ceremony. The poetry of Kahlil Gibran is full of spiritual depth. ‘On Children’ and ‘The Prophet’ are popular choices for ceremonies.

Vows and Promises

Making solemn vows and promises is often a highlight of a religious ceremony, but you can also make these solemn promises in your non-religious ceremony with an independent celebrant like me.

You can be creative and make those vows your own, for example: I promise not get mad if my child spills paint on my favourite jacket. But you’re also free to choose more traditional wordings like ‘for better, for worse.’ You can trust those time-honoured words to reveal the true depth of your love.

I’d be delighted to help you create a ceremony that reflects your beliefs and values. Have a look at my Ceremonies page to find out about the ceremonies I offer.

Prayers and Blessings

Some people don’t want much spiritual input into their ceremony at all, but they may have religious relatives that they want to include. Asking them to say a prayer or give a blessing is a lovely way to involve them in the ceremony.

Letting your relative say a Hail Mary or give a traditional blessing shows that you value their contribution and you respect their beliefs. And they’ll feel honoured that you’ve made them part of your special day.  

Hymns and Songs

Music is a vital part of any ceremony. It lifts people’s hearts and it expresses emotions that go beyond words. There is a wide choice of spiritual music that you can include in your ceremony, from ancient sacred music to modern-day folk songs. If you have a favourite hymn or spiritual song, then feel free to include it in your ceremony running order.

You may love classic hymns like The Lord’s My Shepherd or Panis Angelicus. But did you know that Elvis sang lots of hymns like In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions. Why not add one of his for a rock and roll wedding with a spiritual touch.

I hope now you’ll see that your ceremony doesn’t have to happen in a church to be full of sacred moments. If you’d like some inspiration add spiritual touches to your non-religious ceremony, give me a call on 087 6959799.

Want to Know Where To Get Married In Ireland?

I feel lucky to live in a country as beautiful as Ireland. It’s a place of rugged coastline and mountains, often right next to each other. And that’s exactly what makes Ireland a brilliant place to get married. Some of these wedding locations are very well known, like the Cliffs of Moher and the Hill of Tara.

But what if you want a ceremony with a difference? What if you want to go off the beaten track?

In this blog post, I’m going to share some brilliant wedding locations with you that I’ve come across on my travels. They’re places that are a little off the beaten track, and perfect wedding locations for free thinking couples who like to do their own thing.

The Copper Coast, Co. Waterford

I’m going to start with a place that’s right in my own backyard. The Copper Coast is a stunning stretch of coastline that takes you from Tramore, where I live, to Dungarvan. Along the way, you’ll enjoy epic views of cliffs plunging down into hidden coves, with caves tucked into the cliff face. It’s called the Copper Coast because there was once a thriving copper mining industry in the area.

The Copper Coast’s history has been captured at the Copper Coast Geopark Visitor’s Centre, which makes a wonderfully intimate spot for a wedding if the weather isn’t kind to you. Or you can go wild and have your wedding or vow renewal ceremony on one of the little coves, just the two of you, with the rolling waves providing the soundtrack.

St Patrick’s Well, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary

Now we’ll travel a little further inland to our next wedding location. St Patrick’s Well is another spot that’s dear to my heart, as I grew up a stone’s throw away. It’s been a sacred site for thousands of years, since Celtic times, but it’s also the site of a holy well and church dedicated to St Patrick.

In this pic, you see a stone church with a triangular roof, with a tall tree beside it. The tree has no leaves. On the far left, you see a stone wall.
The sacred site of St Patrick’s Well. Pic taken by me.

As soon as you go through the gate and head down the steps towards the well, you’ll be filled with a sense of peace. The air is still and the modern world falls away. You will be able to celebrate your love in a place steeped with history, and the ancient trees surrounding it make a beautiful backdrop for your photos.

Slieve League, Co. Donegal

We all know the Cliffs of Moher are stunning, but you’ll find equally stunning views on the Donegal coast, at the Slieve League cliffs. You’ll also be away from the crowds. Known as Sliabh Liag in Irish, these are the highest and most impressive cliffs in Europe. If you’re feeling really brave, you can stand at the very top of the cliffs, which plunge down to the wild Atlantic Ocean 600 metres below. Like St Patrick’s Well, Slieve League has been a sacred site for Celts and Christians for thousands of years.

Lough Gur, Co. Limerick

If you are drawn to pagan and Celtic spirituality, Lough Gur is the perfect wedding location for you. Lough Gur is home to one of Ireland’s largest stone circles, which were used for pagan worship. The lake and the gentle, rolling hills around it give you a mellow backdrop for your wedding ceremony. Your younger guests can enjoy the fairy trails around the lake. It’s a more peaceful alternative to the Hill of Tara, with the added advantage that you can have your ceremony by the water.

Want some ideas for Celtic wedding rituals? Check out my Weddings page.

Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

You’ll know the Guinness Storehouse as a tourist attraction – in fact it’s Dublin’s number-one tourist attraction. But did you know you can also get married there? You can have your wedding ceremony in the Gravity Bar which is right at the top of the building, giving you panoramic views of the city. Then afterwards, you can enjoy a complimentary pint of Guinness and toast your future happiness. If you’re an urban creature who’s more into city breaks than weekends in the wild, the Guinness Storehouse will be a cool choice for your ceremony.

I hope these ideas will inspire you, whether you’re living in Ireland or planning a destination from abroad. If you’re coming from abroad, don’t forget to sort out the legal arrangements before you come to Ireland for your dream destination wedding. If you’re looking for ideas for your dream wedding location, give me (Derbhile) a call on 087 6959799.

My Big Fat Beautiful Wedding Ceremony

The marketing gurus are telling us to make use of this time by writing blog posts telling everyone how fabulous we are and how we can help. I certainly want to help, but at the moment, I want to cheer myself up, so I’m going to share the memory of my first-ever wedding ceremony as a qualified celebrant.

Wonderful Wedding Ceremony

Picture the scene. It was New Year’s Eve. The sky outside was clear. There were art-deco decorations everywhere, to fit the wedding’s 1920s theme. The guests filed into a Regency style conservatory with a circular shape that made it a wonderfully intimate venue for a wedding.  Exotic plants rested against the window panes and every so often, you’d hear the screech of a parakeet. What a perfect place for my first wedding ceremony.

The bride floated up the aisle towards her husband to be and I’m waiting for them, mic and book in hand, in front of a table garlanded with candles and flowers.

After opening words were spoken, it was time for me to begin telling the couple’s love story. The love story is the independent celebrant’s calling card. It’s a unique gift that we give to each couple, as a way of celebrating their relationship.

I told a story that charted the relationship of this young couple, who have grown together over many years. They were a couple full of humour and banter, which made their story easy to write – they gave me the best lines. People laughed in the right places, and when I reached the proposal, everyone cheered.

Lighting of Candles

After that, I toned the mood down a bit, to pay tribute to the loved ones the couples had lost and to allow them to be present in some way on the day. The pictures of those loved ones were on the table, to mark their presence, with a candle in front of them. I lit the candle to honour their memory. After the ceremony, people told me they were moved by the ritual.

Later on in the wedding ceremony, more candles were lit for the unity candle ceremony. The mothers of the bride and groom lit the outside candles in the beautiful floral arrangement created by Fethard Flowers. Later on, the couples took the light from the outside candles and used them to light the centre candle, to show that they were now one.

The couple lit candles to show that they were now one. Photo Credit: Lopez Photography.

Handfasting Ceremony

For me, the true highlight of this wedding ceremony was the handfasting. I bound the couple’s hands with cord in the GAA colours of their counties: the green and white of Limerick, the blue and gold of Tipperary. There was lots of good-natured banter from the couple and the audience about that ancient hurling rivalry.

After I tied their hands, I placed my own hands over theirs and recited a poem called Hands. For me, it was a profound, moving moment. The work I spoke were reminding the couple that they would be together, always supporting each other, for the rest of their lives.

A moving handfasting ritual. Photo Credit: Lopez Photography

This was what all the fuss and rushing around had been for. I don’t know what the couple were thinking, but judging by the expression on their faces, they were even more moved than I was.

After the ceremony, I was floating. What a privilege it was to play a small part in this wondrous event and to be present at such an amazing moment in the life of this couple. The room vibrated with love and joy, and I thought, I cannot wait to do more of this.

Congrats again to the stunning bride, @valeriedromey and her husband Michael.

I would be delighted to play my part in your joyous wedding day. I know times are difficult, but better days will come, and if you feel I can be of help in planning yours, email info@celebrantderv.ie

Big up to the suppliers who made this wedding possible, and wishing them well during this strange time.

Fethard Flowers By Mandy

Treble and Bass

Beauty Atelier @beautyatelier.irl

Lopez Photography, @lopezphotography.ie

Sonic Big Band

And most of all… Kilshane House

Becoming A Funeral Celebrant

I hope you are all keeping well through this time of crisis, this unreal time when we are apart but together. I myself am planning to blog on through. This is partly because writing has always been my way to keep myself sane. But it’s also because there are people out there who are getting married later in 2020 or next year and they deserve their chance to dream about their big day.

And when this is all over, which it will be, people will be mad to plan the weddings, baby namings and vow renewals that they had to postpone. Boy am I looking forward to getting stuck into that feast of ceremonies, and I bet you are too. But first, I’ve a bit of good news to share with you.

Before the world went haywire, I qualified as a funeral celebrant. This was a really important step forward in my celebrant quest. It means I can now deliver ceremonies for every stage of life, from the cradle to the grave. The Irish Institute of Celebrants (IIOC), who I trained with, gave me not one but two fancy diplomas. One was a diploma in family and funeral celebrancy and the other was a certificate in funeral celebrancy.

I’m now offering funeral ceremonies, and you can check out my Funerals page to find out more about them.

This pic shows a certificate which says, 'Be It Known that Derbhile Graham has passed the Certificate in Funeral Celebrancy and is endorsed by the IIOC as a professional funeral celebrant.. My name is written with a pen in stylish writing, and the other words appear in various fonts, all black on a white background.
Here’s a copy of the certificate that says I’m a qualified funeral celebrant – a proud moment indeed.

The Funeral Celebrant Examination

The process of being examined was pretty interesting. On a Tuesday night, I found myself in a room in a central Dublin hotel, lit only by a lamp. I sat beside two of my classmates, and across from me was an actress very convincingly playing a bereaved person, a person who was in shock after the sudden death of her father. We had to gently draw out information from her that we would use for our ceremony.

Then we had to go home and write up a ceremony within twenty-four hours, based on the information she gave us. I made the deadline and got my approval email. The next two days were spent learning off the ceremony I’d written. On the following Saturday, 29 February, leap year, I stood in a room in front of the actress/client and an examiner to deliver the ceremony. It was surreal, delivering to rows of empty chairs, but I survived, and I passed.

But the two people who evaluated me decided that I could deliver the goods as a funeral celebrant, and I came out with two pieces of paper, some helpful suggestions and some glowing praise. When all this is over, I’ll be in touch with funeral directors to let them know I exist, and I hope I can help people who lost loved ones during this difficult time by creating beautiful memorial services for them.

In the meantime, stay safe and well all of you, and hope the blog posts I create for you over the next little while will keep you dreaming.

If you’d like to find out more about my funeral celetrant services, which you can arrange without needing to go through a funeral director, you can give me a call or WhatsApp on 0876959799.

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