Celebrant Training: Why It’s A Great Idea

Yesterday, I got a call from a wannabe celebrant who’s thinking of training to be a celebrant. I chatted to her about my own celebrant training and how I felt it had shaped me as a celebrant. It got me thinking about why training to be a celebrant is important.

Recognition for Celebrancy

Celebrancy is a funny profession. It’s both very old and very new. There have been ceremonies since the beginning of time, and there have been people who were given the role of officiating them. In recent years, as organised religion declines in many countries, the role of ceremony officiant is being given recognition again.

But because celebrancy is only just being recognised again as a profession, there are lots of loopholes. Anyone can set themselves up as a celebrant without training. I did a baby naming ceremony in September 2018 before I even knew there was such a thing as a celebrant, and I could have started a celebrancy business the next day.

I can’t lie. I was really tempted to tell the world I was now a celebrant – I was so bursting with joy after the baby naming ceremony. But I felt it was important to be equipped with the proper skills, so I could deliver ceremonies that were professional as well as fun.

Beginning Celebrant Training

I did my research and decided the courses offered by the Irish Institute of Celebrants (IIOC) fit the bill. They would give me total freedom to deliver the ceremonies that people wanted. I could be as creative, as spiritual, as passionate and as outrageous as I wanted. That was important to me.

In September 2019, I qualified as a family celebrant with the IIOC. A family celebrant delivers weddings, baby naming ceremonies and vow renewals. Then in October, I began the IIOC funeral celebrant course and qualified as a funeral celebrant in March 2020. Because I completed the two courses, the IIOC awarded me a diploma in family and funeral celebrancy.

You’ll find out more about me and what kind of celebrant I am here.

Naturally there are differences between the two courses. The funeral celebrant course prepares you for dealing with people in a heightened state of grief, while the family ceremony shows you how to bring joy into people’s lives with your ceremonies. But there were skills I learned which were common to both.

Voice Techniques

There’s a strong element of performance in the course, and we had several sessions showing us how to use our voices to deliver a great performance. Trained actors showed us how to breathe correctly and how to control our voices so that nerves wouldn’t get in the way.

We did tongue twisters to stop us from tripping over tricky consonants. The tutor also showed us how to manage the pace of our delivery and gave us tricks to help us deliver our ceremonies with meaning and passion.

Carrying Out Rituals

Ritual is a hugely important part of ceremonies. They’re powerful symbols of life and of love. We learned about the meaning and origins of some of the most popular rituals, like the Celtic handfasting carried out at weddings. We also learned to carry out those rituals.

We tied ribbons around each other’s hands and we lit candles. We also learned about where to stand during a ritual and how to direct the people taking part. We kept practising until the rituals felt natural and we could carry them out seamlessly.

Telling Stories Of Love

The thing that makes the IIOC celebrant courses stand out is the emphasis on storytelling. We learned to create unique ceremonies for each family we work with. On both courses, there was a module on storytelling, to help us craft and deliver these unique stories.

On the wedding course, we learned to write love stories for couples that captured the special moments in their relationship, from first meeting to proposal. And on the funeral course, we learned how to write eulogies, love stories of a different kinds. Eulogies are stories that capture the essence of the person who has passed away and allow the families to express their love for that person, one last time.

Dealing With Clients

Though the IIOC celebrant courses aren’t business courses, we did learn how to develop a relationship with people we worked with and how to collaborate with them to create our ceremonies.

We did mock consultation sessions, where we played the part of a client and a celebrant. We asked each other questions to find out what ceremony the person would like. This was particularly challenging during the funeral course, when we learned how to consult with clients in fraught situations.

Delivering Ceremonies

After all these modules were finished, it was time for our final assessment, and that assessment took the form of a ceremony. For our wedding ceremony, we were given the name of a couple and told to write a ceremony for them.

We had some rehearsal sessions to practice our rituals, our stance and our ceremony scripts. Then we delivered our ceremonies in front of people from other celebrancy courses. We chose people to play the bride and groom and delivered our ceremonies.

The funeral ceremony process was interesting. To give us experience of how a funeral would happen in real time, we had to write and deliver a funeral ceremony within three days. We did a consultation session with an actor playing the part of a bereaved person.

From the information we gathered at the consultation, we wrote a draft ceremony within twenty-four hours. Then we rehearsed and delivered that ceremony, in an empty room with just the examiners at the other end. After that, delivering a ‘real’ funeral will be easy!

This photo illustrates the value of celebrant training, that your skills are certified.
This is a picture of me in my pink suit holding a certificate, on the day I qualified as a family celebrant last September.

Overall, I’m glad I completed my celebrant training. I feel I’m equipped to deal with my clients and to cope with whatever glitches arise. The fact that I’ve invested time and money to become a better celebrant builds trust. And I can show people that I have the skills to deliver the ceremony of their dreams.

Want to get the benefit of my excellent training? Give me a call on 00 353 87 6959799 to start the ball rolling for a brilliant ceremony.

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.

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.

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