Creating Beautiful Love Stories for Wedding Ceremonies

In my other life, I give creative writing classes. So, I’ve decided to bring my two worlds together by giving creative writing workshops to celebrants. These workshops will show celebrants how to create beautiful love stories for wedding ceremonies.

We celebrants create stories for all the ceremonies we do – eulogies for funeral and memorials, stories of renewed love for vow renewals and tales of great adventures to come for baby namings.

But in my celebrant creative writing workshops, I’ll be concentrating on the wedding love story for couples. The love story forms the centrepiece of the wedding ceremonies delivered by independent celebrants like me. It’s our gift to loving couples.

This picture illustrates the kind of mood you create when you create love stories for wedding ceremonies.

Photo Description: I’m in my pink celebrant suit, delivering a love story to a bride. I’m to the left of the picture, holding a microphone in my hand. The bride is on the right and she’s looking towards me. There’s lush greenery in the background (Photo Credit: Lopez Photography.)

I create my love stories in partnership with the couple. This is the biggest story of their lives, so it’s hugely important that they’re happy with how I tell it. I want to make sure they feel it truly reflects who they are and what their relationship means to them. This is usually the happiest part of the wedding consultation. The couple go all misty-eyed and exchange private looks and lots of giggles, as happy memories flood into their minds.

Structure of Love Story

There’s a natural structure to the love story and I’ll be going through that structure in the workshop, which I hope will take some of the heavy lifting out of the story. And it’s also a heap of fun tonight. You get a chance to hear about the most thrilling and special moments of a couple’s relationship, starting with when they met.

When you discuss that with the couple, they’ll go all misty-eyed. The meeting is always memorable, even if it’s memorable for being ordinary. Sometimes it’s hate at first sight, sometimes it’s a slow burn, and sometimes the couple just know. When you describe the meeting, you set the scene for the story, and people will look forward to hearing how the story will unfold.

You then go on to describe how the couple’s relationship evolves: the first date, the first kiss, the first holiday. You’ll share the highs, the things that cemented their relationship. These could be huge life events like the birth of a child or buying a house. But you can also share those everyday delights of a relationship, like the cup of tea left by your bed every morning.

Challenge and Triumph

In every story, there’s always an element of challenge. On your wedding day, you don’t want to dwell on the things that went wrong, but challenges are part of every relationship too. It’s really up to the couple. Some couples will want to share their challenges – they may feel their challenges brought them closer together. Other couples prefer to keep it light. If that’s the case, you can focus on the will they/won’t they tension in the run-up to the proposal.

Ah yes, the proposal. This is where your story will end, and it’s usually another hugely memorable moment – for the things that go wrong as well as the things that go right. Even the most low-key proposal is filled with tenderness and romance. If you do it right, it’ll be the biggest aw moment in your story, especially if you let a dramatic pause fall before the person being proposed to says yes.

Want to find out more about the ways I can bring meaning to your story? Have a look at my Weddings page.

Celebrants are naturally good storytellers, but I hope this class will help them gather their thoughts and tell a story that hits the right note. Above all, I hope I can help them tell a story that will make their audience laugh and cry, and that everyone will be talking about long after the ceremony is over.

If you’d like me to create an aw moment in your ceremony with your very own beautifully crafted love story, give me a call on 0876959799.

My Life As A Visually Impaired Celebrant

Anyone who reads my blogs and social media posts may have noticed that I always add a photo description to each post. The photo description tells search engines what’s in your photograph, but it also tells anyone who’s visually impaired or blind what’s in your photo. I felt it was only right to set a good example and add these photo descriptions, because I myself am a visually impaired celebrant.

I can see enough. That’s the best way I can describe it. Thanks to my trusty magnifier, I can see print and images on my laptop easily enough. But move print any more than six inches away from my face and it disappears. I have a turbulent relationship with steps, which turns some ceremony venues into an adventure for me. And it takes me a little more time to get to grips with the finer details of some ceremony rituals.

Challenges in Celebrancy Training

When I was doing my celebrant training, my sight proved more of a challenge than I expected. I’ve had the same sight all my life, so it doesn’t knock a feather out of me at this stage. Usually once I have the handouts in front of me and can listen to the presenter, I fly through course material. But our course manual was printed in the smallest, faintest font known to man. And I couldn’t really tell what the tutors were doing when they were showing us the rituals, particularly the handfasting.

I had explained my situation before I began my celebrancy training with the IIOC and asked the tutors to spend a bit of extra time with me on the rituals. They let me actually do the ritual, so I could feel the ribbon in my hands and see up close where it was meant to go. I was grateful for the extra time they spent and managed to do a perfect handfasting at the mock ceremony I did on the day of my celebrant exam.

I also let the course organisers know that the manual wasn’t accessible and I’ve been told they were planning to update it since. COVID may well have made that situation easier, as the IIOC is currently delivering its courses via Zoom. That means that any visually impaired attendees of the course can use their magnifiers or their screen readers (software that reads all the information on a screen for blind people) to access the course material.

So, how do I then deliver a ceremony?

Well, mostly I use my superpower – my ability to memorise large amounts of information. After I write my ceremony, I learn it off word for word. I find this the best way to manage. If I were to read it in the normal way, my face would be buried behind the book. If I memorise it, I can look out at the crowd and let them see my face. I still have my ceremony book, with the script in giant writing in case I get lost. But mostly I never use my celebrant book.

This pic illustrates how I manage my ceremony text as a visually impaired celebrant.
Pic Caption: This is me in my pink celebrant suit with yellow bushes in the background. I’m holding my celebrant book and if you look closely, you can see the giant writing. (Photo Credit: Dermot Byrne Photography)

I’ll also spend time practising the rituals. All celebrants do this anyway, but I know I need to spend a little extra time on them so I can feel comfortable lighting candles and tying ribbons under pressure. Taking this time literally gives me a feel for the ritual, so I’m not just relying on my sight to pull the ritual off during the ceremony.

Then on the day, I spend extra time scoping out the venue. Celebrants are advised to turn up well in advance of a ceremony anyway, so I’ll turn up about two hours before the ceremony and walk around the venue to see if there are any steps that may trip me up. Funny enough, flights of steps are okay, but one step can be a landmine, so it’s good to know that step is there.

My Ceremony Helpers

It’s good to have an ally on the day, someone who knows the score and can step in if needed. If it’s a wedding, I’d probably inform the best man about my eye condition, and if it’s a funeral, I’d let the funeral director know. But my biggest ally of all is my husband.

As many ceremony venues are away from public transport links, and there can be a lot of materials to carry, he drives to the venue with me and helps me to set up. He’s a good logistics man with a sharp eye for detail, so he’s the secret weapon to my success as a celebrant.

Because of my own background, I’d love to work with couples and families who have disabilities of all kinds. I’ll do all I can to make sure the ceremony experience I create is accessible for everyone. If you want to get in touch with me about my ceremonies, please contact me on info@celebrantderv.ie.

Should Celebrants Cry At Ceremonies?

When I was training as a funeral celebrant, we frequently talked about what we would do if we were overcome by emotion. At a funeral, you’re exposed to people when they’re in a raw state of grief, and you’re bound to feel that grief, and to remember griefs in your own life. So, we asked ourselves this question.

Is it okay for us celebrants to give in to their emotion and cry during a ceremony?

Many people in our group came to the conclusion that it was okay to shed tears, as long as you kept control of your delivery and carried on with the ceremony. Crying would allow you to show your human face, to show that you empathise with the people you’re delivering the ceremony to.

But I feel myself that I’d prefer not to cry, at funerals or at any other ceremony.

I have huge respect for my fellow funeral celebrants. They are full of compassion, and they’re comfortable showing that compassion through tears. I’m just concerned that if I cry, it’ll lessen the impact of the story I’m trying to tell. People will hear the tears, not the words.

All ceremonies are emotional, whether it’s a wedding, funeral or baby naming. But the emotion belongs to the people at the centre of the ceremony and their family and friends, not to me. It is their grief, their love, their joy. I’m there to be a channel for that emotion, to help them process it through the words I write and deliver.

If I’m doing a ceremony for you, I want that ceremony to be about you, not me. After the ceremony is over, I don’t want people to be talking about the poor celebrant who was in floods of tears and wondering if I’m all right. I want them to be talking about the moment the couple said I do, or about what a beautiful reading the family chose for their loved one’s funeral.

There are a few techniques I will use to channel my emotions and stop myself from becoming overwhelmed.

Breathe!

Seems obvious, but when you’re emotional, your breath is the first thing to go. Your chest gets tight and your breath becomes shallow. It becomes really hard to think straight. We were taught breathing techniques on our celebrant training course that help you control your voice and your stress.

When I see a bride walk up the aisle or a family filing in behind a coffin, I’ll breathe in for a count of and out for a count of eight. This brings welcome oxygen into my body and gives me something to concentrate on while I wait to deliver my ceremony.

Identify Flashpoints

When I’m preparing for a ceremony, I can spot which parts of the ceremony are likely to set off a wave of emotion in your ceremony guests – and in me. It could be the lighting of a memorial candle.


This shows me lighting a memorial candle at a ceremony. The candle is on a table in front of two pictures, and I’m crouched in front of it. I was concentrating so much on lighting the candle that I had no time for tears. (Photo Credit: Lopez Photography)

Or it could be words I say that will show you the true significance of this ceremony. You are welcoming a child into the world. You are committing to each other for life. When I come to these delicate parts of the ceremony, I can let the wave of emotion pass without letting it spill over.

Find A Spot On The Wall

At times of high emotion, distraction can be useful. It takes you away from that emotion for a moment and gives you something else to focus on. When I reach those heart moments, I’ll pick a spot in front of me to look at.

Since ceremony venues are often beautiful places, it’s easy to find something to direct my gaze at – flowers, trees, even a guest’s beautiful dress. I let my brain fill with that image and that gets me past the emotional danger zone.

Of course I know there are going to be times when emotion will get the better of me, when the circumstances surrounding a ceremony are particularly poignant.

Or sometimes I’ll just bond with a family and tap more easily into the emotion they’re feeling. If that happens, I will take a deep breath and carry on. And I’ll let my tears be absorbed into the emotion of the day.

What would you think of a celebrant that sheds tears during a ceremony? I’d love to hear your perspectives. You can email me on info@celebrantderv.ie.

Creating A Beautiful Memorial Ceremony For Your Loved One

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 complements a blog post about post-COVID memorial ceremonies.
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. 

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: 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

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 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, which is popular at weddings and vow renewals.
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

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