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.

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.

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