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.

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.

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 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

The true highlight of the ceremony for me 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 @sonicbigband

And most of all… Kilshane House, @kilshanehouse

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