How You Can Have A Life Ceremony About Anything

Not many people can say they made new friends during lockdown. But I managed it, thanks to a tribe of lighthearted women. That’s what we call ourselves. The Lighthearted Women. We laugh. We share wisdom. And we keep each other’s spirits up. We also do business with each other.

I even had the privilege of doing a vow renewal ceremony for the group’s founder, Anna Healy.

Another great thing about The Lighthearted Women is that we’re all able to be honest with each other. That’s why I blurted out one day that I missed doing ceremonies. And they said, ‘Why don’t you do a life ceremony for us?’ You could practically see the lightbulb glowing above my head as I said, ‘Yes, I’ll do a Ceremony of Transformation.’

A lot of the women work in the fields of coaching, health and wellness. And all of us are big believers in growth, change and positivity. We’ve all risen to the challenge of lockdown and used it as an opportunity to transform ourselves. So, I knew a Ceremony of Transformation would resonate with them – and with me.

Gathering for the Ceremony

On a Saturday night in October, we escaped the horrors of Saturday night television and gathered on Zoom for our virtual Ceremony of Transformation. I sat before them in my celebrant-druid costume, with my pointy storytelling hat and my red cape, holding a purple quill in my hand. ‘Ladies, hats off, shoes off, bets off,’ I said, ‘It’s time for the Lighthearted Women’s Ceremony of Transformation.’

Well, I did tell you we were very honest with each other!

A Ceremony Quest

For this ceremony, we went on a quest. You know the way everyone’s on a journey these days? Well, I reckon what they’re really talking about is a quest. A quest can be a journey, but it’s no ordinary journey. It’s a journey with a goal in mind. In fairytales, the quest is for treasure, for gold or some other valuable goods. Our quest was to find the value in ourselves and in the world around us. A powerful metaphor that fit our group perfectly.

For my quest, I took them on a virtual trip to the Ardmore Cliffs on the coast of Waterford. By that, I mean, I stuck a photograph of the cliffs up on the screen and asked them to imagine they were there. The cliff walk is the start of a longer pilgrimage walk taken by St Declan in the fifth century CE. Since a pilgrimage is a type of quest, this felt like the right place to start.

I chose two readings which matched the quest theme. One was the utterly joyous poem by Dr Seuss, The Places You’ll Go. It’s easy to see why this is such a favourite in ceremonies. It shows that the whole world is open to you, if you have the right spirit of adventure. The second reading was more contemplative. Just Another Walk by Kathy Forsythe is a pem inspired by the teaching of the Buddha. It encourages you to pay ttention to the world around you, and to remember that while you walk, you are not alone.

This is a quote from the Dr Seuss reading used in this life ceremony, and gives people an idea of what was read.

This is a quote from the Dr Seuss reading The Places You’ll Go, in white writing on a blue background. There’s a little white man running at the bottom of the photo. The writing says, ‘You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.’ – Dr Seuss. Photo Credit: Yvonne Cahalane

The true joy of the ceremony came from the two rituals we did together. It didn’t matter that we weren’t in the same room – these rituals united us. First, we wrote wishes for ourselves on pieces of paper, then attached the paper to a piece of ribbon, and hung the ribbon for a place where we could always see our wish. On those grey, listless days, we can look at those wishes and remember why we’re doing what we do. And we can look to a brighter future.

Sand Ceremony Ritual

Our next ritual was a sand ceremony. We all held little pots of sand in our hands. On my signal, we all poured our sand into other decorative pots. All of us had started off with our own sand, but now our sand was all mixed together. You could no longer tell which sand was mine and which belonged to the other women. This mingling of sand showed that we were now one. Even virtually, we were all able to feel that sense of coming together, of lives that are now intertwined.

This picture shows how the sand ceremony worked and how people approached it in creative ways.

There’s sand in a small bottle, which is tied to a purple ribbon resting on a table. There’s also a piece of paper with a wish on it. This again is Yvonne Cahalane’s work. She found a beautiful way of tying the wishing and sand rituals together.

It sounds like there was a lot in this ceremony, but each part of it actually went really fast. This left room for another very important part of the ceremony – sharing the transformations we had made during these difficult pandemic months. Our transformations centred on confidence, abundance, and trust in our own abilities. This was a profound moment for us all. There was a sense of celebration, but also of awareness of the sacrifices we had made, and how we had dug deep to find our inner strength.

Finishing the Ceremony

I finished the ceremony with a short verse I had written myself called The Lighthearted Women’s Blessing. I’ll keep those words within our lovely group, but I’m hoping it ended the ceremony on a high note. Afterwards, there was a lot of banter, about graveyards and crooked pictured. We finished the night knowing that our bonds were stronger than steel.

This ceremony got me thinking. Usually celebrants deliver baby naming, wedding and vow renewal ceremonies, and these are all wonderful occasions? But why should people have to wait for those milestones? Why shouldn’t everyone have a ceremony of some kind?

There’s lots to celebrate about you, and that’s why I’m launching a service called Ceremonies For You. It’s for people who want a ceremony that’s different from the usual ones, a ceremony that celebrates the life choices they’ve made.

If you’d like to find out more about how I can create a ceremony that celebrates you and your friends or to mark milestones that are important for you, send me a mail on info@celebrantderv.ie. I’d love to hear from you.

Making Your Family Ceremony A Truly Joyful Experience

By Derbhile Graham

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about family ceremonies. There was a method to my madness – I was secretly planning a family ceremony, for the lovely Healy family in West Cork, in the deep south of Ireland. The family ceremony happened yesterday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The family seemed to enjoy it too, so I’m going to chalk it up as a success.

The family were in a forest clearing and I was in my home in Tramore, Co. Waterford. We were connected by the mighty power of Zoom, but it felt as if I were there with them, watching their joy unfold. I’m now delighted to say that I’ve performed my first virtual ceremony – and nothing crashed!

Zoom Screenshot From Ceremony
I took a screenshot from the Zoom video of the ceremony. On the left-hand side is the lovely wood the family went to for their ceremony. On the right-hand side you see me in my flowery pink dress, with a pearl necklace on, looking the part for the ceremony.

The inspiration for the ceremony was a special wedding anniversary, but as this is a tight family unit, it made sense to get the whole family involved, with starring roles for the two young Healy children. So, we planned a ceremony full of rituals that the children could be part of.

Starting the Ceremony

To start with, I asked the family to stand in a circle, holding hands, because a circle goes on forever, just like their family. I also spoke about the woods where they were having their ceremony and how much the woods meant to them. Then I read a short poem called ‘Family Comes Together’ by Glaedr the Poet .

After that, the fun began. The family carried out rituals which symbolised their togetherness as a family. First, they did a sand ceremony. They all brought containers of sand from a local beach that they go to regularly, and they poured that sand into a special container, to show that they were inseparable as a family.

Then they showed me a page they had created with their fingerprints on it in rainbow colours. I told them that nobody’s fingerprints are the same. But when you put your fingerprints on the same page, it shows that you are joined together forever.

Wishes and Promises

Next came the part of the ceremony that was meant to be solemn: the ring and vow exchange. But when you put jelly rings and children into the mix, you can forget about solemn. For me, it was the most joyful part of the ceremony.

The family gave each other rings and shouted, ‘I do!’ As a celebrant, you have to know when to scrap your script, so I asked the family to all shout out, ‘We do!’ to affirm their commitment to love each other always.

The final ritual for the ceremony was the one the youngest child had been waiting for – bubble wishes. It’s quite simple. You blow bubbles and make a wish. The wish goes into the bubble and the bubble goes out into the world. As there was a strong wind on the day, we reckoned the bubbles would float to America and back!

The ceremony ended with a song the family had chosen. I left them alone to listen to it and chat amongst themselves. It was a song called A Million Dreams from The Greatest Showman (link), a song which is all about sharing dreams and good wishes for the future. A perfect choice for a family ceremony.

Thanks so much to the Healy family for being my guinea pigs for the virtual ceremony. I wish them a brilliant future full of love, joy and laughter.

Would you like to celebrate your family? I’d be delighted to help you do that with your very own family ceremony. Email info@celebrantderv.ie or call me, Derbhile, on 087 6959799 if you’d like to find out more.

Celebrate Your Wedding Day With A Zoom Wedding

In the next few months, I’m going to be offering 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 very 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.

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.

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.

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: 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.

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

× WhatsApp Me