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.

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.

Make Your Vow Renewal Even Better Than Your Wedding

Nothing could be better than your wedding day, could it? The day you and your beloved tell each other, and the world, that you will be together for life. But there is another day that can be just as good – in fact, it can even be better. That’s the day of your vow renewal.

At a vow renewal, you renew the vows you made on your wedding day. It’s as simple as that. You get a second chance to tell each other that you’re committed for life.

This is a picture of a man and a woman dressed in formal clothes. They are standing very close to each other, with trees in the background. Photo Credit: Dermot Byrne Photograhy

You can see a video of a vow renewal on my vow renewals page, which will show you what to expect from your vow renewal ceremony. But I wanted to share more about why I think vow renewals can be even better than weddings.

You get the wedding you want

If you were getting married 20-30 years ago, chances were, you had a lot less control over your wedding. Certainly in Ireland, the only ceremony options were a church or a registry office, and people’s parents usually paid for the wedding.

That meant you didn’t to choose how you celebrated your day. Your vow renewal gives you a second chance to have the wedding you always dreamed of. You choose the venue, the music, and what to say. It’ll be your day, your way.

You won’t miss a moment

On your wedding day, you were probably in a tizzy of excitement as you prepared to spend the rest of your life with the one you loved. There were probably a lot of people there for you to greet. It’s no surprise that for many people, their wedding day is a blur.

At your vow renewal, you will probably be just as excited, but you’ll also be calmer and more mature. The crowd is likely to be smaller. That gives you a real chance to savour the day and to keep the memories crystal clear in your mind.

You can celebrate how far you’ve come.

You’ve been together for a long time and you’ve been through a lot together. You’ve proven that your love is real, not just a fairytale. A vow renewal gives you a chance to stake stock and celebrate all that you’ve achieved together.

That’s why lots of people time their vow renewals with a significant wedding anniversary. You can celebrate the family you’ve created, the challenges you’ve overcome and the brilliant moment you’ve enjoyed together.

So, what kind of vow renewal ceremony can you have? Here are some ideas for your vow renewal.

An Intimate Ceremony

If you wished you could have had a small wedding ceremony, now’s your chance. You can organise your ceremony with just your family and a few close friends for an intimate experience. What better way to celebrate than with the people who are most precious to you?

A Family Ceremony

If you have young children and you do everything together as a family, you can get the whole family involved in your ceremony. There are so many creative, colourful rituals you can do together, rituals that confirm your love for each other as a family. These rituals will strengthen your bonds and remind you that you are joined to each other forever.

Full-Scale Wedding

Maybe when you were getting married, you couldn’t afford a big wedding. Well, now’s your chance to celebrate in style. Wear the white dress and the fancy suit. Invite all the people you weren’t able to invite to your wedding, and treat yourself and your guests to a fancy meal in a hotel, followed by a night of dancing. Let the champagne flow and give yourself the wedding experience you didn’t get to have.

I’m hoping this blog post will show you that vow renewals aren’t just for celebrities. If I have, and you want to start planning your vow renewal ceremony, I’ll be happy to help. Just give me a call on 00 353 87 6959799.

× WhatsApp Me