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.

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.

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.

My Wonderful Week of Celebrancy

Marketing experts advise you that your blog posts should be SEO friendly. They should solve problems for people and educate people about the big world of celebrancy, and that’ll make it easy for Dr Google to find them. I’m happy to follow that advice most of the time, but sometimes I just need to let rip and share the joy of my job.

This is just such a week. I did have a sensible blog post planned, and I’ll bring that to you next week, but this week, I want to celebrate. It’s been a wonderful week in my life as an independent celebrant, the biggest week since I qualified. And it’s not over yet.

In these strange times, it’s hard to find the balance between carrying on with your business and being sensitive to the stress people are under. But I wanted to share my success with you, to show that even in these times, there is still cause for celebration. It’s okay to be happy. And it’s okay to dream of better times to come.

So, here’s a rundown of my big, wonderful celebrant week.

Monday – Flagging Celebrant Directory Blog

I put up a boast on social media about the fact that I’m to be a guest blogger on The Celebrant Directory on Friday. I thought I’d generate a bit of excitement about the blog post first, and I got lots of lovely comments on social media. I started to feel like an influencer!

Tuesday – Got Local Media Coverage

I was featured in an article in one of my local papers, the Waterford News and Star. I was interviewed by the lovely Dymphna Nugent (the_english_teacher_ on Instagram) for a column called Well Said, where local people reflect on life and what makes them tick. As someone who grew up in a large family, I welcome any chance to talk about myself without interruption! And I was delighted to have the chance to share my passion for all things celebrant.

Wednesday – Booked A Wedding

I confirmed a booking for a wedding! This has been bubbling for a little while. Through this fine website, I was contacted by a couple living in America who are already legally married. They’re planning a wedding in October in a rather lovely hotel called Barnabrow House in East Cork, near the groom’s home town. I’ll be sharing all the details with you as they evolve. We’re being optimistic that everything will happen as planned – we’re daring to dream.

This is a picture of Barnabrow House in Midleton, East Cork, where I’m planning to deliver an autumn wedding ceremony.
Photo Credit: Barnabrow House

Thursday – Virtual Vow Renewal

Amazing how all your ships come in at once. I made an arrangement to do a virtual vow renewal in early June. I’ll be at my home near the sea in Tramore, Co. Waterford, and this couple will be in a forest clearing in West Cork with their children, many miles away. But my ceremonial words will reach them through the magic of Zoom.

Friday – Guest Blog Post Day

Friday 1 May is the schedule date for my blog post on The Celebrant Directory. I’ll have access to zillions of eyeballs on this site, which is an international directory of celebrants. It also offers marketing tips and inspiration to celebrants. I’m hoping that my post, a shinier version of the post I wrote for this blog about legal wedding ceremonies in Ireland, will add to that vibe of inspiration. I’ll stick up a link to it on this blog tomorrow so you won’t miss it.

If you are missing a chance to celebrate big occasions with your family, I’d love to help you find ways around it. These special moments deserve to be marked, and planning a celebration will give you something to look forward to. You can email me on info@celebrantderv.ie or call 087 6959799.

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