My Life As A Visually Impaired Celebrant

Anyone who reads my blogs and social media posts may have noticed that I always add a photo description to each post. The photo description tells search engines what’s in your photograph, but it also tells anyone who’s visually impaired or blind what’s in your photo. I felt it was only right to set a good example and add these photo descriptions, because I myself am a visually impaired celebrant.

I can see enough. That’s the best way I can describe it. Thanks to my trusty magnifier, I can see print and images on my laptop easily enough. But move print any more than six inches away from my face and it disappears. I have a turbulent relationship with steps, which turns some ceremony venues into an adventure for me. And it takes me a little more time to get to grips with the finer details of some ceremony rituals.

Challenges in Celebrancy Training

When I was doing my celebrant training, my sight proved more of a challenge than I expected. I’ve had the same sight all my life, so it doesn’t knock a feather out of me at this stage. Usually once I have the handouts in front of me and can listen to the presenter, I fly through course material. But our course manual was printed in the smallest, faintest font known to man. And I couldn’t really tell what the tutors were doing when they were showing us the rituals, particularly the handfasting.

I had explained my situation before I began my celebrancy training with the IIOC and asked the tutors to spend a bit of extra time with me on the rituals. They let me actually do the ritual, so I could feel the ribbon in my hands and see up close where it was meant to go. I was grateful for the extra time they spent and managed to do a perfect handfasting at the mock ceremony I did on the day of my celebrant exam.

I also let the course organisers know that the manual wasn’t accessible and I’ve been told they were planning to update it since. COVID may well have made that situation easier, as the IIOC is currently delivering its courses via Zoom. That means that any visually impaired attendees of the course can use their magnifiers or their screen readers (software that reads all the information on a screen for blind people) to access the course material.

So, how do I then deliver a ceremony?

Well, mostly I use my superpower – my ability to memorise large amounts of information. After I write my ceremony, I learn it off word for word. I find this the best way to manage. If I were to read it in the normal way, my face would be buried behind the book. If I memorise it, I can look out at the crowd and let them see my face. I still have my ceremony book, with the script in giant writing in case I get lost. But mostly I never use my celebrant book.

This pic illustrates how I manage my ceremony text as a visually impaired celebrant.
Pic Caption: This is me in my pink celebrant suit with yellow bushes in the background. I’m holding my celebrant book and if you look closely, you can see the giant writing. (Photo Credit: Dermot Byrne Photography)

I’ll also spend time practising the rituals. All celebrants do this anyway, but I know I need to spend a little extra time on them so I can feel comfortable lighting candles and tying ribbons under pressure. Taking this time literally gives me a feel for the ritual, so I’m not just relying on my sight to pull the ritual off during the ceremony.

Then on the day, I spend extra time scoping out the venue. Celebrants are advised to turn up well in advance of a ceremony anyway, so I’ll turn up about two hours before the ceremony and walk around the venue to see if there are any steps that may trip me up. Funny enough, flights of steps are okay, but one step can be a landmine, so it’s good to know that step is there.

My Ceremony Helpers

It’s good to have an ally on the day, someone who knows the score and can step in if needed. If it’s a wedding, I’d probably inform the best man about my eye condition, and if it’s a funeral, I’d let the funeral director know. But my biggest ally of all is my husband.

As many ceremony venues are away from public transport links, and there can be a lot of materials to carry, he drives to the venue with me and helps me to set up. He’s a good logistics man with a sharp eye for detail, so he’s the secret weapon to my success as a celebrant.

Because of my own background, I’d love to work with couples and families who have disabilities of all kinds. I’ll do all I can to make sure the ceremony experience I create is accessible for everyone. If you want to get in touch with me about my ceremonies, please contact me on info@celebrantderv.ie.

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.

Why Small Weddings Are Mighty

It’s brilliant news for couples in Ireland this week as wedding ceremonies can go ahead again. But they’re going to be small, and that will be a challenge for some couples. Irish families tend to be big, so Irish weddings tend to be big. Cutting down the guest list could lead to you making deadly enemies.

But small weddings are mighty. I know this because my own wedding was small. I’m going to tell you what made my small wedding mighty, to encourage you to make the leap and plan a small, intimate wedding day.

You’re Surrounding Yourself With Those Closest To You

There were thirty people at my wedding, including our families – and us of course.  It was a real privilege to be able to share the day with the people who meant the most to us. We felt that by inviting them to our wedding, we could show our appreciation to them for the role they had played in our lives and for the support and love they had given to us.

I’m aware of what a privilege it was to have all the people we loved in the same room. And our guests were able to get to know each other, and the chat and laughter flowed all night.

You Can Talk To Everyone

Because the crowd on the day was small, we didn’t have to worry that we wouldn’t be able to get round to everyone. We were able to exchange more than just a passing hello with our guests – we were able to have full-length conversations with them, to chat, laugh and share memories.

If you have a small wedding, you won’t be left with the nagging fear that you didn’t get to talk to everyone. You’ll strengthen the connections with the ones who are most dear to you.

Find out more about my wedding ceremonies, big or small, on my Weddings page.

Flexibility In Your Choice of Venue

My wedding reception was in my family home. We were able to do that because we had a tidy crowd. Having a smaller guest list opens you up to a host of cosy, quirky small wedding venues you mightn’t otherwise have considered.

There are lots of converted churches, arts venues and restaurants opening themselves up for weddings. Why not avail of the opportunity to host your wedding in a venue with a difference. You’ll create a really intimate atmosphere for your guests that they’ll always remember.  

Your Guests Will Feel Involved

Because of the small crowd, lots of the guests played a central role in the wedding ceremony.  The ceremony was in a church, so some guests did readings and prayers of the faithful. I had my sisters as bridesmaids, my husband had a groomsman and my mother gave me away. That gave people a sense of involvement in the wedding.

There are lots of other ways to involve your guests in your small wedding. You can ask them to make cakes, help with decorations or style your hair. They’ll love feeling that they’ve helped to make your day special.

This photo is largely decorative and captures the atmosphere of my wedding day.

This is a picture of me in my red wedding dress with matching red fascinater. I’m in  surrounded by grass and flowers, and there are mountains behind me.

It’s A Less Costly Option

Let’s face it – cost is a factor in planning your wedding. If you are on a budget, a small wedding will be less of a headache for you. You’ll be able to enjoy your day without worrying about getting into debt. I felt I was able to give my guests a five-star wedding experience on a much smaller budget. I was also aware that weddings can be expensive for guests and it felt good to know that I wasn’t adding extra expense for my guests, like accommodation and drinks costs.

My small, intimate wedding gave me memories to last a lifetime, and I want to reassure you that yours will too.

I’m really looking forward to officiating small, mighty weddings in the future – in fact, I have one booked for next year. If you’d like to join my list of wedding bookings, drop me a WhatsApp on 087 6959799.

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.

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

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

Ceremonies and the Coronavirus

The escalation of the Coronavirus outbreak and the measures being taken to curb it have blown away my plans for this week’s blog post. I want to say instead that my heart goes out to all those affected by the Coronavirus outbreak and their families. And my heart goes out to all the people who have had to cancel baby naming, wedding and vow renewal ceremonies.

But this too shall pass, and when it does, celebrants like me can help you plan your rescheduled ceremonies. In the meantime, I want to say that I’m here to help couples who planned a wedding ceremony abroad and have now been grounded. I can put together a ceremony for you at very short notice and deliver it to you in any venue in South-East Ireland. Once your gathering is small, I’ll be only too delighted to help you make your dreams come true.

And to my fellow celebrants, let’s sit tight and help our clients and each other in any way we can. If you find you can’t deliver a ceremony because you have an underlying condition and don’t want to be exposed, I can step in for you. Or if you want advice on how to write a ceremony at short notice, I’ll be happy to draw on my writing background to give you tips.

In the meantime, I’m coming up with creative ways to spread the word about my celebrancy online. Who knows – they may lead to a big boom in virtual ceremonies!

If you’ve got any questions at all about organising ceremonies in these testing times, contact me, Derbhile, on 00 353 87 6959799.

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