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What is a celebrant?

What is a celebrant?’ Friends asked me this question when I started my journey, and my response was usually ‘it’s a bit like a minister or registrar’. Now that I have been trained to write for funerals as well as weddings, I appreciate that celebrants can do more than a registrar and explore a wider remit than most religious representatives.

When my friend lost her husband suddenly five years ago, the celebrant was fantastic. It wasn’t just the ceremony she performed with humour, or the warm tribute she wrote, but the empathy and care she gave to the family, that allowed her to get such a clear picture of the larger-than-life character that he had been in life. It’s a skill to be able to do this at such a difficult time; to celebrate achievements, love and relationships that were so important to the family, while respecting that a great loss has occurred. She hadn’t met him, but she really brought his full character to life.

I was considered a good listener by colleagues, students, and friends, and after chatting to other celebrants, I knew that being sociable would also be important. Clients could be allocated by a funeral arranger or be drawn to my interests via social media, or just how I look on the AoIC directory, so as a celebrant you must be open and engage with any situation, or persons, and quickly establish a comfortable space where personal details can be shared. Empathy and discretion are key.

Religions and their many facets have always interested me despite being non-religious. My wedding had been in a hotel, overseen by a wedding official and they gave the informal surroundings an air of importance. However, it was the reading given by my future father-in-law that I remembered from the ceremony, and the one by my Dad in the speeches. The weddings of friends from the LGBTQ+ community were equally personal, with vows that meant so much to them, written by them with the help of their celebrants. It is our job to facilitate such memorable moments. While a priest may be celibate, a celebrant will explore passion and love through music, poetry, and readings in a celebrant tribute. This can range from the Gothic prose of Byron to the cutting wit of John Cooper Clarke or the lyrics of Burt Bacharach. Research is key to finding those perfect words.

If you think that celebrants are just for weddings and funerals, what about celebrating a special occasion to thank your partner, your children or family or even a group of friends and show them how grateful you are for them with a tribute written by a celebrant? A celebrant can be the master of ceremonies and allow all participants to enjoy the moment.

As I journeyed through my recent celebrant training and began building my marketing strategy, trying to identify my niche meant that I had to ask for help. As a celebrant, while you are a lone voice and self-employed, from the outset you will need to collaborate. Working with other creatives to build branding and a website, while learning to use social media for business as opposed to pleasure has been the steepest learning curve yet. Collaborating with photographers, wedding or funeral venues, funeral directors and arrangers are just some of the teams that make these events run smoothly and help make the celebrant look good on the day. You must be a team player and you definitely will benefit from having a graphics and marketing guru on your team!

So, after five months of training, what do I think a celebrant is? Not simply a writer, public speaker, and master of ceremonies, but also a sympathetic ear and empathetic storyteller. A passionate researcher who can reflect your stories without imposing their own views or taste. Professional and authentic, discreet, and flexible, and just like those personal ads, a GSOH (good sense of humour) always helps.

With thanks to my marketing guru Eleanor Beer and Emily Springall for help with my branding.


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