When I’m asked the question, ‘so what do you do for a living’ and I say, ‘I’m a Celebrant’, I’m more often than not, met with a puzzled expression or the question, ‘a WHAT?’!
If I say ‘I’m a Humanist Celebrant’ (which I am) there’s sometimes a glimmer of recognition, but generally little chance of the person knowing or really understanding what I do.
Not only is the job title ‘Celebrant’ a new one for many, but all that the role of a Celebrant entails, is still not really known about by Jo/e Public. It’s usually only when people attend a celebration or ceremony, led by a Celebrant, that they come into contact with us and begin to understand that there is an alternative, personalised option for Weddings, Funerals, Baby Namings, Vow Renewals and possibilities for other celebrations or ceremonies, such as ‘coming of age’ or even divorce.
I’ve always been used to people understanding what my job is. I was a teacher and a Headteacher before I became a Celebrant - technically I still am, although I haven’t worked in schools for a few years. I therefore often tell people ‘I’m a teacher too’; not to mislead them in any way, but rather to reassure them, that I have credibility; that I’m an educated, professional and ‘qualified’ person, and that other Celebrants are too - very much so in my experience.
Celebrants are very often people who’ve held jobs and roles that have required them to gain qualifications, perhaps to have been through further education, some kind of training - and they’ve more often than not held a certain amount of responsibility in their working life. They are likely to be people whose ‘previous life’ or maybe their ‘other job’ (because you’re unlikely to make your fortune purely from being a celebrant) is labelled by society a ‘profession’. Celebrancy is very much a ’profession’ because it’s a job that requires a great deal of skill, talent, organisational prowess, and because most Celebrants are likely to be undertaking some kind of ongoing professional development, whether it be from their training organisation or as a result of them signing up to conferences, workshops and networking sessions; they are committed to improvement and learning. After all, professional people are those who care (or who should do) about their work, and are committed to providing a high quality service and experience for the customer.
Celebrants are also (in my experience) warm, friendly, capable, confident people who strive to make a positive difference to others and who will go out other way to create and deliver ceremonies and celebrations that are personal, memorable and ‘just right’ for the client.
BUT and I make no apology for stating the obvious - Celebrants are all different . . . . with similarities of course - but the bottom line is we all have different approaches and styles - because we are all unique human beings of course! We do the same job, but in in our own very personal way, which probably varies in our job more than it does in the vast majority of other professions. WHY is that . . . well I think it’s because there are very few rules in our work . . . and a big part of the service we offer, is to work very creatively, crafting ceremonies that reflect the unique individuals that the occasions are for. So every single ceremony will be in some way different from those that have gone before - our unique selling point!
So why am I writing this blog, when what I have just said is so flippin’ obvious?! Well it’s because I’m beginning to get rather frustrated, not only for myself as a Celebrant (in my fifth year of ceremonies work), but also on behalf of my clients and potential clients - the people who are looking to find and book a Celebrant for their wedding, baby naming or the perhaps the funeral of a loved one - who just don’t have the correct information!
There are so many MYTHS out there about Celebrants - who they are, what they can and can’t do, how they can be found, where they can work, etc.
So here’s a bit of myth-busting to help clients (and also other Celebrants who may be new to celebrancy) to understand what is true and what is false when it comes to finding the ideal Celebrant.
Let’s unpick those crazy MYTHS . . .
1. Anyone can become a Celebrant, with no formal training. Whilst this is technically true, the majority of 'good’ Celebrants choose to train with an organisation (of which there are several across the UK), attending a course, completing assessments and consequently obtaining a ‘certification’ or ‘accreditation’. Not all Celebrants are ‘qualified’ though - in fact some Celebrants have no specific, formal ‘training’ for the role whatsoever, and I know a couple who are absolutely excellent, despite this. But most would argue it is far better to commission a ‘trained’ or ‘accredited’ (or at the least a really experienced) Celebrant. Having said that, anyone can ‘train' and that training will not make someone lacking the many personal attributes required to become a successful Celebrant, a good celebrant, no matter how hard they try.
2. Celebrants are all Humanists. I hear this misconception ALL the time and it drives me nutty! Most people don’t understand that there are different ‘kinds’ of Celebrants, broadly grouped as follows (THIS IS NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE LIST, just a general guide):
- Humanist Celebrants - lead non-religious or secular ceremonies or services (which can include hymns or readings with religious words, as long as they are not included as ‘acts of worship’). Humanist Celebrants are trained and accredited by Humanists UK (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Channel Islands Humanists (in the Channel Islands) and by The Humanist Society (in Scotland).
- Independent & Civil Celebrants - lead ceremonies/services that are both religious and non-religious (depending on the individual Celebrant, as there are some Independent Celebrants who are non-religious and who prefer not to include acts of worship - in my experience though, most are happy to accommodate prayers, bible readings, etc if wanted)
- Pagan, Wiccan & Druid Celebrants - lead ceremonies often incorporating spiritual,
symbolic rituals, drawn from Celtic or Druidic traditions and beliefs - many may, like other Celebrants, offer non-spiritual ceremonies as well (always best to check what the individual Celebrants themselves offers, in your initial contact)
3. Celebrants perform ‘fake’ weddings. I always respond to anyone daring to tell me that the weddings I lovingly craft and lead aren’t ‘real’ by explaining that there’s a distinct difference between a marriage and a wedding!
A marriage is after all, the legally binding ‘contract’ (and really no more), but the wedding is the ceremony that celebrates that marriage or partnership and during which genuine promises are made between two people. Therefore no wedding can ever really be ‘fake’, unless one of the parties is not fully committed to the marriage or entering into it dishonestly. Most couples who undertake to commission a Celebrant to create and lead their wedding ceremony, feel exactly the same way, and want their ceremony to be the meaningful, personalised focus of their wedding day, during which they say and do exactly as they wish, celebrating their unique relationship and their hopes for their future as a married couple.
As of Dec’ 18 only Humanist Celebrants in Scotland, Northern Island and Jersey can legally marry couples, in addition to offering a truly personalised wedding ceremony. If couples in the rest of the UK wish to have a personalised Celebrant-led ceremony (with any kind of Celebrant not just Humanist) and wish to be legally married, they are required to legally register their marriage at a register office (or with a registrar at their venue - but this is inevitably a very expensive way of ticking the legal box).
Most couples with whom I work tend to register their marriage in advance of their wedding day, simply and cheaply with no fuss; no need to book a ceremony room (even though the registration service might try to persuade a couple to pay for a room, there is no rule saying that people have to have one) - therefore saving all the special, meaningful elements such as personalised vows, ring exchange, etc for the wedding day and their wedding ceremony.
4. Celebrants wear robes. I’m often asked what I wear to lead ceremonies. Occasionally people (and this tends to be older folk) tell me they expected me to turn up in robes, similar to a priest or vicar. Some religious Celebrants choose to wear clothes that reflect their belief (e.g. a clerical collar and/or a gown-style garment) but most Celebrants wear ‘ordinary’ clothes, albeit smart and appropriate for the occasion. Some dress more formally than others but that is because, as I have mentioned before, we are all different!
5. Celebrants are rich! If truth be told, most Celebrants are working for the minimum wage, when you add up all the hours that we pour into our ceremonies and our clients. What goes on behind the scenes, before the ceremony actually takes place, is rarely considered by those looking to book a Celebrant. People will not understand (and why would they) that almost every single ceremony requires a great deal of client contact (ideally face to face but sometimes via Skype or phone), travelling (to/from the client meeting and the ceremony itself - and in the case of a wedding, a rehearsal as well), several hours of writing, redrafting, emails and phone calls; to check content, answer questions and arrange practical details, etc.
Most funerals I’m involved with will take up anything between 1.5 and 3 days from start to finish - depending on distance, travel time, contact and meetings with the family and and the complexity of the ceremony. Working with people dealing with grief, can often be very time-consuming, for obvious reasons.
Most wedding ceremonies I create and lead, take anything between 4 and 5 working days - from initial contact with the clients, to arriving home through the front door, after travelling back from the ceremony on the wedding day itself. That’s a huge time commitment for a ceremony that lasts about 45 minutes. But if the client wants a truly bespoke and tailor made ceremony, the time commitment is an essential part of getting everything ‘just right’.
The wedding ceremony is after all, an absolutely essential part of the wedding day, reflecting the people whose relationship it celebrates; setting the scene for the rest of the celebrations, so it must be spot on. It’s a huge responsibility to take on - and therefore a role not for the faint-hearted!
A bespoke Celebrant-led ceremony is actually incredible value for money, particularly when you compare the cost to other things purchased for weddings and provided by other wedding suppliers. A Celebrant will rarely charge anywhere near as much as a photographer, a videographer or a caterer - and the fee charged for a tailor-made ceremony is very unlikely to be as much as the wedding attire - the dress, or sometimes even the shoes!
The fee charged for a Celebrant-led funeral ceremony is also extremely reasonable, when you consider the overall financial burden of a funeral. When you look at prices of coffins for example (the vast majority of which are destroyed by cremation) the cost of that alone can be huge. A Celebrant-led funeral, if well-crafted and led should leave lasting, comforting memories for those in attendance - and most Celebrants charge a small percentage of the overall funeral cost, to provide that.
The majority of Celebrants are in the job for the love of it - as are a lot of other wedding suppliers. We know we’re never (in the words of Del Boy) going to become millionaires Rodney! The huge satisfaction we get from a job well-done is the motivation for most of us.
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Mission accomplished - myths busted. I hope you enjoyed reading - and if this inspires you to consider the Celebrant option for any ceremony, I hope it helps you to track down the perfect Celebrant for your occasion.
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If you have an enquiry, any questions about Celebrant-led ceremonies, or just fancy an initial chat about a ceremony you have in mind, do get in touch WITH NO OBLIGATION at all. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07814208087.