No! I’m not a Planner! (or: How to be a Celebrant)
The question I get asked most often is “What’s a Celebrant?”. The second question is about how I got into celebrancy work. Then people either say, “Oh it must be really sad and upsetting”, followed by “I’d love to do that”, or “I don’t know how you could do that, I’d be terrified”.
Happily, I am not nervous, nor shy, and I love, love, LOVE what I do. Whether it is a wedding, a vow renewal, a baby naming ceremony, or a funeral, I consider it a privilege to be involved at such key events in people’s lives.
The role of Celebrant (also called Civil Celebrant, Independent Celebrant, Professional Celebrant and so on) is not regulated in England and Wales, so theoretically, anyone could do it. And they do – like in any profession, one hears horror stories. Thankfully they are rare in the Celebrancy world, and generally celebrants are a very professional, conscientious bunch!
So what qualities are needed? I’ve listed them here, not in any particular order; just as they popped into my mind…
- Good Listener
- Public Speaker
- Computer Literate
- Non Judgemental
- Time Aware
- Self Reliant
- Car owner/driver
I daresay there are many more, but without any of these, I don’t think I could give justice to the role of celebrant. Thankfully I have honed my skills through my previous working life, especially during my 26 years in the Civil Service. I worked at various military locations, and gained experience as a Management Trainer, I also spent a few years writing letters and papers for government ministers, some destined for the PM. I had often to address a room full of senior Military Officers, and I have worked overseas on many occasions. All my skills have been brought into play and I use them today, in the role I feel I was born to do!
Working from home, in a team of one (!) – as many celebrants do, the question arose as to what to do about Continuing Professional Development (CPD)? After my initial training with the Fellowship of Independent Celebrants (FOIC) , how would I ensure that I was performing as best I could?
Well, FOIC holds quarterly meetings where Celebrants can meet and learn new skills – we’ve had workshops on a wide variety of issues such using Unity Candles, on Celtic Handfastings, on infant deaths, on Masonic funeral rites. I gave a talk about Dementia (I’m a trained Dementia Friends Champion), as we sometimes will come into contact with a family member living with the condition.
On the funeral side, I have also undergone further training and awareness with an organisation called Dying Matters, as well as with Cruse. If we can learn talk about death matter of factly, it will diminish its sting. I remember when the word ‘cancer’ was referred to as ‘the Big C’, and said in a hushed, ‘behind the hand’ sort of way… I would love the day to come when we can openly talk about death without the hushed tones.
I also recently invited a lovely celebrant colleague (out of the area) to come and observe one of my funerals. Julia Jones, of Lilac Blessings, watched my service, for the technical aspects – the content, delivery, flow, pitch and speed of my delivery… every aspect of what I do.
And a Celebrant who I have met via the internet is currently developing some advanced training for a group of us – with an overseas guest lecturer. Given that Celebrancy is in its infancy compared with Australia, Canada, New Zealand – we can gather much from overseas celebrants too.
There is indeed much to learn …. and I am enjoying discovering it all!