What is a Celebrant?
This is a question I get asked all the time. To be honest, I’d not heard of the term myself until I was arranging my father’s funeral a few years ago. Therefore, I thought it might be useful to detail what a Celebrant is, why you might need one and what you need to know if you’re thinking of becoming a Celebrant yourself.
Let’s start at the start. What is a Celebrant? As I said, I first found out about the idea of a Celebrant when I was organising my father’s funeral. He was an atheist, so I needed a non religious person to conduct the service, and the funeral director suggested that I find a Celebrant.
A Celebrant isn’t bound by any religion, statute or doctrine, meaning Celebrants are able to construct and perform completely personalised ceremonies for clients. Whilst Celebrants may have a personal belief, these beliefs are just that: personal.
The Differences between Officiants?
You need someone to officiate at a religious service or ceremony, but there are different types of people who can do this.
Firstly there is the Clergy. The Clergy carry out ceremonies that contain religious wording, prayers and religious hymns. Then there are ceremonies carried out by humanists. These contain humanist doctrine, and anything said or any music played isn’t allowed to have spiritual connotations. There can be no hymns or prayers. Ceremonies carried out by registrars must adhere to required statutory words, and any music played or any wording must not contain any religious or spiritual connotations. Wedding ceremonies conducted by a registrar must also take place in a licensed venue or structure.
Whereas all of these have rules to abide by, Celebrant ceremonies can contain any wording at all, whether it be religious, spiritual or personal. It is often a combination of all three, but ultimately it’s whatever the client wants.
Celebrant ceremonies are about those who the ceremony is for – telling the story of the client, not the ideologies of religion. They will often include some humour and celebrate the person’s life.
Some celebrants specialise in only weddings or only funerals. I trained in both to become a Funeral and Family Celebrant. Let’s take a look at these in a bit more depth.
This is obviously a difficult time for anyone. I spend as much time as needed with each of my clients prior to the service, usually within the comfort of their own home, although recently it’s been through Skype or Zoom chats. I find it’s important to build a relationship with the family, listening to their wishes and hearing their stories. The process is also often cathartic for them and an important part of their grief journey. It’s about working alongside my clients to compose a truly uplifting service which is totally unique to any other.
Although I can create and conduct personalised weddings, a Celebrant cannot legally marry a couple. They’d need to visit a registrar in order to arrange the more formal side of things. However, if couples are looking for a less formal, relaxed party atmosphere, then a Celebrant can be a great option.
For each Ceremony, there are no scripts and no templated words. Each one is unique and led by the couple, whom I form a relationship with over the time we start our journey together. This is the part of the job that I enjoy the most. I’m definitely a people person and I love finding out what makes their relationship special and then conveying this through my words.
You could also use a Celebrant for vow renewals, naming ceremonies, divorce celebrations, gender reassignment and adoption.
Who can be a Celebrant?
Anyone can be a Celebrant, but I believe this career path is a vocation. It can be very emotional. You need to be able to put your feelings to one side and have the ability to empathise, whilst keeping a professional detachment which enables you to deliver the words, as this is ultimately what you are there for.
If you’re interested in becoming a Celebrant, then training and becoming part of a professional body is advisable. I trained with the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants. As the largest organisation of independent Celebrants in the UK and Europe, our Celebrants are professionally trained to write and deliver personalised ceremonies full of meaning and heart. Our motto is “Your Voice, Your Choice, Your Ceremony.”
I find the best compliment I get is when someone says to me, “You summed them up perfectly,” or, “Mum would have loved the service – it felt like she was in the room with us.” I know I’ve done a good job then and I know I’ve given the family the service they wanted.
If you’d like any more details on either using a Celebrant or becoming one yourself, please do contact me. I’d be delighted to discuss your needs.