What is a Celebrant and Why Would You Want One?

I am Jon Harris, I am an Independent Celebrant predominantly based in Nottinghamshire but am happy to travel and I am trained by the respected Fellowship of Independent Celebrants (FOIC).

The very first question asked by anyone in response to telling them what I do is…..

What is a Celebrant? I have touched on this in the FAQ’s section of my website but I thought I would delve into the topic a little deeper in my first ever blog…. so here goes!

The dictionary generally describes a Celebrant as;

That pretty much hits the nail on the head and after briefly explaining what I do, the most common reaction afterwards is…. Is that is what it is called? And go on to say “I went to a wedding recently and it was led by a Celebrant, it was so very special, we all felt that it was really personal and actually told us their love story, we got a real sense of who they were as a couple and they involved the whole family… it was different to any I had been to before”… What a wonderful reaction!

You can have a Celebrant lead a service for absolutely anything you want to celebrate, whether that is a wedding, a milestone landmark in your life or a celebration of life for someone who has passed away.

At Eternal Ceremonies, these are broken down into 3 categories – In Love… In Life… In Memory…

In Love…

Concentrates on creating Wedding Ceremonies, Same Sex Ceremonies and Renewal of Vows that are unique and personal to you as a couple.

In Life…

Specialises in creating a ceremony that enables you to share with friends and family a milestone in your life, such as a Retirement, Birthday, Anniversary, Naming Ceremony, Engagement or even a House Blessing. It really is about what you want and what you want to celebrate, some even have Divorce Ceremonies!

In Memory…

This is an area which is increasingly becoming the norm for an Independent Celebrant to be used because it gives families the freedom of choice of what to include in the service. Be that a Funeral Service, Memorial Service or the Scattering/Internment of Ashes, it can be non-religious or semi-religious but the common thread is that it will tell the story of the person that has passed, it will celebrate their life.

In this blog, I will concentrate on the In Love…

The Second question I am often asked is…Why should I have a Celebrant for my wedding?

It really is very simple and a quick check on Google for Celebrant websites will all tell you the same thing, maybe in different terms, phrases or sections but there is a common theme because it is so very true. Whether it is a Wedding Ceremony, Same Sex Ceremony or a Renewal of Vows with the one you love, then it should be all about you! It should be held where you want…when you want…contain what you want and have who you want present…It should be a unique, personal, bespoke ceremony… Does that not make perfect sense? it is your day after all…

We live in a diverse, multi-cultural society and many people feel that they are restricted by the services that are currently available in traditional ceremonies. Some do not go to church and feel a little uncomfortable having a religious ceremony but the registrar is bound by legal requirements and provides limited options, using a set script. The services can feel cold and remote and it feels like a conveyor belt with the registrar churning through similar ceremonies day in and day out. Unfortunately, many of us have been to a wedding that did not represent the couple getting it married, it did not tell their ‘love story’. A celebrant will build a relationship with you, will listen to your life story and provide ideas for the type service, the vows, readings, poems, music and much more, your ceremony will be their sole focus on that day.

I said at the beginning of this part that it was pretty simple, so in summary I will, choosing an Independent Celebrant for your ceremony, whatever ceremony that is, gives you freedom of choice, it significantly broadens your options and it will be unique and personal to you.

If you want to have the traditional church wedding or you want to pop down your local registry office and have a quick wedding without any fuss, then that is absolutely fantastic because you are getting the ceremony you want, myself and other good Celebrants just give you that alternative option.

If you have decided you want to be a little different, you have some ideas about what how you want your special day to be but you are unsure what can be done, I will try and answer some of the other questions that you may have on your mind…

What time can we have the Ceremony?

Anytime… (You will see that common thread becoming very clear, very quickly)

Literally, you can ask a Celebrant to deliver the service whenever you want…If you are a having a destination wedding on a beautiful beach… it can be at sunrise…as the sun rises in the east to open the day, so this wedding ceremony begins at the start of the day to signify the dawn of your new life together…

Alternatively, at sunset… as the sun sets in the west to close the day, so this ceremony begins at the end of the day to reflect the end of this chapter of your love story and the start of another…

Where can we have the Ceremony?

Pretty much anywhere you want…

Some areas you may have to get permission from a local authority or the landowner but surely it should reflect you and your lifestyle. To help you along, picture the ceremony in a place that means something to you as a couple or to your family, an area that holds treasured memories. This may be some woodland, parkland, a barn or field, at a festival, on a beach, some beautiful gardens, your home, a hotel, your village hall or in the grounds of a castle… The choices are endless..

As a gentle reminder, if you wish to ensure that your marriage is recognised legally in the UK, you must book an appointment with your local registry office and comply with the legal proceedings. It does not have to be on the same day, it is your choice.

Can I have my friends and family involved in the Ceremony?

Absolutely, they can be at the core the ceremony, be involved as much or as little as you wish. There are so many different elements where they could contribute and be part of your special day. Your parents could read a poem or some words of advice to you as a couple or your children can be part of lighting a candle to signify your unity as a family. You can include your guests in the ceremony by warming your wedding rings. Before you say your vows and exchange your rings, the rings will be passed to all the guests, your closest friends or just close family, the choice is yours. This allows them to bestow their own blessings onto the rings and to add their own thoughts, wishes and hopes for your marriage. When the rings come back, they are filled with all the love and hope from family and friends.

What words can be used in the Ceremony?

Again, very easy to answer, absolutely anything, an Independent Celebrant can ensure that the Ceremony contains what you want. They provide you with endless options on poems, verses, scripts, music, prayers and help you with the vows.

Independent Celebrant ceremonies can be non-religious or semi-religious with a variety of elements included, that means you can include religious content if required, just because it is not at a church it doesn’t mean you can’t have your favourite reading from the bible or you don’t include your favourite hymn. Alternatively, there can be absolutely no religious content at all.

What can a Celebrant add that is different?

You are not tied down by strict guidelines, be that content, location or even the length of the ceremony. As mentioned before, if you wish friends and family to be included then that option is also available, as can other symbols of love and commitment, such as, Unity Candles, Sand Ceremonies, The Loving Cup, Handfasting, The Warming of Rings and the Sharing of Wine.

Take Handfasting for example, it is widely accepted as being of ancient Celtic origin but there is also evidence that it was practiced by the ancient Greeks and by the Romans. During the Ceremony the hands are tied with ribbons to symbolise the bringing together of the two hearts in a marriage of strength and unity, if loosely tied it would signify that it was for a year and a day, if tighter, then it would symbolise being together for eternity. It is this part of the ceremony that the term ‘tying the knot’ is derived.

Traditionally, 3 cords/ribbons are used, with each being a different colour, some braid the three cords together before the ceremony, and others only use one cord.  As always, it is your choice and they will make a beautiful keepsake of your special day. A sample of what some colours symbolise, Red: Passion, strength, lust, fertility, White: Purity, concentration, meditation, peace, Green: Finances, fertility, charity, prosperity, health, Gold: Energy, wealth, intelligence, longevity.

Ultimately, it is very simple, a Celebrant will create the ceremony you want, where you want it, how you want it and when you want it…. It will be your bespoke ceremony, not a copy from someone else nor to be repeated ever again….

Hopefully, you now have a fuller understanding of what a celebrant does and why you may consider using one for your life celebration. I am keen to try and get this information about our role into the wider community and humbly ask that you share this blog on your preferred social media platform as below. Any feedback, negative or positive would be hugely beneficial as I can learn from both! And if you have any questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch via my contact details.

Peace, Love and Happiness,

Jon xxx