Looking in both directions

Looking in both directions

When is it too late to say “Happy New Year”?

Most people give it till the end of January – so that makes this blog post ‘in date’.

We’ve come off the back of lashings of year and decade celebrations and new year resolutions. (I wonder how many resolutions you still have intact?!)

It’s great that New Year’s Eve gives us an excuse for a celebration. Celebrating – chatting, dancing, singing and laughing – is all very healthy (even if excessive eating and alcohol might be less so!). Even simply looking forward to it can do you good.

So a few weeks ago we were looking forward, but maybe we also looked back. Taking stock enables us to realise where you’ve come from – and where we still might need to go.

If you’re at all philosophically-inclined, you’ll understand that present time and reality don’t really exist. The present never stays – it always moves on. There’s only past and future time that we can measure.

What about marking an event in 2020? Yes, some more celebrating! Perhaps you have a big anniversary in the offing. Or perhaps you just want an excuse for a celebration. Either way, you can get another fix by planning a ‘do’.

Why not celebrate a promotion or a happy family event? You might have completed a year’s marriage (that IS quite an achievement). It could be a birthday ending in -5 or -0. Or else, time and circumstances have invalidated your wedding vows and you want to renew them.

You might mark any of these events with a dinner at home, a few drinks down the pub, a hotel gathering or a party by the canal. But have you thought of making it a bit more special? You could also hire a civil celebrant.

You won’t need to worry about any registrars or red tape. You can have the ceremony you can afford or really want. Choose the venue that appeals to you. Let the celebrant add something extra to the proceedings – possibly, gravitas, possibly humour, or a combination. Theceremony can include religious elements (or none). You may invite people of your choice (family or friends) to participate (eg in a ritual, reading a poem or making music). It can be whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be long.

So let yourself go! Work together with the celebrant and compile the ceremony of your dreams!

If this has whetted your appetite at all for a unique, personalised ceremony, then have a non-obligation chat with me and let your imagination take flight!

Photo: mckinley_rodgers.com

Organising a Celebration

Organising a Celebration

It can be exciting and fun to organise something a bit special when a major celebration like a big birthday or anniversary comes along. A party is one thing, or a night away or even a meal out for two, but could you do more?


Organising an event will obviously involve guile and labour, especially if you want it to be a surprise.

I recently attended a lunch at le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, where about 30 of us had been invited to celebrate Juliet’s 60th birthday.

Not as complex as all that, surely?

We had been invited by letter – and sworn to secrecy – over one year previously, by Juliet’s husband. He had set up a special e-mail address only for the replies. He had had to communicate with the venue only whenever he knew Juliet was out of the house.

For that weekend he found a pretext to get her to Oxfordshire without her suspecting what was afoot.

It all worked out, but, to say the least, was less than straightforward. (Not least when one guest accepted, cancelled and then later decided they would come after all! Or when we got stuck (fog-bound) on Guernsey the night before and looked like missing the event. Remarkably, we made it but that’s another story!)


Organising a celebration in a local restaurant for a dozen or so family members or friends should be simple and often lovely.

How about making it a bit more special?

What about adding to it by having a celebrant prepare and deliver a short speech – perhaps about the life of the person being honoured?

Could you hold a ceremony at home?

Then you might hold a short ceremony incorporating our star’s story and input from a few friends and/or relatives.

Some ritual could be included (such as lighting a Unity Candle or presenting the star with a red rose). Close family members might participate in the ritual.

A few people might be invited to say a few words in honour of the star.

The whole to be facilitated by a civil celebrant, of course!

Whether or not you choose to organise such an event secretly or openly, the hero will surely be grateful for the efforts put in. Chances are, he/she will appreciate being the centre of attention for a while.

So why not give this suggestion some thought? And who better to have a chat with than Michael?!

Yet Another Birthday

Yet Another Birthday

What they call a ‘significant birthday’ is fast approaching – it is but a couple of weeks away, as I write. I hope you’ll understand, if I go a bit ‘mushy’!

How to celebrate

Let’s get it over with, then! I’ll reach what I still think of as ‘retirement age’ in June.

I am a civil celebrant, so you’re going to expect me to arrange a ceremony for myself (and, maybe, even conduct it myself!). Well, no, you’d be mistaken. That’s not what I’m doing.

However, I do plan to mark the occasion publicly. So I am going to receive a religious blessing during a (regular) service in front of people that I love. (I’m an active worshipper, so it’s not hypocritical for me to choose the religious option. After all, I offer my clients the ceremonies that suit them.)

Irrespective of my example, I absolutely encourage people to celebrate a life-cycle event. Be proud of how far you’ve come and appreciate what you have to be grateful for! I get it that not everyone will decide to mark it with a public event, though.

It’s also lovely to have an excuse to make a fuss of ‘the star’ or be the one in the spotlight – but that won’t rock everybody’s boat. Persoanlly, I’m with those who prefer to keep it mostly low-key.

In fact, I shall be taking a city-break as my ‘big treat’, as well as enjoying a couple of meals out with selected family and friends. I imagine that some alcohol may possibly pass my lips during this period!


I have reached the time in my life when I have become aware of the transience of life. I can look back as well as forwards. Nobody (yet!) can really predict their life-span or what will befall them before they reach it. So take stock and appreciate what you do have.

I acknowledge that, as far as I can tell, I am in pretty good health (for my age!). I still have body and mind that function effectively, despite odd wobbles, and I am so grateful. I appreciate the maturity I have acquired, yet I can still run for a bus. I may even remember my Oyster Card!

I exercise, enjoy eating (more judiciously, these days), listening to and (in a choir) singing music, and I appreciate nature. I watch sport (on TV these days) and manage to do puzzles and occasionally some reading. Life could be a lot worse.

The Past shaping the Future

What is important to me is where I have come from (and how I have developed and been able to contribute to other people). I know I had reached an impasse in my fifties. I never anticipated my mid-life crisis (who can?) and I went through a ghastly few years.

Without that ordeal, I would never have evolved. I would never have leapt at the opportunity of becoming a civil celebrant. I might not have been the husband and father I have become. I would never have the (mainly positive!) challenges of my current life.

I look forward to each day, and that’s so important for me. I am blessed with my family and my friends. I am blessed with the work I do. I am blessed by being able to feel positive, wanted and loved. I am blessed that I can contribute valuably to my family, friends and clients.

I am so grateful for the love, trust, patience and support that have been shown to me.

I wonder whether I’ll be able to say all that at my next milestone?! Or what my next milestone will be?

What’s your next special occasion?

What’s your next special occasion?

As you’re probably reading this around the New Year, your next special occasion may well be New Year’s Eve. Well, to be honest, I don’t think I can help you there!

However, I might be more useful to you in some other areas. So please read on!

What about your Birthday!

When that comes round, how do you plan to mark the occasion? Off down the pub? Throw a party? A special outing? A restaurant meal out together with family or friends, or both?


What if it’s a “big” birthday, though?  Ever thought of adding an extra dimension to the affair? (And if it’s not your birthday and you’re having a peek out of curiosity, you may consider adapting the following and organising this as a surprise!).

If you’ve decided on an event with guests, then why not book a civil celebrant? With your input, he can come up with the right words, maybe a blessing (which may or may not be religious) and perhaps a short summary of your life and achievements. It needs last 5-10 minutes only, and could end, say, with a toast being proposed. It would be something very special and memorable.

Note that if you are organising this at a restaurant or hotel, you need to check practicalities (especially if you’re sharing the room with the public!).

Happy Anniversary!

Anniversary celebrations are catching on these days. There are lots of reasons to have these. Just a few examples would be:

  • to mark an anniversary ending in -5 or -0
  • to renew vows (because circumstances may have changed)
  • to announce to the world that you’ve successfully come through a difficult period

Whatever the reason, your celebrant can help you mark the occasion in a way that reflects your personalities. The ceremony may last 10-25 minutes (or whatever you choose), and can include religious components, if you want these, or none. You can put in music, readings (secular or otherwise), reciting of vows (new or old) and rituals (such as both of you lighting a Unity Candle – even in conjunction with your children).

So whether someone is planning a surprise or whether you’re choosing this for yourself, your civil celebrant can work with you to create a tailor-made ceremony of your dreams, and will conduct it for you memorably and professionally.

So, for your next special occasion, how about a ceremony that is personal and maybe a little bit unconventional?

When Life gets in the Way of your Big Event

When Life gets in the Way of your Big Event

The time may come when you want to commemorate a big event in your life (or in that of someone close to you). You will probably be marking a milestone birthday or anniversary, wedding, naming, or even a funeral. It’s going to be very important to you that the event is conducted appropriately. In fact, it’s got to be perfect.

And why wouldn’t it be?


Here’s why. Any one of these reasons (plus others) may get in the way:

  1. Somebody insists that everything is done their way only
  2. Money concerns
  3. Differences of opinions about the amount of religious elements to be included
  4. The relevant people can’t agree on the size of the gathering
  5. Or the venue
  6. Or what rituals, if any, are to be included
  7. Or who participates in the ceremony
  8. The date


And so it goes on!


In most cases, give and take may be necessary.

If you feel somebody is trying to hi-jack the arrangements, try and have a talk with them. Explain that others are involved too and would like to participate as well. You’re grateful for what they are doing, but it would be appreciated if the load were shared around a bit. Not everyone will listen to reason, I know, but many people will (if approached the right way).

If money is the issue, there are ways round it. These can range from a reduced guest list or choosing a different venue to arranging your function out of season and, even, in the morning or early afternoon. You may also be able to use your bargaining powers to knock suppliers’ prices down a bit.

If religion is causing problems, you might be able to suggest a secular ceremony with various religious elements included. This could keep everybody reasonably happy.

As for the rituals (if any) and involvement of family and/or friends, you will need someone to co-ordinate the ceremony. This is where a civil celebrant can come in.

Help is at Hand

Your civil celebrant will work together with you by offering ideas and guidance. He can suggest options and, if you explain where you need help, will be delighted to point a way forward.

Although he may not be ordained, he will be able to offer the religious elements, if that’s what you want. He will be happy to include whoever you want to be involved, and offer you some wonderful and apt readings.

Every word of the ceremony that you eventually put together will be agreed by you. There’ll be no unpleasant surprises on the day!

It may take a little ability to compromise, but that end goal of a perfect ceremony will still be accessible. It will be so  worth the effort!