Ceremony Music

Ceremony Music

When I’m planning a ceremony with clients, the question of music often comes up. Of course, some people know exactly what they want, but many need guidance. Advice will vary from person to person, but one thing to understand is that we’re not planning a standard ceremony. The whole point is that we are personalising it.

That means that there is not really a right or a wrong. It’s what you want that matters. Obviously, one consideration will be the guests! A piece that goes on and on would soon lose the audience, and not every genre will go down well. However, if that’s what reflects your personality, then it can go in to the melting-pot.

Therefore you’re not obliged to start a wedding with Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”, lovely as it is. Nor do you need a religious or even classical piece, while the coffin is borne in at a funeral.


Many brides at weddings I have conducted have entered to Pachelbel’s “Canon”. There have also been harpists or string quartets to accompany the bride. Oddly, I have also heard “Moonriver” and, by contrast, an aria from Handel’s “Samson and Delilah”. Schubert’s “Ave Maria” has been another choice. So there’s no real rhyme or reason.

From other people’s blogs I’ve selected some of the most popular pop songs.

Adele – “Make you feel my Love”

Al Green – “let’s Stay Together”

Stevie Wonder – “Isn’t she lovely”

Diana Ross & Lionel Ritchie – “Endless Love”

Elton John – “Can you feel the love tonight?”

Elvis Presley – “Can’t help falling in Love”

Bruno Mars – “Just the Way you are”

Doubtless, you could suggest your own favourite.


Again, there’s a huge range of music genres in the funeral canon. The most popular exit music nationally seems to be either “My Way” by Frank Sinatra or Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side”. Andrea Bocelli seems to get in somewhere a lot of the time.

Music at my most recent funerals has ranged from George Formby and Dean Martin to Lesley Garrett and Eva Cassidy, Chris Barber to Chuck Berry, and Judy Garland to Richard & Adam, and Audrey Hepburn.

I usually shy away from heavy metal, but for the funeral of a biker (suicide), the family requested Metallica and “Nothing else Matters”. Until I actually listened to it, I assumed the worst, but it is a fine piece of music and was highly appropriate. I’ve suggested it subsequently too!

So, to revert to my opening remarks, unless you’re having a full religious service (in which case, you will have few – if any – options for the music), the world is your oyster, and you can have fun choosing something fitting.

Feel free to contact me, to discuss this further.

Looking forward

Looking forward

It’s mid-November. Christmas adverts on TV are already the norm. It will soon be time for wall-to-wall carols on the radio. The New Year will be upon us sooner than we realise.

A year ago, nobody could have foreseen the direction the new year would take. Without exception, everybody has been affected, to a lesser or greater extent. Job losses, health issues – even, deaths – isolation … the list goes on.

So, what will the future hold? Can we look forward to the next month or two? Dare we be positive about 2021?

Of course, I have no crystal ball. The threatened ‘spike’ may materialise. The virus may, however, have done its worst. Whether improved testing and the emergence of a vaccine will actually make a difference remains to be seen. We simply cannot tell.

All we can do is to let life go on, as best we can.

That means making plans again.

If you have forthcoming happy events, do consider marking them. It’s important to us as humans to celebrate. It might be a wedding, or an anniversary (especially, one ending in a -5 or -0). It might be a naming or a handfasting. It could certainly be a vow renewal. Just possibly, a promotion at work. But don’t ignore it.

Of course, whether you hold a micro-event or something larger depends on the date of your ceremony and what the current regulations will be.

So it may be a gamble. Thus it may be easiest to arrange something that can be adapted at fairly short notice. That probably entails liaising with your venue (if you’re booking one at all) and/or suppliers, and checking how flexible they are.

I believe that things will ease up in 2021 (may my words not come back to haunt me!). As social animals, we do need to break the isolation at some point. Hopefully, this can be done in a controlled way, and a ceremony may be exactly what the doctor (!) ordered.

If you are thinking of organising something a bit special, then please have a chat with me.

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?!

Absent Friends

When I am preparing a vow renewal or wedding, I often ask the question whether the couple would like absent friends mentioned. Almost invariably, they do.

Of course, by “absent friends”, we mean friends or relatives who have been prevented from attending because of illness, infirmity or death. These are likely to be people who would certainly have wanted to be part of the proceedings and who would have been more than welcome to have attended.

There are exceptions, but the couple usually wants to mark the fact, but not make too much of it. Understandably, they don’t want to bring down the atmosphere of a happy ceremony.

I often proffer a few words, naming the individuals and stating how much they are missed. Sometimes a candle is lit or a brief silence is observed. We usually do this early on, so that the sad tone does not impinge on what follows.

Occasionally, people do want a more significant commemoration, so here are a few suggestions that might suit.

Symbols commemorating a Loved One

  • You might include one of their favourite type of flowers in your buttonhole/bouquet.
  • You might choose to wear something connected to (or worn by) your loved one. Perhaps it might be earrings or cufflinks, or even something sewn into the inside of your dress/suit.
  • You could place some flowers at the place where your loved one would have been sitting, possibly with a note or poem.
  • You could also place a photo of your loved one somewhere (it might be – but doesn’t have to be – prominent). You might even place candles there (bearing health and safety in mind, of course!).



Instead of a present, you could ask guests to donate some money to a charity loved by, or associated with, your loved one.

Some of the above are a bit ‘over-the-top’ for many people, but, instead, you could drink a toast to your absent friends at the reception.


My advice (but I accept that it is a personal decision for the couple concerned) is to keep the commemoration reasonably low-key. Guests don’t really want to hear a long list read out, especially if they’re excited about the ceremony to come. Moreover, the mood of the proceedings should be happy. We are marking a celebratory event, rather than what might appear to be a memorial service.


However, as we have seen, there are tasteful and meaningful ways of acknowledging your absent friends, and these certainly have a part to play in the big day.




Spreading the word “celebrant”!

Spreading the word “celebrant”!

In the celebrant world, there is a certain amount of competition, but I think we’re a close-knit bunch. I was certainly delighted, earlier this month, as my friend and colleague Judy Mansfield gained a huge boost for her business when she was profiled by the “Guardian Professional”.

Judy trained with me last year and we have met at subsequent training courses, as well as at quarterly FOIC meetings. She is a lovely and supportive person, and I am so pleased that she has had this success.

Judy’s article has also done a lot to put celebrancy on the map, so I am delighted to highlight it as my blog of the week. Here it is in full. Enjoy!


Marketing and PR excellence: Cherish Ceremonies

“It’s vital that my clients connect with me – after all, I’m involved in huge events in their lives”

  • Guardian Professional, Wednesday 9 October 2013 17.01 BST

Judy Mansfield connects to potential clients via YouTube videos. Photograph: PR

Name: Cherish Ceremonies
City: Southam
Website: www.cherish-ceremonies.co.uk

I launched Cherish Ceremonies in January to design and deliver heartfelt ceremonies for all life occasions, including weddings, vow renewals, baby namings and funerals.

The question I get asked most is, “What is a celebrant?” I decided to harness the power of YouTube and made some short videos to introduce myself and what I do.

It’s vital that my clients connect with me – after all, I’m involved in huge events in their lives. The best advice I’ve had is not to be afraid to let the passion for my business shine through, and it seems to be working.

Social media opens doors that would remain closed trying to connect through more traditional ways. But it is vital not to spam.

Building relationships is key, and as well as my blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube have been fabulous at enabling me to do this. It takes time, it takes energy, it takes commitment, but it is doable. The uppermost thought on my mind when I interact online is, “How can I be of help to you?”

Sharing what I’ve learned through online Q&A sessions has been amazing too. ‘Givers gain’ and ‘paying it forward’ works. It’s like sowing the seeds – the harvest in the form of sales will come (and is already happening).

Judy Mansfield is the celebrant at Cherish Ceremonies

Judy has clearly worked very hard and she is an inspiring lady. I am looking forward to seeing her again later this week near Northampton, and congratulating her in person on her achievements.

I shall be following her example – in fact, I film my first video next week, so YouTube, watch out!

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made life-cycle ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.