You Win Some; You Lose Some

You Win Some; You Lose Some

People think that, because a celebrant is independent, they will not be emotionally involved in what is going on in front of them.

I consider myself as macho as the next wimp (!), and I have often been able to look at a ceremony objectively, though sympathetically. However, that has not always been the case.

Not unreasonably, it was a struggle for me to conduct the funeral of my aunt without tears, but of course I was emotionally involved, which people understood and accepted.

I found it incredibly hard to keep a dry eye when I conducted the funeral of a suicide victim, whose death had come as a total shock to his widow and young children. The general outpouring of grief was devastating.

In some ways, even worse was the time I had to read out the last message from a young lady to the mourners. “Moving” doesn’t describe how it was for me – let alone, the guests present.

I have had to hold back a tear at some celebratory ceremonies too. When I stand right next to a couple, and see the looks of unreserved love they are directing to each other, then that is a privilege and delight. If they cry, then it is hard not to follow suit!

In some cases, the couple has had to overcome huge adversity; in other cases, their stories are more mundane, but their true love no less evident and enjoyable.

I well remember my own wedding some 23 years ago. I was 45 and had given up hope of ever forming a meaningful attachment, let alone, marrying.  In 1997, I met the lady who would revolutionise my life.

Isobel had been through an abusive marriage and had not had things easy. She needed the security and love that I would offer her.

Our guests were clearly so happy that we were getting together! You could feel the love, as you entered the building. It really was the happiest day of my life (hopefully, of Isobel’s too!). I couldn’t stop grinning like an idiot!

I think I managed to keep a dry eye, though!

End-of-year Musings

End-of-year Musings

In my blog this time last year, I looked forward to 2021 with optimism. Perhaps I was a little naive, but at least it has not been the write-off 2020 mostly was.

Personally, although our son had to isolate with COVID, his attack was not severe – and he didn’t pass it on to us, for which we are grateful. I have had to undergo a couple of (unrelated) medical investigations, but it seems as if there is nothing to worry about there, Otherwise, our health has been good.

We got to celebrate our son’s achievement a few months back: he saved the life of a potential suicide. He got quite a bit of press coverage, but he saw it as “all in a day’s work”. We were dead proud of him, as you’d expect!

We did manage a holiday – although two nights in Essex is not everybody’s idea of an exotic trip! However, we greatly enjoyed it and appreciated the chance for a break, brief as the trip was. We might even return next year …

Work-wise, my celebrations business has been slow to take off after lockdown was relaxed last July. I did enjoy three autumn weddings, but there’s not a lot in my diary for 2022 or beyond, which surprises me a little. But normally, January sees a rush of bookings, so I am not downhearted. As I write, I have been booked for a Spring elopement, which should be amazing.

Funerals have been forthcoming, as you might expect. In fact, I have never done so many in one year (over 50). I’m so glad I’ve been able to make a difference to so many people at such a difficult time. Without wishing ill on anybody, I hope that that momentum continues, and that I can still make a real contribution.

If you’ve been following me during this year (or before), then I’d sincerely like to thank you and ask you to keep up the habit! Please rejoin me at my next blog (in January).

Meanwhile, may I wish you and those close to you all the very best for the festive season, and a very happy, prosperous and healthy New Year.

See you in January!

I remember Weddings!

I remember Weddings!

It must have been so hard for brides and grooms to have to face uncertainty about their wedding arrangements. Over months and even years.

Should they marry, but postpone the celebrations, perhaps till the first anniversary?

Do they just marry, and skip the celebrations altogether?

Do they marry, but celebrate (with no more than thirty guests)?

Do they put off the wedding altogether and wait for certainty? (But what’s “certain”?)

How do you book venues and suppliers and invite guests under such circumstances?

As a celebrant, I have really missed celebratory events. Since I am trained to compile and conduct funerals too, I have been kept reasonably busy over the last 18 months. Funerals are something I love doing, and, although my finances have still taken a hit, I am grateful that I’ve been able to work through lockdown.

However, I love the celebratory events, and I have not done one for almost two years. You will probably therefore get an idea how pleased I was to be back in harness last weekend.

The couple were delightful. They had chosen a golf club, Blacknest, in Surrey, which evidently takes its weddings very seriously. There was a huge marquee for the catering, tepees (including a big bridal one), a gazebo where the ceremony would take place with rows of benches in front, portaloos, and a shaded area. Not to mention, a table-tennis table and croquet equipment.

It was a glorious day (though very warm indeed), and the guests’ mood was bright, encouraging and supportive. The procession had been choreographed perfectly to fit the music, and the bride was uncharacteristically punctual!

Highlights of the ceremony? The bride’s brother read out a lengthy but witty and amusing poem about the couple. The couple had both prepared their vows (which the other had never seen or heard before), which was a very emotional section. The guests were asked to commit to lifetime friendship and support for the couple, which they readily agreed to. The “first kiss” as a married couple – always popular!

Then there were drinks on the grass, followed by eating, and a festival atmosphere.

There’s no doubt about it: the couple loved it, and so did the guests – and it was great for me to get back where I belong!

What’s happening?

More of a newsletter than a blog this week, but I thought I’d update you with what’s happening in the world of life-cycle ceremonies under Coronavirus. It’ll probably all be out of date by next week!


Very little to report here, I’m afraid. Some people are going for Zoom weddings, or the like. That way, depending on the package you have, you can include up to 100 “guests”, so it’s a viable alternative.

Most of my couples have deferred their booking till the autumn (although who knows if that is far enough on?!).

I am still receiving enquiries, but far fewer than I’d normally expect at this time.


There is still inconsistency all over the sector. Some cemeteries are re-opening for visits. My local crematorium is talking about re-opening for ceremonies, but has offered no date. Another crematorium I work with (which continues to offer ceremonies) has just announced that the maximum number of mourners allowed is increasing from 10 to 15. Some crematoria offer web-cam or streamed services, so at least other mourners have a chance to be included somehow.

The bottom line is that nobody really seems to know what is happening!


Many people are not satisfied with direct cremation or services with limited attendees. They are planning for the end of lock-down (whenever that may be) and considering any of Celebration of Life ceremonies, Memorial Services or Scattering of Ashes.

On the whole, you can hold these wherever you choose, and, if you’re organising a spread, you can probably have that in the same place as the ceremony.

I would be happy to discuss these possibilities, if I can be of help.

COVID-19 Musings

COVID-19 Musings

I make no apology for adding a few random thoughts to the thousands of COVID-19-related posts already published. It’s a pandemic, after all, so we can’t help but be affected in some way. Moreover, nobody really knows what will happen next.

I am a civil celebrant, not a doctor. My thoughts may not resonate as sensible or practical. Things are moving very quickly. What I say today may be invalid by tomorrow. However, here goes.


From my perspective, I am currently still being asked to conduct funerals. At my latest, I had planned to invite the mourners to use discretion and be aware of the possible consequences of making physical contact with each other. However, as soon as they met, they fell into each others’ arms, so there was no point. It’s a difficult one, because a funeral is so emotive, and touch can be so welcome, even necessary.

For my part, I apologised individually, but declined physical contact.

It may well be that funerals as we know them will be suspended in favour of direct cremation, say. That means that there would be no ceremony whatsoever (although a memorial service could be organised for when things have calmed down).

At the moment, I am contacting families by phone and giving them the option of discussing the Order of Service in their home or by phone/Skype etc. Nobody has asked me to make the house call, but if I did, I would again decline physical contact with them, and would take precautions, such as not eating or drinking anything, and use plenty of hand wash.


At the time of writing, gatherings of more than 40 people are being discouraged. That may very well impact on weddings, vow renewals, namings and the like. The latter two could probably be postponed without too much trauma, as they usually entail much less planning than a wedding.

Weddings are likely to be bigger and to have been planned from a year or so back. Deposits will have been paid, at the very least, and cancellation penalties may exist in the terms and conditions of some suppliers. Hopefully, such penalties will not be invoked under the circumstances, and insurance cover may be in place anyway.

I think that the next two weeks will see the virus peak over here, and, hopefully, after that, normality will be restored, at least gradually. My advice to couples is not to panic and don’t cancel unless you are told to. You have more chance of being reimbursed if you respond to the government instructions, rather than assuming the worst and second-guessing. True, you want to give maximum notice to guests, but these are unique circumstances. It may be worthwhile getting in contact with them, though, to reassure them that they are not forgotten.

So “wait and see” is my advice, frustrating as it may be, and hope and pray that the gods will be with you.

At the very least, you’ll probably have some stories to tell your grandchildren one day …!