What Can One Say …?

What Can One Say …?

It’s not that easy to come up with a useful or informative blog every week. Even less so under Lockdown. Hardly anything is happening in the world of weddings. Still less in the world of Vow Renewals and Namings. But so much seems to be happening in the world of funerals that it’s impossible to keep up!

So, rather than tell you what you already know or something that is already out of date, here is a bit about me and how I found myself in the world of celebrancy.

Background

I came from a lower middle-class Ealing home, and was pretty conventional till my mid 40s. To summarise incisively, I was a teacher for 25 years, but was to lose my mojo. In fact, I definitely experienced a mid-life crisis, and went through a pretty unpleasant couple of years.

However, unexpectedly, this became a time for personal development. I went into network marketing (health and wellness). I loved the products and that I could help others in quite surprising ways, but the money wasn’t to be earned there (to prosper you need to build teams, and I wasn’t great at that). So I lost a lot of money – yet I have never completely stopped this work.

On the other hand, network marketing demands personal study and growth. I read self-help books, attended workshops and even took on a coach. I began to change, quite without realising it.

When the opportunity for something quite different arose three or so years later, I was ready for it (at least, subconsciously).

The Damascene moment

I met a civil celebrant at a business networking meeting. Having never heard of such a job, I asked him what it entailed. His enthusiasm was infectious, and I was almost hooked. I rang him soon afterwards with a few questions – one of which was “how do I train?” Decision made.

So I trained. I plunged into a profession that I might have dismissed earlier. After all, as far as I had been concerned, a wedding was either a full religious or a secular Register Office ceremony. Surely people shouldn’t be encouraged to choose how their big day should be marked?!

I had been used (by and large) to teaching and presenting. That was largely a one-way process (the way I did it!). My new profession would encourage me to go beneath the surface. I had to help people make their own (informed) choices. It would involve listening to people and understanding their vision by asking the right questions. I would have to guide and advise them, working together with them to achieve their dream. The icing on the cake would be attending beautiful venues to conduct a wonderful ceremony and sharing in their delight.

Seven years down the line, I am still in love with my profession. As I have worked at my delivery, business results have become better – but that was until Coronavirus. Now crystal-ball-gazing is impossible and I may have to rebuild my business from the bottom up.

However, I am optimistic. The work will be out there – after all, why shouldn’t people mark their big day as they would wish? I intend to continue to be available and to deliver an excellent service.

I shall be delighted to deliver dreams as before.

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.

Funerals

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.

Celebrations

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 …!

Crucial Decisions

Crucial Decisions

When you’re preparing for a major life-cycle event, there are crucial decisions to be made. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a wedding, vow renewal, naming ceremony or even a funeral; you’re going to want to get it right.

Getting it right will depend on your choices as well as your budget. This is a mighty subject, so I propose to limit myself to weddings today.

Crucial decisions will, of course, vary from couple to couple. For some, flowers will be absolutely essential as a component of the wedding; others may see them as a desirable extra. People will normally want photographers/videographers, and these need to be chosen carefully (see my blog on this).

The most important decisions will surely revolve around the ceremony and the reception.

Ceremony

Will you have a full religious wedding in a religious building? The ceremony may well include the legal bits, which can be handy. But logistically, you’ll have to consider how you – and the guests – get from the church (or whatever) to the reception.

What if you don’t want a full religious service? Or even a part-religious one?

There are options, such as using a civil celebrant like myself. I can conduct a unique, tailor-made ceremony for a couple, with as much or as little religion or ritual etc. as they want. They will still need to have been legally married by the registrars beforehand (either at the Register Office or immediately before, at the same premises as the bespoke ceremony).

You may need to consider also how formal you want the ceremony to be, how many participants to involve (ushers, bridesmaids, Best Man/Woman etc.), the music, the decorations and so on. Do you plan to write your own vows?

Guildhall, Windsor

Venue

Go and visit a number of possible venues, once you’ve had a look at their websites. There’s no substitute for getting a feel for the place (your gut feeling is so important here). You will also want to come equipped with a list of questions. If the event planner isn’t very helpful, does it make much sense to choose that venue?

Reception

Depending on what you want and can afford, you will have to look at who you invite and what sort of seating plan you go with. Are you having a sit-down meal or a buffet? Will there be canapés etc? When choosing a caterer, do ask to sample some of what they can offer.

Will there be gaps in the proceedings that might need an entertainer? Or a toastmaster? Will you want a disco? Might you provide a quiet area? What about children?

Have you thought about speeches?

Useful help

As you will have seen from this overview, there are many, many issues to address. A professional wedding planner will ease you through this (at a cost, of course). If you start early enough, the issues should not overwhelm you, but maybe I can offer you some welcome help?

I have written a book on this very subject: “Your Wedding Guide”. For less than £5, you can buy it on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/2e9RcqS

Alternatively, if you contact me with your e-mail address, I shall be delighted to e-mail you my free Wedding Countdown Checklist, which will suggest important tasks you need to do and time-frames for completing them.

I look forward to being of service to you!

How 400 Prostitutes Turned me into a Celebrant

How 400 Prostitutes Turned me into a Celebrant

I’ve often been asked how I came to be a Civil Celebrant.

I never had any ambition to do such work. (In fact, three years ago I didn’t even know what one was!)

I only heard about it by chance.

If I’m absolutely honest, it all came about because I was interested in 400 prostitutes!

Now don’t get me wrong, please. I may be an active man, but not in the way you may be thinking!

I innocently went to hear a talk by somebody who had considerable experience with prostitutes. He had made a fortune many years back by selling answering machines to a niche market nobody had tapped before: prostitutes!

After the presentation, I had a chat with him, and it turned out that he was now a celebrant.

He told me that he helped people who wanted a ceremony that was bespoke – not formulaic. He worked with them to construct a ceremony that would mean the most to them (and, hopefully, their guests). It could be religious, semi-religious, non-religious – anything. It could be held anywhere – perhaps a licensed religious building, a hotel, a beach or a mountain top.

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The ceremonies included weddings (straight or gay), vow renewals, naming blessings and handfastings. (Not to mention funerals.)

Anyway, as I listened to David, I got drawn in. This was something different, this was exciting, this was something I could do well (I have considerable experience as a public presenter) and something that would enable me to make a difference to others.

When could I start?!

Well, I trained late in 2012, and was sufficiently enthused that I then decided to train to become a funeral celebrant.  I’m now almost three years down the celebrantt line, and loving it!

Who’d have thought that 400 prostitutes would have made such a difference in my life!