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Why is a Ceremony like an Exam?
Why is a Ceremony like an Exam?

7 May 2019

What makes a good Ceremony? You might not expect my answer to include the word “exam”, but it does!

Universities are doing it already. Schools are gearing up for it. I’m not referring to a ceremony. So, what is it?

The answer (as the title may suggest!) is: examinations!

You may well ask: what have examinations in common with ceremonies?

Components

If you hark back to those halcyon days of your youth, you’ll surely recall exams.

There would be all the hard work (usually!) in the build-up, nerves during the run-in, writer’s block at some point of one exam (at least) and loads of writing. The writing might be sourced from your imagination; it might come from other people’s work (I mean quotes, rather than plagiarism!); it might be plans, sums or sketches. And a lot of concentration would need to be applied over time.

There might be discomfort (uncomfortable chair, aching hand, exhaustion, pressure hot, stuffy room etc.) before the inevitable debrief at the end.

Oh, yes! Does that bring back (happy!) memories?!

Comparison

So what does that have in common with putting a life-cycle ceremony together?

A ceremony normally requires a good script.

The celebrant must be guided by the information he/she has elicited from the client.

Now, many celebrants write (ie compose) their own readings or poems; some will write some of their own, but compile other pieces. I openly confess that I rarely write my own. I either adapt or use readings from other people who are probably hugely better writers than I dare claim to be.

So I speak for myself now, although I honestly don’t know who needs to do more work – the celebrant who follows their muse or myself having to trawl through material to find the appropriate text.

Like an examinee, I sometimes encounter writer’s block (when I simply can’t find the perfect piece). Like a student, I’ll leave it and return to it (hopefully, refreshed), and try again.

There’ll be a lot of research, and writing (or typing) for the student and for me. Concentration – it goes without saying – is vital I prefer the silence of the exam room. The student answer paper will go off for the examiner to mark; my draft goes off to the client for them to comment on and amend, if necessary.

The student will have a distinct time limit for their exam. That is pressure! In my case, I will have a deadline too, although it is rarely measured in hours. I think my record was to put together a ring-blessing in less than five hours, with the only guideline being that it should be non-religious!

Whatever the commonalities of student and celebrant, I wish all students all the best as they go through a trying time. (Maybe they’ll be looking for a ceremony later to celebrate their success!

For myself, I’m looking for more passes – preferably, with distinction!

For some ideas, please have a look at my YouTube channel (and subscribe!): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1wWfxIZw0VpZLbHrJAbV6A?view_as=subscriber

Author:

Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe. Telephone me now on +44 (0)7931 538487 or contact me directly by e-mail.

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