Without question, every day of my celebrant life is different quite simply because every person I work with is different. In some ways, I liken it to creating a school project (which I always preferred to exams) over and over again. Because each day is different and the ceremonial location is different, I thought I’d create an “amalgam of celebrant days”!
The immense privilege of officiating a wedding ceremony on a Marae (sacred meeting place for the Maori people) in New Zealand.
The bonding ceremony with no guests, just me and the couple, as the sun set over Castlerigg Stone Circle in Cumbria.
The drunk person running up the aisle in the crematorium, just as I left the lectern to stand by the coffin for the committal, yelling ‘NO, you can’t send him away!’
The window cleaner, oblivious to the sacred farewell ceremony taking place on the other side of the window, with his headphones in and singing away, his cleaning tool scraping against the window. Screech, screech, screech!
A beautiful fertility ritual, just me and the woman concerned, by a 3000- year-old secret spring in rural Yorkshire. (p.s. She now has twin boys aged five!)
A deeply moving naming ceremony, the day before Christmas, for a new baby who never got to meet his older brother (he passed away aged three) but wears his brother’s first name as his middle name.
A delightful naming ceremony for a gorgeous girl whose name Andorra was spelled out with colourful gerbera flowers.
Wedding ceremony in a castle. The bride arrived on horseback.
Writing and officiating a funeral and then a memorial ceremony for my best friend, Pam, after she ended her life on Christmas Day.
LOTS of children running up and down a village hall during a naming ceremony. Chaos.
A sagesse ceremony for a woman to honour her role as a wise woman.
A divorce ceremony to heal the wounds of parting.
Menopause ceremony for women entering a new chapter in their lives.
A home blessing to give thanks for each room and the garden which would contain the residents.
Arriving home after a client meeting and thinking about the life their loved one lived, and what images really stood out for me about their story.
Listening to estranged family members bicker about what should go into the deceased’s ceremony. Remaining calm and graceful, and mediating towards compromise so that everyone feels heard.
Watching ‘security’ at the crematorium door and wondering if peace shall prevail or all hell will break loose.
Spilling water all over myself just before a funeral started. (the cup had split en route to the crem, and I didn’t notice till the water was all over me!)
The day the grave collapsed. Yep. Having to do the ceremony ‘back to front’ and inter the deceased first.
Picking up a notebook (I have loads of notebooks around the house) to see if it still had blank pages so I could take it to a funeral meeting. As I picked it up, a whole load of pressed flowers fell out! I pull the rest out thinking to myself “Can’t have flowers falling out when I’m at the hospice!” Minutes into my conversation with the family, they tell me that he loved to press flowers and his home is full of them. Spooky! (and, yet, entirely normal in my line of work)
The stress when someone who said they were only speaking for one minute speaks for 15 minutes! Going ‘over time’ in a crematorium is a major stress for a funeral celebrant as the funeral director will be fined if you go over the allotted slot time. I time my scripts to ensure we don’t run over but when someone ignores my request to stick to time, it is anxiety inducing.
Drive home from town and a red squirrel crosses the road in front of me.
Phone a mourner to learn their loved one’s story. Lo and behold, she was a huge supporter of the Red Squirrel charity.
Come home from a funeral and have a big cry. It might not be ‘my grief’ but I find it emotionally harrowing to watch people suffer.
Holding a beautiful new baby as I anoint him/her during their naming ceremony.
A ceremony to honour a woman whose little finger was ripped off during a fall.
A ceremony to honour the life of a beloved cat.
Drive to a mourner’s house. Listening to Elvis and singing along to the Wonder of You. Ten minutes later I’m being told the music choices for the funeral include: Elvis, The Wonder of You. “Erm, ok.”
A ceremony to honour the passing of a kitten who died before or during birth.
The word funeral or the name Tracy goes through my head quite randomly. But, I always know it isn’t random, and that within minutes or hours my favourite funeral director will call asking if I’m available.
Ringing the Tibetan prayer bell at the committal for a Buddhist.
Typing a message on my phone to a friend when the thought ‘Tracy is going to phone about a funeral while you’re typing this message’ goes through my head…and there it is “Tracy Lazonby is phoning you” flashes on my screen. Maybe I should be a psychic rather than a celebrant?
Sitting at my laptop at midnight trying to finish writing a funeral script.
Contacting the crematorium with the music choices for an upcoming funeral.
Listen to my clients talking and have images and ideas coming into my head about how to create a beautiful ceremony. Ceremonies are often fully formed in my head before I sit at the laptop.
Wake up with the headache from hell. Officiating a funeral when your head is pounding is not fun.
A wonderful evening out with wedding suppliers enjoying a drink and nibbles.
Styled photo shoot with brilliant local wedding suppliers.
In the middle of a one-minute silence, a crem assistant hits the play button and a loud piece of music blares through the crematorium. It’s not the first time this sort of shenanigans has happened! Of course, the mourners all think the celebrant has done something wrong. In my local crem, the music is out of my hands. Remain composed and ad lib ‘[deceased’s name] never did like silence’…
Scattering rose petals over the shroud at an eco burial.
Pass on various ceremonies to other celebrants as I’m either too busy or not feeling the right connection. Have learnt to really trust my instinct and to say ‘no’ more often.
Move to coffin for the committal and the loudest doorbell ever goes off. DING DONG. I’m thinking ‘why the hell has the crem installed a doorbell that can be heard in here? So thoughtless!’…seconds later, after hearing laughter, I realise it is someone’s mobile phone and not a doorbell. Obviously!
Officiating in gale force winds at a moorland cemetery.
Toes falling off in minus 3Celcius as I officiate a woodland burial.
Hearing the grass, so dry from drought, crunch beneath my shoes as I officiate a wedding ceremony. The sunshine burns the top of my feet throughout the ceremony. There’s no escaping the scorching.
Tying the paws of two dogs together because the couple wanted them included in their ceremony.
Furious about the email I received from a crappy (kindest word choice used there) funeral director. My client had chosen me as the celebrant because of my passion for eco burials. During one of our conversations she had complained about the cost of coffins. I asked her if she had considered a shroud. After all, it is a good fit for an eco burial. Her and her family were keen to explore that. The next day, said funeral director writes “it is completely out of your remit to tell the client about a shroud. I’ve already chosen a coffin for them!” My response: “It was your job to educate the client about the shroud. Why didn’t you? And, I know for a fact that they hadn’t chosen a coffin.” Client then tells me that the funeral director talked them out of a shroud by saying “what will people think if they see your poor dad going through town in nothing but a bit of cloth?” I am livid but don’t show that to my client. A shroud is NOT a symbol of a pauper’s funeral. Day of the burial comes. Poetic justice for the funeral director, from my point of view. Turns out that he’d never overseen an eco burial before and was completely out of his depth. Add in gale force winds and torrential rain… “This is a bloody nightmare!” he curses under his breath before trekking up the hill to the burial site. Despite the drowned-rat look, I keep my composure and deliver a meaningful and personal ceremony for my family’s loved one. All to the soundtrack of rain belting on umbrellas and raincoats. Note to self: NEVER work alongside this funeral director again.
Placing a flower crown on the head of a teenage girl as she celebrants her ‘new moon’.
Dealing with the one and only Bridezilla I’ve ever had. It would only be months later that I realised it wasn’t me, it was her. She’d been horrible with every single wedding supplier. Her groom, however, was an absolute delight.
Start my day walking barefoot on the grass so I can ground myself and prepare for a new day officiating a ceremony, rehearsing another, and writing another one, and fitting in Zoom calls. Remaining as calm as possible helps me through such days.
Overseeing a placenta-burying ceremony.
Standing beneath a boab tree in Outback Australia officiating my brother’s wedding ceremony.
A healing ceremony by the river in the woods for a woman who needed to let go of a past relationship.
A coming of age ceremony for a young woman.
Menarche ceremony in a yurt for girls ‘new to the moon’ (menstrual cycle)
Sitting in the garden jotting notes down for a wedding ceremony and creating a ritual unique to my couple.
A communal phoenix ceremony with fifty families writing down everything they want to let go of (that no longer serves them) and then throwing their pieces of paper into the fire.
Wondering if it is true what they say about men in kilts. Hoping the breeze doesn’t reveal the answer.
Barefoot in a flower meadow as the bride approaches the ceremonial space.
A ceremony for a hamster to honour his wee life, and the pleasure he brought.
Double checking EVERYTHING before I leave the house: amplifier, microphone, ceremonial cloths, ritual items, water and so on. The most important thing of all is the SCRIPT.
A triple blessingway ceremony for three woman in bloom and ready to meet their babies.
Cringing at the sound of Prosecco Laughter (the sound of a bride who has drunk too much while having hair and make up done before the ceremony).
Naming ceremony in a cob roundhouse.
Ensure car has regular services, passes MOT, has fuel, oil and water.
Double check directions.
Create a New Moon Ceremony with appropriate manifestation rituals.
Going on holiday, thinking my schedule is clear, only to have two funerals come in that I’ll have to write and, while on holiday, a short-notice wedding comes in. I spend time on beaches thinking about these ceremonies and what I’ll bring to them. For one man, he had lived his life in Bali and lived for sun, sand and sea. Although my Scottish beaches weren’t exactly tropical, I gathered driftwood, shells, sand and sea water so that upon my return I could use them in a personalised ritual.
Press SAVE every minute while script writing, even though autosave is enabled.
Send Order of Service to the funeral director.
Can’t procrastinate any longer: I must sit down and complete my annual accounts for the accountant. This is my least favourite part of self-employed life. There’s no escaping it. January deadline is looming.
Visit new crematorium with my favourite funeral director, and marvel at how beautifully thought out it is.
Chat with a new wedding planner to liaise about tomorrow’s ceremony.
Ensure I swim most days of the week to have ‘me time’, and undo my body from laptop/zoom time.
Pop up to the venue for a rehearsal. I don’t do a word-for-word rehearsal but rather it is a choreography of the rituals and to meet anyone who might be involved in the ceremony. For all my destination wedding couples, it is often the first time we’ve met in person.
Check diary date availability for a new wedding couple.
Admire the beautiful moss heart, surrounded by heart-shaped stones collected by the couple on beach walks, that they will stand in to say their vows.
Adapt to Zoom life during the Pandemic. Hugging is my currency. No hugs. No home visits. Meet on screen. This all feels so wrong. I can’t bear to see people separated from loved ones in the crematorium, sitting two metres apart even from someone they live with (!), and having to choose who is allowed at the funeral because of number restrictions. Their masks catch snot and tears. It is horrendous and heartbreaking.
Tell a funeral director I’m not available on the date they’ve called about but recommend another celebrant.
Meet up with the celebrant-in-training who is shadowing me at the ceremony. We talk through what is involved. Later, we’ll debrief to see what they learned by watching a celebrant at work.
Set up a YouTube channel and make some videos for World Celebrants Week. Completely out of my comfort zone!
Veronika Robinson has been a celebrant since 1995, and officiates across all rites of passage. She is also co-founder and co-tutor at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training, and editor of The Celebrant magazine.