“You charge HOW much?” is a question many celebrants hear from prospective clients. On the surface, it’s a fair question to ask particularly if all you think celebrancy involves is “standing up to speak for 20 or so minutes!”

This blog is an invitation into my life as a celebrant so that you can see exactly what you’re paying for if you employ my services.


Veronika tying the knot at Jake and Lyndsay’s Ceremony at Askham Hall. Photograph by John Hope Photography.

There are often many, many hours involved from initial contact to the moment I walk away from your ceremony. It isn’t dissimilar to when you watch a movie. It might last for 1.5 to two hours but could have taken four years to make. The finished ‘product’ has been created, toiled over, refined and then presented after much behind-the-scenes work.


Ceremonial quaich (Scottish loving cup). Photo by Veronika Robinson.

The initial contact I have with a potential client might involve them emailing or phoning me. Some couples are happy to book me without a meeting based on what they’ve seen on my website or because of a recommendation by a friend, family member or wedding planner.

Others like to have a face-to-face meeting first by Zoom (many of my wedding couples are from overseas and come to Cumbria for a destination wedding).


Chantal and Rene’s wedding in Outback Australia. Photograph by Veronika Robinson.

It is important that you have a connection with the celebrant who is going to be involved in creating, writing and officiating your ceremony. This relationship works both ways. If I don’t feel there’s an easy connection between us, I’ll recommend a celebrant that I feel will be a better fit. To me, this job is about relationships and the fit between celebrant and couple has to be right. I’m not a ‘take the money and run’ celebrant. I’d rather pass on a booking.

Once the couple has decided they wish to book me, they enter into a contract for my services by filling out a booking form and paying a deposit (50% of my fee). This deposit secures the date. It ensures that I don’t book anyone else in (I only book one ceremony a day), and allows me to start the ‘getting to know you’ journey.

Unlike many celebrants, there is no restriction on the number of meetings we have. (Some celebrants limit the meetings to one or two). I find, on average, that I meet with my couples 2-3 times during the lead up to their wedding. Again, this is primarily on Zoom but can be in a local café or other venue if they live near to me or are visiting the area. If it helps a couple to have more meetings than this, I will accommodate.

I also give my couples a questionnaire which augments the information gathering I need to do. It gives them time to really think about the questions, and provide me with thoughtful answers.

Our conversations are relaxed and easy. It’s not an interview process. My wish is for us to feel familiar and enjoy each other’s company. I won’t be in your life forever, but I hope that on your wedding day when you see me you’ll feel relaxed and in safe hands. That I’ve been a celebrant for 26 years also means you’re working with someone who is experienced.

I take a lot of notes as I’m getting to know my couples, and regularly write down thoughts I have, flashes of inspiration, and so on. There can be a lot of research, for example, if I’m writing a ceremony for someone who is including rituals, prayers or blessings, from another culture or religion, or if I’m creating a bespoke ritual.


Autumn wedding in a flower meadow. Photography by Veronika Robinson.

About one to two months before the ceremony I write the full script. By now I have learned about what is meaningful to you individually and as a couple, what your hopes are for marriage, and what you’ll bring to the relationship. Your vows will be unique to your relationship.

I know how participatory you’d like your ceremony to be, and who’ll be involved whether they are a child, friend or relative. I’ve learned the style you’re after. By this stage, it all falls together and the months of ‘creating’ your ceremony with various ideas and inspiration is now on the page.

By this point, I could already have spent 5 to 10 hours on meetings, 5 or more hours on research, writing drafts, and completing a script.
Then, I send through the ceremony to you. Ideally you think it is perfect and don’t wish for any changes. You may, however, upon seeing it black and white, decide you’d like to add or delete something. If any revisions are required, these will be done too.

Upon approval of the script, I then ensure I have everything I need for the day: e.g. ceremonial items and presentation script. I now start familiarising myself with the script, going through it many, many times (this takes a good few hours, minimum) so that on the day the words fit like a second skin and I’m connecting with your audience, and you, and not ‘just reading’. Anyone can stand up and read! A celebrant is there to connect and engage. My aim is to be relaxed, but focused, dynamic yet graceful.


Loz and Katie’s gorgeous handtying by the waterfall in Yorkshire.

The day before your ceremony I meet you at your venue (if it is more than an hour away, this is negotiated). We use this day to meet in person for the first time if you’ve travelled in from overseas. It is also a chance to go through the choreography of the ceremony, in particular any rituals such as handtying. The rehearsal day could take 3 to 4 hours of my time not necessarily including my travel. (I usually spend more time on this day than the wedding day). So, on rehearsal day there’s the travel time (on average 2 to 3 hours), waiting around time till you and your bridal party are ready (you’re a chatty lot, and may not have seen each other in some time so it’s hard for you to be focussed on the reason I’m there! ~ don’t worry, I’m patient), and then going through the choreography.

Your wedding day: Whether the venue is five minutes up the road or 50 miles away, I ensure that I’m there at least one hour beforehand to avoid any travel hiccups. It also gives me some relaxed time before the ceremony to set up my amplifier and check my sound. I may liaise with your wedding photographer or wedding planner. Depending on the venue, I set up a ceremony table with ritual items, ceremony cloth, flowers, etc. I almost always go and see my couple before the start of the ceremony to let them know I’m there.

And then: your ceremony. The moment in time that you’ve spent months or years planning for and dreaming about. It’s here.

Before long, you’ve kissed and are walking down the aisle to your smiling friends and family.


I pack up my belongings. My feelings are mixed: joy at your delight, sadness that this shared journey is over. “What a lovely job I have,” I say to myself as I put your wedding card, ceremony script (and handtying cord, if you’ve had one) with all the cards and gifts from your guests.

Once my car is packed, I seek you out to say goodbye. Generally you’re covered in confetti by this point. What a journey we’ve had together.

For my part, 20 to 30 hours will have been invested in this day. One thing is for sure: I’ll never forget your ceremony. Thank you for asking me to be your celebrant.

Paul and Fiona’s kiss! (Askham Hall)

Funeral Celebrant
As a funeral celebrant, there is a tight time frame that I work to. In other parts of the country, there may be up to 6 weeks lead in to a funeral.

Where I live, in rural Cumbria, I get between 3 to 7 days notice of a funeral, on average. During this time, I make arrangements to meet you/your family. (Depending on circumstances, such as Pandemic restrictions or if you live out of the county, our meeting may be on Zoom. If it is in person, I may drive for up to an hour to meet you).
I listen for about two to three hours as you share memories of your loved one.

Eco burial. Photograph by Veronika Robinson.

When I leave, I let your memories fill my being. As I’ll be reminiscing on your behalf, it is important to me that I feel you’ve shared with me who they truly were. I will be writing ‘in my head’ for a few hours before I get to the laptop. I then type up all my notes that I took in our meeting. This usually takes at least an hour. Then I start to write. I’m a storyteller, so I’m not just going to read a bunch of facts. There is craft and care which goes into each script. Writing a funeral ceremony can take anywhere from an hour to ten hours. There’s never any way of predicting how long it will take. It doesn’t become quicker just because you’ve been doing the job longer! Sometimes it takes more time because you’ve got so much information and you’re trying to edit it down, and other times it is because you’ve got next-to-no information.

photo by Veronika Robinson

photo by Veronika Robinson

Once you’ve approved the script, I then have to ensure the funeral director has the order of service and that your music choices have been ordered through Wesley or Obitus.

Like with any other ceremony, I go through the script many times before the service so I am familiar with it.

Once I’m at the ceremony venue, I ensure everything is as it should be e.g. music choices.

My time investment per funeral is anything from 10 – 20 hours. You can be certain that a funeral celebrant who is officiating upwards of five funerals a week is not putting this level of care and attention to detail and creativity into their work. It’s impossible.

Another thing to consider when questioning the price of a celebrant is that they are independent, self-employed people. They do not get holiday pay or sick pay. They have to cover transport costs, office costs, insurance, stationary, CPD, and so on.

If I am blessed enough to be your celebrant, you can be assured I will give you 100%. I am fully aware that you only get one chance at your ceremony and I want it to be ‘just right’.


Veronika Robinson is a celebrant in Cumbria, in the north of England. She’s had the pleasure of officiating all manner of ceremonies since 1995. Her passion for ritual and ceremonies extends to her work as a celebrant trainer at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training, and as editor and publisher of The Celebrant magazine.

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”!

This is day 6 of World Celebrants Week and so it is timely to show a variety of experiences in my celebrancy.


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.

An eco burial for a woman I had the honour of meeting before she passed. I was able to create a nature-based ceremony in keeping with her deep love and reverence for the natural world.

A beautiful burial ceremony, with moss at our feet, in a private ancient forest.

A sunrise lakeside wedding ceremony in Cumbria.

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.

A full Handfasting Ceremony for a pagan couple inside a stone circle in Yorkshire.


A beautiful wedding by a waterfall, and that breathtaking moment when the bride walked towards the groom and I.


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’…

Deeply moving wedding ceremonies where the bride or groom is terminally ill. Heartwrenching.

A vow renewal ceremony on a canal boat in Lancaster.

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.

Create a personalised ritual for an interment ceremony.

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.

Tears flow when I receive beautiful gifts, bouquets of flowers or thank you cards. Gratitude is the foundation of my life, and when someone expresses gratitude to me I find it deeply moving.

Check I have plenty of ink in the printer.

Put my wellies in the car for the eco-burial. And raincoat poncho. It is tipping down!

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.

Having had the pleasure of officiating ceremonies, internationally, for more than 26 years, I am so excited to announce that World Celebrants Week will take place from November 15th to 21st.

During this week, I’ll be wearing my three celebrant-related hats: Independent Celebrant, Celebrant Trainer at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training, and as editor of The Celebrant magazine.


As a celebrant, I’ll be sharing tips on what to look for in a celebrant. I’ll also give a peep into my daily celebrant life through images, videos and blogs. I hope you’ll join me! You’ll be able to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and my blogs.


At the heart of celebrancy, we CELEBRATE LIFE!


Veronika x



Increasingly, people are seeing marriage, and certainly the patriarchal or religious influences around that institution, to be archaic. Indeed, at the time of writing, there is currently a long-awaited review into marriage laws as they are well and truly outdated.

Having a significant life relationship legally recognised, without the weight of traditions, is appealing to those who seek a balanced landscape upon which to honour and celebrate their union. Partnership is about equality.


A common question from fellow celebrants is: what’s the difference between a wedding ceremony and a civil-partnership ceremony? It’s understandable that there might be some confusion because of it being quite new to our understanding of what ‘bonds’ a couple in the eyes of others and the law.


A wedding ceremony (including contemporary and alternative ones) tends to share common themes such as traditional rituals like the processional of the bride, the bride being given away, the giving of rings, pledges/vows, and primarily the language used: husband and wife (wife and wife, husband and husband), marriage, and so on. These are so engrained in our cultural wedding traditions that we expect to see these in a bonding ceremony, even those with an alternative flair.

Loz and I the moment we see his beloved Kate arriving to join us and their guests beside the waterfall.

When I train celebrants, we talk about what makes a marriage commitment real. Is it the legal document the couple signs? Is it the wedding ceremony they share with friends and family? Indeed, does an elopement with only two witnesses constitute the same level of commitment as a ceremony with many witnesses? Is marriage God ordained? Does the legal signing of a document bond a couple? All these questions are important to ask, and from a celebrant point of view, I believe it is vital that we understand our own beliefs about relationships and bonding. What do we, as celebrants, energetically bring to the unions (traditional or otherwise) that we are so privileged to be part of?

Who decides if a bond is valid and/or sacred? Who has the right to ordain this? What words or actions need to be spoken or enacted to give credence to this rite of passage? Indeed, is a bonding ceremony considered meaningful only if it is in tandem with the legal contract? (which is essentially notification to the government about a change in taxation status [read that bit about the legal contract again])


It is because of all these questions/answers, and more, that some couples are turning towards civil partnership. Apart from the uninspiring label (no doubt decided upon by a civil servant), what couples like these are looking for is to have their loving relationship recognised for the co-creative equal union that it is, and in some cases they’re quite happy to sign the legal document and then carry on with life as per normal while enjoying the financial benefits that this brings.

For others, they wish to bring in the simplicity and balance that comes with identifying as partners rather than traditional titles but would also like a ceremony to share their commitment in front of loved ones. From a ceremony-creation point of view, this can still be as beautiful, romantic, creative, life affirming, and rich with symbolism, as any traditional wedding ceremony or alternative one. My job, as ever, is about creating a ceremony which reflects whatever is meaningful to the couples I work with, and which honours the truth about their lives and choices.



Veronika Robinson is a celebrant in Cumbria and has officiated all manner of ceremonies, internationally, since 1995. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant She’s the editor of The Celebrant magazine www.thecelebrantmagazine.co.uk and celebrant trainer at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant-training

Veronika is currently the president of the Association of Independent Celebrants (AOIC).




Grief, Gluttony, Giving, Gratitude. Our experience of Christmas tends to fall into one or two of those areas.


Christmas has always been a cherished time in my life, made magical by parents who brought the festive season alive with enchantment and mystery. The Germanic tradition my parents passed onto me is something I still honour. And so, I celebrate on Christmas Eve by candlelight with a lovingly prepared meal and gentle time with my loved ones. This, to me, is Christmas. It’s based on simplicity, love, beauty, and kindness.

As children we would gather by the tree (one grown on our land), the scent of pine infusing the room as we sang Christmas songs in both German and English. To celebrate Christmas was to cross the threshold into another world: it was, indeed, ceremonial, and imbued with ritual, magic and love. I’ve always adored Christmas for its ability to bring heightened beauty into my life.


Carrying this beacon from my mother to my own children was no easy task. I’m not sure I ever managed to carry it off, but I will always cherish the years that my daughters were part of this season. I remember their sweet little faces as they sang songs, played instruments; and, as they grew older, their place alongside me in the kitchen preparing the celebratory food. There was nowhere in the world that I wanted to be other than with my little family all safe and happy under one roof. The whole of December was one long festive cheer. The fact my Christmas CD collection is disproportionately huge compared to any other type of music, is evidence of that. Those days are gone. Family Christmases are lost forever.



The Grief-riddled Christmas

Over the years, I’ve invited people who’ve been on their own to spend it with me (firstly, when I was single) and then later, when I had my own family. One of those people was my dearest friend Pam. She hated Christmas. Her dad had died the week before Christmas, when she was just ten years old. As you can imagine, it had a life-long impact. Over the years, she’d come and be a valued part of our family celebrations. I always hoped that by having her share Christmas, it might help to disrupt the script she had of it being a hated event. I was wrong. Christmas Day 2016: She hung herself with the dog lead. There’s no nice was of framing that event. That’s the reality of it. Here one minute. Gone the next.



There’s a level of grief that will inevitably permeate every Christmas I experience from here on in (no matter how optimistic or determined I am to free myself from that weight). I alternate between missing our laughter, shared tears, hugs, long walks, the sharing of rom-coms at the cinema, and someone I could talk to in a way I’d never been able to talk to anyone else and wanting to slap her. I find myself so angry at her level of selfishness. “Christmas day, Pam? Ffs!” And then I remember how much she hated life, and I allow myself to understand. I respect her choice, knowing she’s at peace. Oftentimes, I find myself envying her and that complete freedom she now has from all earthly crud.


Types of grief

Of course, grief isn’t a one size fits all, and there are many types of grief which can riddle the Christmas season.


There can be the death of someone we’ve loved either at Christmas or throughout the year, and the ‘festive’ season being lived without their presence can take its toll. We feel obligated to wear the face of ‘good cheer’ so as not to ruin Christmas for anyone else, while all the time we just want to scream. We’re forced to suppress our grief.


There can be the death of family life as we’ve known it, either by circumstance (kids or parents moving far away), estrangement, or with them just being unavailable due to other commitments.


For those of a more sensitive, highly empathic, humanitarian disposition, world grief can bite at the heels causing us ongoing torment. How can we have all this greed and gluttony in our faces while people around the world are starving, in war zones, having homes burnt down, stuck in prisons, or enduring the violation of their human rights. Knowing there are people sleeping rough on the streets or others who’ve gone missing, animal cruelty, and so on, can take its toll on our wellbeing. That they are strangers, makes no less an impact than if we knew them personally. Our culture doesn’t offer support for those who feel this pain acutely. Serving up a festive meal and ensuring everyone has gifts and been sent a card can feel numbing and utterly pointless when the world is falling apart.


We may experience grief when our home has been taken from us in some way, through flood, fire, violation or even because a loved one has died there. Home is meant to be our sacred space, our safe place in this world. If you like, it’s our second skin. When that’s peeled from us, we’re more vulnerable than ever. Where do we go? How can we create a sense of safety in our life?


Maybe we are grieving our health, knowing illness is taking its hold and that our days or months on earth are few. Perhaps it’s amplified by unhealed rifts with friends or family.

Perhaps we’re grieving the loss of employment or other ways we identify ourselves or measure our value.

It could be that we’re grieving the permanent loss of a relationship: friendship, partner or child.

These forms of silent grief don’t have a funeral. There’s no one to pat us on the shoulder and say “I’m sorry for your pain.”


Grief may show up in the form of existential questioning. “Why am I here?” “What’s the purpose of life?” “Why do I have a charmed life while that person is on the streets?” Or maybe it’s “Why is my life so shit?” This can be as isolating as any other grief, and just as misunderstood. Like other forms of grief, there are no answers.


Grief, like water, is difficult to contain; always finding a way to seep through any available space. We use funerals to publicly share our grief, if only for a half hour or so. Mourning has no timeline. It doesn’t conform to trends, habit or belief systems. It is almost unidentifiable because it is unique to each person. No one can ever understand the landscape of our grief. For the most part, grief is an invisible parasite sometimes feasting and other times resting. All we know is that we aren’t in control of how it will behave at any given moment.


Of course, we don’t need the Christmas season to bring up all the variations of grief, but the expectation of festivity and good cheer is so mired in our cultural soup that it only heightens anything unlike itself.



Yesterday I popped out to the shop to get a red cabbage and Brussels sprouts for Christmas Eve dinner. The queues were eye watering and glacially slow but not nearly as much as the over-laden trolleys. The anger and bickering between couples and families as they fought their way through the jungle of Tesco, only highlighted just how far removed we are (culturally) from the point of Christmas. Even if the ‘cute baby Jesus story’ isn’t our thing, surely the reason for the season is actually about expressing love? If not, then WHAT IS IT FOR? Why do we continue to engage in something that seems to cause no end of stress to so many people? Every year, at least a dozen people will ask me: “Are you ready for Christmas?” That is, have I bought and wrapped loads of presents and stressed myself to the max. My answer is always the same: “I keep Christmas simple, and I don’t get overwhelmed by it.” About the only Christmas card I send now is to my mother. Gifts are for immediate family. It’s not selfish, it’s self aware. I could easily send out hundreds of cards and buy dozens of presents. These things don’t make the world a better place.


Christmas that straddles the terrain of crass commercialisation and the keeping up of appearances can only end up producing emptiness. A beautiful Christmas isn’t dependent on excess, greed, and over consumption (food, alcohol or presents). Giving isn’t determined by bank balance or baubles and tinsel.

Do we really need to buy that much food and alcohol for the couple of days that the shops are shut? Do we have to send Christmas cards to everyone we know? As with most things in life, if we’re always motivated or hindered by ‘but what will they think?’ it means we’re not being true to our self.



To give from the heart is to give of ourselves. In a world that’s riddled with pain, we can weave our way gently by touching others with sincerity and kindness. Even the smallest action can make a difference. Donating or volunteering to food banks, gifting to homeless shelters, visiting elderly people in a hospice who have no family, smiling at a stranger on the street, taking time to say to the person on the check out in hell city (supermarket), “I appreciate what you’re doing, and I hope you have a peaceful Christmas,” (ditto the people cleaning public loos) or checking on someone who has been bereaved – these acts of giving help to create a new world: a place that’s kinder and more gentle.


Gratitude is quite possibly the highest level of vibration that exists. The simplicity of just ‘being’ allows us to step beyond all cultural expectations and to be ourselves, grateful for our place in the world. Whether it’s from the perspective of ‘there, but for the grace of the Universe, go I,” or recognising that we could have been born into a different body, family, country, custom, religion or culture, and that where we are now is okay.


Do we have a roof over our head?

Do we have a meal to eat?

Do we have someone (no matter where they are geographically) we care for and who cares about us?


If we have these basics, is there a way we can share some of the good we have?


If we don’t have these, is there a way we can ask for what we need?


There will always be people with more or less than we have, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In the words of the late Ram Dass, “We’re all just walking each other home”.

If that’s true (and I have no reason to doubt it), then what can we do to help each other enjoy that journey? Surely that’s the meaning of Christmas, and every other day of the blessed year.


Even though our Celebrant Training is based in Cumbria, we attract students from America, Canada, and across Europe and the UK.

Heart-led Ceremonies is tutored by Veronika Sophia Robinson, a celebrant with almost 25 years of experience creating, writing and officiating all manner of ceremonies. The vocal coaching is given by Paul Robinson, an experienced celebrant and voice coach. The tutoring is specific to celebrant voice work.

Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training is intense, creative, practical, inspiring and thought-provoking (and for some students, completely life changing), but it also involves a huge level of commitment from the student not only during the face-to-face training but afterwards with ongoing Skype sessions between the student and the tutors.

Unlike some training organisations, our certificates are issued on aptitude not attendance. This guarantees that all of our working celebrants are of the highest professional standard in the industry.

We make no apologies for these high standards as we take the role of celebrancy seriously, and we honour the fact that grieving families are vulnerable. Regardless of the type of ceremony you wish to create and officiate, we expect a high-level of professionalism from all our graduates. This begins with the commitment they bring to their training

Private Celebrant Training with Industry Experts

The training offered is done on a one-to-one basis; though two students who know each other are welcome to train at the same time.

The two-day course runs from 10am to 5pm. On the first evening you will have FOUR hours of independent learning time which includes written assignments to be completed in full by the next day.

The five-day course runs from 10-5pm, with TWO hours of independent learning time (for each of the first four days) which includes written assignments to be completed by the next day.

We’re often asked the difference between the 2 and 5 day training.

The 2 day will give you the nuts and bolts of what you need to become a professional celebrant.

The 5 day gives you the time and space to allow everything to embed, and to go deeper into the heart of celebrancy.

This training is person-centred, and offered in a relaxed and nurturing environment. Lunch and refreshments included.




Please note that this fee is tax deductible once you start working as a celebrant.

Please Note: All options include at least ten hours follow up by Skype or Facetime, as well as being included on the closed Facebook group for successful graduates where they’ll receive ongoing hints, tips, guidance, as well as other support.

Post-course support is ongoing, and there are opportunities to shadow experienced celebrants.

All formats include the study and practical experience of:

♥ Understanding ceremony structure. If you know how to create one type of ceremony you can create any ceremony (hence the reason this course encompasses funerals, namings, weddings, and other rites of passage).

♥ Recognising the skills and qualities necessary for personalised and professional, heart-led, celebrancy.

♥ Funerals, Memorials, Interment of Ashes (Understanding grief, family disputes, working with funeral directors, creating meaningful farewells, cremations, burials, eco-burials). In the five-day training, you may be able to include a visit to the crematorium or a funeral director. Both private training options may also include shadowing Veronika or other Heart-led Celebrants at a funeral or family visit.


♥ Weddings, Handfastings, Elopements and Vow Renewals


♥ Naming Ceremonies (for babies, children, adults, and transgender people who wish to have their new identity formally honoured)

♥ Other rites of passage, such as menarche, blessingways, sagesse (wise crone), new business, divorce healing, and more.


♥ Understanding the legalities around death, funerals and marriage (e.g. the difference between a registrar and a celebrant)

♥ The difference between a heart-led celebrant and other types of celebrants

♥ The difference between an independent celebrant and a humanist

♥ Indoor and Outdoor Ceremonies

♥ Creating Sacred Space

♥ Setting Intention

♥ Creative Writing

♥ Script Writing

♥ Word Medicine

♥ Storytelling

♥ Performance

♥ Archetypes in Storytelling

♥ Symbols, Rituals and Altars

Altar at an outdoor wedding ceremony officiated by www.veronikarobinson.com

♥ Ceremonial Herbs

♥ Working with the Four Elements

♥ Body Awareness

♥ Celebrant Well-being

♥ Understanding the role of the Community Celebrant

♥ Voice development and coaching (this is required as an ongoing commitment by students via Skype after the initial training)



♥ Being of Service

♥ The Responsibility of being a Celebrant

♥ Developing a higher-vibrational heart frequency

♥ Enhancing Intuition

♥ Sacred Connections with Clients

♥ Mainstream and Metaphysical Marketing

♥ Being Self-Employed

♥ Establishing Your Celebrant Business

♥ The Four Sacred Archetypes of Building Your Celebrancy Brand


Applications are invited from people who are committed to developing awareness of self and others, willing to train to an excellent level, are creative, independent, inspirational, authentic and courageous, and wish to consciously create beautiful ceremonies in their community.

Unlike any other training course in England, this focuses on the importance of ongoing personal development, and takes a mind, body and soul approach to celebrancy and ceremonies, as well as recognising the importance of ongoing skill building.

The foundation of this celebrant training is based on integrity and self-awareness.


Dear Veronika,

There are not enough words to thank you for the truly life-changing two days spent with you in your lovely home in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside.  You are an inspiration, a mentor and an advocate. You helped me to value myself and the gifts I can bring to this new chosen career.  

You challenged me, but in a gentle and empathetic way that made me feel that it was going to be ok to try to get my words onto the page and then “off the page”.  By the time I started writing with you (and it was very early on the first day), I felt that no matter what the result was to be, I had a soft place to land, and that you would support my efforts, no matter what the end product. And, as a result, I could take risks with my emotions and my words; not easy for anyone, especially an introvert like me.

I learned more about being a celebrant from you in two days than I did in the entire nine months of my previous program. I now feel that I can, with grace, humility and hard work, develop and deliver celebrations that will honour and support events in anyone’s life journey. 

Thank you, thank you, Veronika for giving me the gift of “you”. You are a true, beautiful and rare gem. I shall never forget our time together.

Thank you.

Brenda Martin, Canada

If you’ve entered the world of celebrancy after being in paid employment and surrounded by other people all day long, you soon come to realise there are acres of time spent on your own. Working hours are irregular, too: there can be evening visits to those in mourning, and for wedding celebrants Saturdays are booked up long in advance, not to mention those midweek ceremonies. We can sit up long, long into the dark of night writing scripts.

Issue 2 of The Celebrant magazine


In an ideal world, we’d meet up with other celebrants each week and share ideas. This is where The Celebrant magazine comes in: it’s your ‘get-together’ with other celebrants to share, inspire, grow and remain enthusiastic.


Veronika Robinson - funeral celebrant

Launched in September 2019 to an international readership, The Celebrant exists to unite celebrants around the world.

Amy and Samantha


The magazine is edited by Veronika Robinson who has been a celebrant (officiating all manner of ceremonies) for 24 years, and is the tutor at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training in Cumbria. She’s enthusiastic about sharing ceremonies and rituals from around the world.

Issue one of The Celebrant magazine


To subscribe, visit:



As we descend further into the chill of Autumn, my thoughts shift to an upcoming script I’ll be writing: A Sagesse Ceremony. Sagesse is from the French, and means ‘wise’.


I recently officiated a funeral for a woman who, when due to retire from the NHS, was given a certificate to say she could keep working. She stayed in that job until 75, and then continued working in private care right into her 84th year. Stories like this are few and far between. Of course, some people can’t wait to retire. This could be because they hate their job, or have fabulous hobbies they want to spend more time on, or they simply don’t need to work because they’re financially secure. But what we don’t tend to talk about as a culture is what happens when we reach society’s Use-By Date it has assigned us. More often than not, Culture offers the elderly a nursing/care/retirement home. So long they’re comfortable and fed, let’s keep them away from the rest of the world and out of sight. We certainly don’t want to be reminded about what’s down the track for us at the end of life, do we?


One of the reasons for the rapid deterioration of the elderly is because they’re no longer valued. They’re not considered an asset and so with that loss of purpose, what else do they have to live for? Studies show, for example, that hands-on grandparents live longer and are healthier than those who don’t have such interactions. In the moving book, Being Mortal, we read about how people in care homes where there are indoor plants, pets such as cats, dogs or even a lorikeet in each resident’s bedroom, visiting children, and vegetable gardens they can tend, usually come off most or all medication and thrive. Why? Because they have a sense of purpose. Each day there is a focus, a job to do, something or someone to observe or care for. It’s pretty much common sense, but this is so fundamentally lacking in many options for the elderly.





I had a conversation a year or so back with a man in his early 70s who was reluctant to retire from his business because of the lack of purpose he’d be facing. He wanted to do something with all the knowledge and expertise he’d spent a lifetime accumulating. Where was he to leave and share that experience, he wanted to know. Some elderly people volunteer in charity shops, and others befriend the lonely. On the whole though, culture shuns those who are no longer of use.


Writing ceremonies for those transitioning between working or reproductive life, and what’s on the other side of that, is done so with immense reverence, and with the intention of honouring all that has gone before, and how that shall be mindfully carried into the future in such a way that the Cloak of Wisdom is wrapped as a regal shawl of worldliness. Such a ceremony may be titled: wise crone; sagesse; menopause; Saturn return, for example.


The elderly are the libraries of our culture. We’ve already seen the impact of kindle on bookshops, and social media destroying face-to-face communication; how long will it be before care homes are considered a ‘waste of space’? Changes happen incrementally in our world. Things come and go: people, trends, inventions, values. When parents/grandparents are no longer an integral part of family life, they deteriorate. But you know what? So do we. We lose the vital opportunity to have our lives enriched.



When I come across someone in their 90s who is positively thriving, it’s always because they have a rich and purposeful life: they’re avid gardeners, bakers, have a firm family life, volunteer, are still driving and therefore independent, and so on. They’re not sitting on a sofa watching Jeremy Kyle.


Think about the elderly people in your life whether they are family, friends, neighbours or even strangers you pass. When was the last time you stopped and talked to them? Really talked to them. Not about the weather or some external thing, but about what their dreams were/are, their passions, their regrets, their loves, their losses. What makes their heart sing? If you don’t have the time or inclination to care about such people, just remember this: one day you’ll be old, and there may not be anyone around to value your life’s journey. Maybe you’ll be shunted away without anyone giving a damn as to all you’ve learnt and can pass on to others. What makes a life meaningful (goes the reading I sometimes share at funerals), is not what we learn but what we teach.


So, when you’re old, will you be wise? Will you feel impotent because there’s no one interested in all the experiences you’ve garnered and life lessons you’ve mastered? What shall you do with your three score years and ten of ‘life’?


When I teach celebrant students, I say that the most important part of this job is our ability to listen. It doesn’t matter a jot if you’re the world’s best writer, performer, have good business sense, are a whiz at marketing, or have fab social skills or thousands of likes on Facebook. If you can’t slow down, keep your mouth closed other than to ask caring or insightful questions, then you miss laying the strong and vital foundations of all ceremony work. If the same truth was applied to our cultural approach to the aging, oh how different society would look.

(*silent and listen contain the same letters)


For my part, it will be my immense privilege to start creating a Sagesse (wise woman) Ceremony for a lady transitioning into being an elder in her community.


Veronika Robinson is a Heart-led Celebrant who has been officiating ceremonies since 1995, and is a Celebrant Trainer in Cumbria where she offers private tuition in all aspects of celebrancy. She’s also the editor of The Celebrant magazine. Veronika is currently President of the Association of Independent Celebrants.


As an Aussie-born child, I had the delicious delight of being raised by German parents. Christmas was an absolute joy and wonder year after year. It was never a commercialised event based on how much money could be spent or buying presents to make up for presence; and it is still a ceremony that I hold as sacred (not in a religious sense, but as a time of family devotion, love and dedicated rituals).


Amongst the beautiful memories of singing carols in German and English by the gorgeously scented Christmas tree (grown on our land) with candlelight all around, are the tastes of Christmas. Mother would bake stollen (German fruit bread with marzipan). Our home would be awoken by the scent of spices mingling, brandy, almonds and honey as the yeast-based dough rose willingly in a warm bowl. As I sat nibbling on some shop-bought stollen today (with the student I have here for 5-day celebrant training), I confessed to feeling a bit like a fraud eating the stollen I’d bought when I’m perfectly capable of making one (and have done, over the years while my daughters were growing up).



While my student, Lorna, is writing a naming ceremony, soup is simmering on the stove top. Despite the grey, glum day outside, we’re warm and cosy. Not long now till I’ll serve up the home-made minestrone for lunch. How good does food taste when made with love and care and cooked from raw ingredients? So many of my warmest childhood memories are tied up around delicious food always cooked from scratch: the best mushroom soup ever made from the wild mushrooms we’d collect after much-needed rain. Saturday night was always pancake night (crepe-like with lemon juice and brown sugar): mum’s secret ingredient was custard powder. Whether it was delicious sweet treats like stollen or lebkuchen or the healthy salads we’d eat at night, they were always prepared with care.


After reading through some of the ceremonies I shared with Lorna as part of her training, she made the comparison between celebrants who use templated scripts for their ceremonies (the ‘cut and paste’ celebrants), and those who write (cook) from scratch. The difference is… LOVE.


The pot of minestrone I made for my daughter a few days after she’d given birth to my granddaughter.


Similarly, registrars use one of three or four scripts (in the UK) and everybody gets one of those for their wedding ‘ceremony’. It’s like having cup-a-soup from a packet. They all taste the same. One size fits all. Yeah, it’ll do, but really, where’s the magic? Where’s the love? Where’s the care? Where’s the personalisation?




When I make a pot of minestrone, there’ll always be similar things: the tomatoey base, some gluten-free spaghetti and some beans. Everything else is ‘what do I have? What will make this delicious?’ It could be, as in today, sweet potato, red pepper, spinach leaves, pinto beans, smoked paprika, black pepper, Italian herbs. Another time, it might have green beans, broccoli, carrots, potato. It’s still minestrone but it’s personalised.



When I order soup in a café (and I rarely do, as I’d rather have my own soup at home), I can immediately taste if it’s from a can or a packet. Immediately! When you’re a heart-led celebrant, you can immediately recognise a scripted ceremony when you hear/read it.



As celebrants, we surely come to this role as guardian of the liminal spaces that people must pass through on their rites of passage to give them the best ceremony (and celebrant) they deserve? Now, it’s fair to say that in a ‘hungry’ world where people are generally deprived of meaning, it could be said that any ceremony will fulfil that need. If you have the choice to feed someone soup from a packet or one you’ve made yourself, presumably the first is only an option if you’ve no other food in the house? As a celebrant, though, we ALWAYS have food in the house of our creativity. If we’re too lazy to draw on those ingredients, perhaps the job should be left to someone who has the time, care and energy to make a worthwhile offering?



Veronika Robinson is a Heart-led Celebrant who has been officiating ceremonies since 1995, and is a Celebrant Trainer in Cumbria where she offers private tuition in all aspects of celebrancy. She’s also the editor of The Celebrant magazine. Veronika is currently President of the Association of Independent Celebrants.



The Celebrant magazine is here!


This invaluable and gorgeous full-fat resource for celebrants-in-training and working celebrants is edited and published by Cumbrian-based celebrant Veronika Robinson. A whopping 88 pages, each colourful issue is brimming with lively, intelligent, interesting and inspiring articles relevant to all aspects of ceremony and celebrancy.


Consider it your 24/7 CPD. This handy A5 publication is easy to read in the bathtub, while waiting for a train, in bed, or any other place where you’ve got some spare time and when you wish to be re-energised in your celebrant role.



The Celebrant is a subscription-only print publication available worldwide.




The Celebrant: international journal of celebrants and ceremonies


ISSN 2632 – 9557

Subscribe here:  Celebrant Magazine


Publisher and editor: Veronika Robinson/Starflower Press




U.K. publication dates


September: Autumn Equinox


December: Winter Solstice


March: Spring Equinox


June: Summer Solstice




The Celebrant magazine warmly welcomes submissions from celebrants around the globe. Contact us for submission guidelines.