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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Indeed, at the time of writing, there is currently a long-awaited review into marriage laws as they are well and truly outdated.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.

 

Gluttony

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.

 

Giving

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

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.

 

TWO-DAY TRAINING | £580

FIVE-DAY TRAINING | £1450

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.

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♥ 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)

Sophie

Sophie

♥ 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

Applicants

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:

www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant-magazine

 

 

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.

 

With the rise of celebrant-led wedding ceremonies in England, and registrars now offering ‘bespoke’ ceremonies, it’s important for couples to understand the difference between when a celebrant creates a bespoke ceremony and when a registrar offers a bespoke ceremony. Let me say at the outset, they are nothing alike, though you may think for the £850 or so that a registrar may charge you’ll be getting something special.

Penelope and Freddie’s Askham Hall Wedding Ceremony. Photography by Hannah Hall.

As a celebrant, I spend an average of 20 hours per wedding couple. This includes getting to know them (face to face or by Skype, depending on if they’re in the country or not), truly understanding their beliefs about life and love and marriage, learning their love story as well as their hopes and dreams for married life, writing their ceremony script, meeting them at the venue before the wedding day, the day of the ceremony, spending hours rehearsing their ceremony so that it flows freely and is ‘off the page’ during the officiating, and travel time. The 20 to 30 minute ceremony I officiate on the day, rests on the foundation of a lot of unseen work.

Fiona and Paul’s Dutch-themed wedding ceremony at the beautiful Askham Hall, near Penrith, Cumbria.

Bespoke, to me, means that not only do I get to know the couple and build a meaningful relationship with them, but I write a script that is just for them. I am hugely invested in their wedding day, and this shows by the amount of time I spend per couple. In my work, the heart of their ceremony features their love story. Any rituals created are meaningful to them and their beliefs; they’re not simply space fillers or ‘off the shelf’. And just as importantly, I match my energy to theirs.

The gorgeous moment when the bride walks down the aisle.

A registrar doesn’t write a bespoke ceremony for the couple. End of. They use a templated script which was written by a colleague in the office (someone who won’t even meet the couple), and although it allows for the addition of a handfasting, possibly a quaich or sand-blending ceremony (even though registrars aren’t given professional training about handfastings or other rituals), the ritual scripts are templates. The couple must provide their own cord, cup or sand. To be clear, a registrar is not a specialist in rituals.

The bride’s Scottish grandmother offered her silver quaich (Scottish loving cup) for their ceremony at Askham Hall. Photo: Veronika Robinson

With a government ‘bespoke’ template, the couple may write their own vows, and choose readings and music. However, these MUST be approved by the registrar (how bespoke is that?) and must not contain any religious or spiritual elements. Interesting, really, that a handfasting would even be allowed (ditto humanists offering it) given that it has ancient pagan roots and is deeply spiritual.

Inconsistencies abound.

Today is the one-year anniversary of when I officiated Rene and Chantal’s ceremony in Outback Australia.

As an independent celebrant, bespoke to me means the ceremony I create is unique to the couple. If one of them is Catholic and the other Jewish, or maybe one is Pagan and one is atheist, then the ceremony will reflect their beliefs (not mine or that of a government employee). When two people come together, as one, their ceremony needs to accurately reflect this.

Rene and Chantal’s handfasting. Photo by Ben Broady.

A celebrant-led bespoke ceremony is not restricted by government guidelines. A registrar’s ‘bespoke’ ceremony is simply another template with space to pop in some vows written by the couple. There’s no crafting, beauty, care or true personalisation allowed. And there most certainly isn’t recognition or reflection that each human being has beliefs that are unique to them.

Michael and Victoria’s bohemian wedding

To be 100% clear, the registrar taking your ‘bespoke’ ceremony will not have written you a unique script. The words they say aren’t even ones they’ve written themselves. They are, essentially, ‘rent a gob’, to put it crudely. When a skilled celebrant crafts a script, it is done with awareness of pace, pitch and pause; not to mention beauty, flair and creativity. Their script will also accurately reflect their natural vocabulary and the words will flow easily.

Loz and Kate

My lovely couple, Loz and Katie, tied the knot by a waterfall in rural Yorkshire.

The registrar will not have spent hours and hours getting to know you. And they certainly won’t be available to wait around if there’s a delay to your ceremony start e.g. rain or bride held up or some other reason why things haven’t gone to plan. As a matter of course, I don’t book more than one wedding per day. My couples know, with complete certainty, that if there’s any hiccup that might cause a delay, that I am theirs for the day. A registrar, in most cases, has another ceremony to go to and won’t wait for long.

The use of the word ‘bespoke’ by the registration service is, at best, misleading, and at worst, demeaning. It shows a complete misunderstanding of what bespoke means, and short changes a couple of what could be a truly personalised ceremony.

Mike and Sara

Michael and Sara live in Australia. They chose Cumbria for their wedding ceremony. Such a special day!

 

The words death and café conjure such different images, don’t they? The idea of placing them alongside each other evokes confusion or curiosity, but rarely is the response neutral.

 

Grief, pain, torment, shock, loss, heartbreak, endings, finality.

Cappuccino, cake, tea, scones, taste sensation, pleasure, companionship, joviality.

 

How on earth do you link them together? And perhaps, more importantly, WHY would you put them as companions in written or spoken word?

 

When I tell people I facilitate a Death Café, the response is invariably one of horror or of intrigue. Generally, those who find it distasteful don’t want to engage in any further discussion. Those of a curious nature learn a heck of a lot in a short space of time.

There are approximately 8, 472 Death Cafés around the world in 65 countries. Some are offered regularly, and others occasionally. What they all have in common is a desire to raise awareness and help remove taboos around death and dying through friendly discussion. There is no set agenda.

My passion for setting up a monthly Death Café in Penrith was initially prompted because I wanted to bring choice and change to my local community. Few people consider death until it slaps them in the face (and if you’ve experienced grief, you know full well that ‘slap’ is an understatement). When suddenly faced with having to arrange a funeral, the chief mourner has anywhere between 80 and 300 decisions to make. That’s a hell of a lot of computing for the neo-cortex to deal with at a time when the body needs to be expressing raw grief.

 

Having seen behind the scenes of the funeral industry, as a funeral celebrant, I wanted people to start having conversations about death. In short, I was determined to disrupt the cultural script (in my neck of the woods, anyway) that death is a dirty word.

 

January 11th 2017 is a date that will stay in my mind for many reasons. Once I had decided to set up a Death Café, I chose my first date: January 11th. I would host meetings on the second Wednesday of each month for as long as there was interest. As per usual in my life, the Universe likes to amplify things a bit. I had no idea in the world (how could I have?), that on Christmas Day just previous, my best friend of eighteen years would hang herself. My whole being turned inside out as I grappled with the trauma and shock. As Fate would have it, her funeral date was January 11th just an hour or so after my first Death Café. I was to be the celebrant. Needless to say I was staring death in the face without any full-force protection that day!

 

Through conversations around cake and coffee, tea and scones, and amidst the gorgeous setting of Greenwheat Florist and Fika, a beautiful café and flower shop on Brunswick Road, Penrith (and thanks to the kindness and generosity of owners Laura and Lee for creating space for us there) we have started writing a new story. It’s one of choice, change, consciousness, creativity and care. Some of our guests have been there since that first session back in January 2017. Their thoughts on death, dying and indeed, living, have had quite a metamorphosis in that time.

 

No subject around death or dying is taboo. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve explored, we’ve asked questions, we’ve shared books. Opinions are sometimes diametrically opposed, and that’s okay too. After all, it is a discussion group. We’ve covered topics ranging from eco-burials, ashes into jewellery, life after death, the ethics of the funeral-director industry, coffins and shrouds, cultural death practices around the world, pet deaths, grief, mourning, caring for a body at home, the politics of death, burial v. cremation, how to choose a funeral director, what makes a meaningful life.

 

Who comes to a Death Café? Anyone at all. We’ve had mourners, celebrants and a funeral director, hospice care workers, those who are simply curious, and friends who’ve been dragged along and rather enjoyed it. I can’t speak for other Death Cafés around the world, but I know that I look forward to our friendly little group in Penrith. Sometimes it’s been incredibly busy, with sixteen or so people gathered in a little café, and other times it’s just two or three of us. For my part, I’m there regardless ready and willing to have a conversation about death, dying, love, living, and more. Most importantly, to show others that death is not a dirty word.

 

About Me:

Hello, my name is Veronika Robinson, an independent funeral celebrant in rural Cumbria.

Determining the nature and feel of a ceremony isn’t as simple as: religious or not religious. Most people have their own hybrid philosophy of life, death, love and living, and as your celebrant I seamlessly weave your beliefs into a ceremony that is enriching, healing and affirming of the relationship you shared with your beloved. I am able to do this because I listen clearly and carefully. At all times, my job is to craft a ceremony which belongs to you.

I’ve been an independent celebrant since 1995, and have officiated all manner of ceremonies internationally. My intention is to create, write and officiate deeply meaningful, personalised and beautiful ceremonies for every person I am honoured to serve.

Being a funeral celebrant, for me, is a vocation which is founded upon high-level care, compassion, empathy, responsibility and awareness.

Ceremonies, when crafted with skill and love, have the ability to be deeply healing.

As the rise of celebrant-led ceremonies grows in the UK, more people are coming across a celebrant at work, and if the celebrant is good at what they do, then the observer may be inspired to pursue that career path.

 

 

Fortunately, there are many training organisations available. However, it is important that you choose one that matches your ethos, and don’t make a decision purely based on price or location. There are many, many factors to take into account with your training, and that also includes after-course support. An expensive course does not necessarily mean an excellent training programme. Too many would-be celebrants are left flailing and seeking out a second training course because their ‘expensive’ one was inadequate, and didn’t do what it said on the tin. It’s easy to be lured by words like ‘government diploma’, ‘professional’, ‘institute’, etc. It could be that you’re paying for modules on how to write an email or use a Word document, or writing essays on the history of funerals. A good course should teach you to BE A CELEBRANT. It should inspire your creativity, empathy, imagination, and excellence in forging client relationships.

 

 

Also, consider why so many organisations offer separate courses for wedding/naming celebrancy and funeral celebrancy. My view, as a celebrant of 23 years, is that they don’t need to be offered separately, and that it is merely a way for organisations to ‘earn more money’.

 

 

When looking at different training courses, ask questions. Lots of questions!

 

 

For example:

. how many face-to-face contact hours are there? (minus the time for meals/refreshments)

 

. what is the experience of the tutors? (do they pride themselves on quality services over quantity?)

 

 

. is there voice training by a qualified voice coach? What does that involve? Is there ongoing voice training as part of your fee?

 

. how is your work assessed to see if you are suitable to be a celebrant?

 

 

. does the course give certificates to anyone who attends, or only to those whose written and practical work is outstanding?

 

. what practical experience does the course offer you?

 

. will you have the opportunity to write ceremonies?

 

. what experience does the tutor have in creative writing?

 

 

. does the course teach you how to create and choreograph rituals?

 

. what experience do you have on the course of officiating a ceremony?

 

 

 

. does the training take a holistic approach?

 

. does the tutor have experience in a wide variety of settings?

 

. what written material is available as part of your training?

 

. what post-course support is available?

 

 

These are important questions to ask. Don’t throw your money away on the first course you see. Research your options well.

 

 

If you’re looking for a mind, body, soul approach to celebrancy, I invite you to consider my training course. Ask me any questions you like. My course isn’t for everyone, but for those who intuitively feel that celebrancy is a heart-led vocation rather than an administrative job. ~ Veronika x

 

 

 

 

Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training

Recommended by the Association of Independent Celebrants (AOIC)

 

Comprehensive and in-depth practical training course in creative, heart-led, authentic celebrancy.

 

Learn to create, write and officiate all types of ceremonies with confidence, care, commitment and grace.

 

Founder and Facilitator: Veronika Sophia Robinson

Veronika Robinson is an experienced, working celebrant. She trained in New Zealand in 1995, where she was registered to officiate legal wedding ceremonies, and has been officiating ever since. Veronika has had the privilege of officiating in New Zealand, Australia and England where she has written and led all manner of ceremonies, including weddings, handfastings, blessingways, namings, divorce healing, miscarriage memorial, conscious conception, funerals, memorials, wise crone, menarche, and house warmings.

She’s also an author (fiction and non-fiction), journalist, public speaker, workshop leader, and metaphysician.

 

Veronika is delighted to be a celebrant for Gift of a Wedding, a charity which provides weddings for couples where one of them is terminally ill.

 

She is also President of The Association of Independent Celebrants, and is the founder and facilitator of Penrith’s first Death Café which seeks to open up honest discussion around death and dying.

 

Training Options:

Certificate in Celebrancy

Certificate in Advanced Celebrancy & Ritual

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

 

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 and Memorials (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 at a funeral or family visit.

 

♥Weddings, Handfastings 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

 

♥Indoor and Outdoor Ceremonies

♥Creating Sacred Space

♥Setting Intention

♥Creative Writing

♥Script Writing

♥Word Medicine

♥Storytelling

♥Performance

♥Archetypes in Storytelling

♥Symbols, Rituals and Altars

♥Ceremonial Herbs

♥Working with the Four Elements

 

♥Body Awareness

♥Celebrant Well-being

♥Understanding the role of the Community Celebrant

 

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

http://www.paulrobinsonproductions.co.uk

 

♥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

 

Applicants

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.

 

 

Please email for a booking form: veronikarobinson AT hotmail DOT com

 

“So many people have commented on how lovely it was, and how amazing you are. It was everything we hoped it would be and more.” ~ Fiona and Paul

 

When Paul and Fiona first made contact with me, we chatted about all the options available to them with a celebrant-led wedding. As Paul is Dutch (and so is Fiona’s mother), it was clear that their ceremony simply had to have their ancestry strongly entwined in their day.

 

Personally, I love heading off to Askham Hall to officiate a ceremony. It’s a delightful venue both in terms of the history of the buildings but also the gorgeous gardens.

 

It was my honour to create a ceremony that Paul and Fiona would cherish.

 

Have a look at this video preview of their day.

 

www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant