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Celebrancy and Cooking: what do they have in common?

 

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.

 

Just You and I: the magical intimacy of eloping

Is ‘running off in secret’ something couples do to avoid dealing with complicated relations, permission, expensive commercialised wedding days and high-level stress or is the shrouding of the event in secrecy a form of magical intimacy? Culturally we’ve been somewhat conditioned to believe it’s rather anti-social behaviour, and often done in haste, but I would suggest reframing elopement. Perhaps honouring the delicious esoteric nature of lovers’ promises is a healthier way of viewing this less-traditional crossing the threshold?

 

Geoff, the handsome groom

 

When my dear friend Tanya confided that she and her beloved, Geoff, were eloping, I did a happy dance. YES! Actually, I was ecstatically happy! I’ve known Tanya a long time, and had the honour of officiating her son’s naming ceremony in Australia 20 years ago.

Carefully chosen items for the wedding altar

 

 

Why was I so delighted? You’d possibly think, as a wedding celebrant (and, obviously, as a friend), that I’d want to see the gathering of guests and all that a wedding ceremony traditionally entails. Without her giving me any explanation as to their decision, I fully understood why they were taking this path.

 

 

There are many reasons for choosing to elope, and while it’s more common for people entering their second or later marriage, even first timers can enjoy the intimacy which comes from ‘just the two of us’.

Tanya on the verandah of the beachside cottage they stayed in for their elopement

The benefits of eloping:

 

  1. The focus is entirely on yourselves. No expensive venue. No exorbitantly priced disco lights. No wedding invitations. No caterers. No £500 wedding shoes. No having to mediate between parents and in-laws’ ideas about what you should do or have.
  2. No extortionate wedding expenses. If you fancy going away, you can spend money on travel instead and have an amazing adventure.
  3. There’s no worry about who to place at what table for the reception, or the hell of divorced parents having to meet up.
  4. You don’t have to be concerned about who to invite.
  5. You don’t have to worry about stage fright and nerves.
  6. It is incredibly intimate and ever so romantic, and the whole day is about you (not anyone or anything else).

Traditionally a wedding is done before friends and family as witnesses, and the sharing of your joy is what helps to make it such a special occasion. In this day and age where weddings have become so commercialised, often costing couples anywhere between £10 000 and £50 000 (in Cumbria, at a registered venue), imagine what a couple could do with that money? Apart from a lovely destination elopement or honeymoon, it could provide a solid basis for creating a home. Or it could feed a few orphans. Or rescue animals. At the heart of any wonderful wedding is the ceremony. No amount of money in the world will make it extra special. The secret ingredient of a beautiful wedding ceremony is the undiluted love the couple share with each other. It’s not dependent on anything but looking into each other’s eyes as they declare their commitment.

 

They said I DO!

 

Elopement might just become the new norm as more couples recognise how many benefits there are to saying “I do” without an audience.

 

Your wedding day sets the tone ~ a template, if you like ~ for your married life. Whatever choices you make, it’s important that they feel right to you and aren’t based on keeping everyone else happy.

 

Tanya and Geoff on their wedding day. They eloped to Tasmania.

 

Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos with the world, Tanya and Geoff. Wishing you all the best for an amazing life together. You deserve it!

 

About Me:

Veronika Robinson is a wedding celebrant who has been officiating wedding ceremonies since 1995. She loves the intimacy that comes with ‘just the couple’.

 

If you’d love to have an obligation-free chat about eloping in Cumbria or are planning a destination wedding here with guests, contact her: www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant

 

Celebrant Training: Creating Beautiful Ceremonies in your Community

In a few weeks from now, it will be the 22nd anniversary since I trained as a celebrant in beautiful New Zealand. I was in the early stages of pregnancy with my daughter, Beth, as I officiated my first wedding in a public garden in Auckland. I remember ceremonies from back then as clearly as I remember the wedding I officiated yesterday here in Cumbria.

 

 

Being a celebrant is a deeply rewarding vocation, and I would like to share that with others. This September shall see the first intake of students at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training.
This is a comprehensive and in-depth practical training course in creative, heart-led, authentic celebrancy. You will learn to create, write and officiate all types of ceremonies with confidence.

 

If you’d love to learn more, keep reading! Love, Veronika xx

 

16th and 17th September, 2017
Glassonby, near Penrith, Cumbria

7.30am to 8.30pm both days

Places strictly limited.

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 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.

 

 

Facilitators
Veronika Robinson is a professionally trained and experienced full-time celebrant. She trained in New Zealand in 1995, where she was registered to officiate legal wedding ceremonies, and has been officiating ceremonies ever since. Veronika has had the privilege of officiating in New Zealand, Australia and England.

 

 

 

Veronika has officiated 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, psychological astrologer, 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 the founder and facilitator of Penrith’s first Death Café, A Meaningful Farewell, which seeks to open up honest discussion around death and dying.

 

Veronika is also a committee member for the Association of Independent Celebrants.

 

 

 

Paul Robinson has enjoyed a rich career as an actor, broadcaster, compere, voice over, ventriloquist, voice coach, singer and celebrant. He’s deeply passionate about self-development, and utilises the Enneagram of Personality Types as a path of personal growth. http://paulrobinsonproductions.co.uk/

 

Together, they combine skills to offer a one-of-a-kind training in heart-led, authentic celebrancy.

 

Celebrant Training fee
£650 (20% [£130] non-refundable deposit required upon booking). Balance due no later than August 16th. (You will easily recoup the cost of your course after officiating two or three ceremonies.)

This fee includes:
[] Two-day intensive and practical tuition on all aspects of celebrancy: 7.30am to 8.30pm both days
[] A copy of the book Heart-led Ceremonies (the art and soulful practice of creating, writing and officiating ceremonies) by Veronika and Paul Robinson. This complete guide to celebrancy is available exclusively through this training course.
[] Nourishing wholefood plant-based meals and refreshments (breakfast through to dinner, both days)
[] Two follow-up Skype sessions (or face to face in Cumbria)
[] Certificate (upon written completion of three ceremonies and presentations, and active participation in the training course)
[] Upon satisfactory completion of the course, participants are eligible to join the Association Of Independent Celebrants, and immediately receive professional and indemnity insurance for celebrancy work worldwide.
[] Extensive list of readings for all types of ceremonies
[] Extensive list of music for all types of ceremonies

 

This comprehensive course is set over a two-day weekend, and includes:
Learning to create and define space, both indoors and outdoors
What it means to ‘hold the space’
Setting intention
Understanding symbols and rituals
Crafting personalised ceremonies
Ceremonies: Blessingways, namings, weddings, funerals, memorials, housewarmings, etc.
Word Medicine
Voice work
Presentation
Body awareness
Skills of a celebrant
Qualities of a celebrant
Emotional quotient
The metaphysics of marketing yourself as a celebrant
Sacred connections: your ideal client
Care of the celebrant
The creative celebrant
The intuitive celebrant

Please note this is an interactive weekend, and all participants will be required to take part in role play, voice development, presentation, and video work.

Training Venue
We are pleased to host Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training at Glassonby Old Hall, Glassonby, near Penrith, Cumbria CA10 1DU

This five-star luxury venue is a Grade II listed traditional Cumbrian long house. It has original features including old ship-timber oak beams, oak-mullion windows, flagged stone floors, open fires and stone staircases.

Glassonby Old Hall is on one of the higher hills in the Eden Valley with amazing views towards the Pennines.

Glassonby Hall has a galleried dining room with a massive stone fireplace, a sitting room with wood-burning cast-iron stove and a large breakfasting kitchen with four-oven Aga.

 

Local accommodation options:

Bed & Breakfast
www.scalehousefarm.com (3 miles from Glassonby)

Caravans, tents, camping, bunk barns
(1 mile from Glassonby) http://www.edenvalleycaravansite.co.uk

Glassonby Old Hall (why not stay on site?)

[] a four poster Master Bedroom suite
[] a twin bedroom
[] third double bedroom with a 5′ bed.

If you’re happy to share a bedroom, or share a bed with a partner or friend to share the cost, this can be arranged. Contact Veronika directly for prices, and to book (a 20% deposit required, and balance due no later than July 20th)

 

Celebrant Training Booking Form
If you wish to receive a booking form for the Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training, please email:
veronikarobinson AT Hotmail DOT com (make sure you spell veronika with a k and not a c)

Choosing a life-centred funeral

“This is what happens around the world;
if you love, you grieve, and there are no exceptions.”

Funerals. They’re not something people like to think about, let alone talk about. They conjure up images from the movies of families huddled together by the graveside on a dark, grey, rainy day, sheltering under black umbrellas, as their loved one is laid to rest.

 

seedhearts

Or maybe your own experience of attending a funeral immediately comes to the surface of your consciousness. Saying goodbye to someone who held a special place in our heart isn’t something we would willingly choose. The greater the love, the greater the loss. Grief hurts.

 

burialwoods

 

 

If you’ve been involved in organising a funeral, you’ll probably have had a sense of the factory-farm nature of getting one lot of mourners into and out of a crematorium before the next lot of mourners arrive. There’s no time to be still. No time to let go. No real sense of having time and space to process what should be a meaningful and heart-felt ceremony. The same is often experienced in church services, too. You have an allotted time in which to be in and out. Does it have to be this way? No. Not at all. There are alternatives.

funeraltransport

What can you do if you’re responsible for, or part of a family that is, organising a ceremony? Firstly, consider all the aspects of what it means to create a meaningful funeral.

 

shroud

The first step might well be to think outside the box. Do you have to use the church? Do you have to use the crematorium? I’m not saying or suggesting either of these venues is wrong, but do bear in mind that you will be placing yourself and other mourners under a severe time restriction. Regardless of your venue choice, you can still incorporate meaningful beliefs, whether they’re religious or otherwise.

 

willowcoffin

For any ceremony, creating a sense of sacred space immediately brings the human spirit to awareness. We see and feel that something out of the ordinary from daily life is about to happen. Whether you’re acting in the capacity of a celebrant or as a loving family member, there is so much you can do to set up a ceremonial space. Firstly, consider the venue. What was important in the deceased’s life? Were they a member of a sporting group? For example, could you hire a yacht club, or football club or village pub? Maybe they were a keen gardener or potter? Is there a garden or pottery place where you could hold the ceremony, and possibly the reception? Maybe you’ll opt for a graveside burial, and then have a longer ceremony in their favourite café (outside business hours). What about your local village hall?

Maybe your loved one was passionate about the sea? Could your ceremony be on a quiet beach?

 

onthebeach

Perhaps there’s an old barn that could be used for the ceremony?

There are actually so many possible options for funeral venues that when you start thinking about them, you’ll wonder why people tend to go down the two routes of church/cemetery or crem. You will need permission, of course, from the land/building/venue owner. Legally, your only requirement for the ceremony is that the deceased’s body is covered. You do not need a coffin. You can use a shroud.

dandelions

 

The key for a mindful and meaningful ceremony is to choose a place where you will not feel rushed.

When considering how to set up the ceremonial space, think about all the human senses:

Sight: What decorations might you use? Flowers, plants, leaves, candles, lanterns. If you’re in Nature, let that be your décor.

 

Sound: Music, Nature (such as the wind or a babbling brook), bells, chimes, singing.

Taste: Maybe your loved one had a favourite drink? Could a small drinking vessel, such as a goblet, be passed around for everyone to share? (with a cloth napkin to wipe the rim after each person). Or you could use spring water…the foundation of all life. Maybe a small biscuit or chocolate could be part of the ceremony, as a way of honouring the sweetness of the deceased’s life?

Touch: Soft cloth for the altar, or a little memento for each person.

Smell: incense, essential oils, fresh air, scented flowers, or a sprig of rosemary on each seat for ‘remembrance’ which could then be placed on the shroud or coffin just before the committal.

anaturalundertaking

To enhance your sacred space, consider how you might define the area. Perhaps near the altar (a small table with a photo, candle, flowers, and anything symbolic of meaning to the deceased), you could make a circle on the ground/floor using: leaves, berries, rosehips, acorns, pinecones, flowers, or things that might have held meaning, such as marine ropes, bailing twine, paintbrushes, Matchbox cars, dolls, etc.

flowermandala

Why not create a candlelit labyrinth using jam jars with a tealight in each one, inside a brown paper bag filled with sand. This is particularly beautiful if you’re having an evening ceremony. The coffin could be in the centre of the labyrinth, with each mourner taking the time to walk into the centre to say goodbye, and slowly going back out into the world as a different person. You can download a Classical Labyrinth pattern here: https://labyrinthsociety.org/make-a-labyrinth

Perhaps you could create a memory jar. Using a large glass jar, invite each mourner to write on a piece of card their favourite memory of the deceased.

Maybe you could decorate the space with Prayer flags/Love flags with colourful images or words relating to the deceased and their life.

Each mourner could cut out hands (drawing their hands onto cardboard, and then cutting them out) to put with coffin, and writing their names on saying ‘we are with you’.

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What about wooden or paper heart confetti to sprinkle over coffin or shroud?

Print cards with the words “I’ll always remember when…” and leave a pen/pencil for each guest to add their memory.

Consider a Lantern Ceremony (glass jam jars with thin wire and tea light)…glass paints or coloured tissue paper glued on the outside. Mourners could gather in a circle around the coffin/shrouded body, and create a circle of love throughout the ceremony. You can just imagine, I am sure, how powerful such a circle would feel.

seating

Use the deceased’s favourite colours as a theme.

Why not have a long piece of white wallpaper, and leave crayons or felt pens for mourners to create a timeline of the deceased’s life: they write down when and where they met.

This isn’t necessary, but you might find it inspiring: Consider ‘funeral favours’ for the mourners.

On each mourner’s seat, leave a bookmark of the deceased, plus their favourite quote.

Wildflower seeds. You can print your loved one’s name, dates of birth and death, and words of choice such as ‘forget me not’.
http://www.growamemory.co.uk/Wildflower-Seed-Packet-Memorial-Gifts/

 

growamemory

Flower bulbs. Give each mourner a bulb or bulbs to plant in memory of your loved one.

What about leaving a copy of your loved one’s favourite recipe printed out?

Depending on the location of your ceremony, you might consider a dove release, butterfly release or eco-friendly balloon release.

 

doverelease

In the midst of your grief, allow yourself to channel the adrenalin into creative choices.

By choosing an independent celebrant, you are taking a huge step towards gifting your loved one with a life-centred funeral. This is your final gift to them.

“When words are inadequate, have a ritual.” ~ Anon

Veronika Robinson is an Independent Funeral Celebrant who is available to officiate life-centred ceremonies throughout Cumbria.
www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant