The world is changing. There’s no question of that. I’ve long held the belief that to live and thrive in this world it’s not so much ‘survival of the fittest’ but ‘survival of those who can adapt’. And this has always served me well both in terms of being a risk taker and rolling with life’s pulls and punches. It’s a kind of shape shifting that allows me to bend, like a willow, and make my way in the world no matter what. Increasingly, though, there’s an aspect to this world, and specifically how it impacts my work as a celebrant, celebrant trainer and author, where I have been questioning just how much I adapt to those changes. Am I just an old ‘fuddy duddy’ now I’m almost 56? Am I behind the times? Is it time to hang up my celebrant hat? I’m referring to the widespread use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Bit by bit I’ve watched changes in the celebrant world, for example: celebrants using Kindle or some other technology to read their script from during a ceremony or various apps and programmes to store their client information. The latest intrusions into this world include celebrants outsourcing their scripts to other celebrants/writers and also the use of AI to write their scripts.
Here’s where I stand: I will never use a technological device from which to read my script. Apart from the aesthetics (my main aversion), there is also the risk of the device not performing on the day (for all manner of reasons). I also use good old-fashioned diaries and calendar to keep track of my dates (no risk of technological failure/theft), and use my funeral and wedding planners for essential details. I’m not suggesting it’s wrong for a celebrant to use a Kindle or to use an app like 17 Hats. I’m simply saying that it’s not my way. In the same way that I feel holding an A4 folder looks clunky compared to a smaller A5 one.
When it comes to outsourcing the writing of scripts to AI or other celebrants, I feel ill at the thought. (Ditto the number of professional authors now using AI to write books so they can publish more often.) What happened to heart? What about the joy of creativity? Surely this is what we want to bring to this work?
If someone employs me to be their celebrant, then they are choosing ME to create and dream and write their ceremony into being through my experience, imagination, creativity, wisdom, intuition, awareness and so on. AI CAN NOT DO THIS.
When someone buys one of the books I’ve written, they are buying non-fiction books based on my experience, skills and wisdom, or fiction books based on my imagination and creativity. AI CAN NOT DO THIS for me.
Are we, as humans, becoming so far removed from what it is to be human that we think and feel it’s ok, indeed preferable, to rely on technology rather than heart and the creative fire?
And if we’re going to outsource to another human then for reasons of ethics, integrity and data protection this needs to be clearly stated at the outset on one’s website and in all communications. The buyer of your services needs to know that they’re NOT getting your services! Outsourcing the writing of scripts has become prevalent in this industry.
The celebrant industry (and make no mistake, it has become an industry whereby some celebrant trainers and celebrants have completely forgotten or never knew or understood the true purpose of ceremony and the place of a celebrant) is changing rapidly, for better and for worse, in ways that would have seemed incomprehensible to me when I started on this path in 1995. I’ve had so many moments in the past few years of not wanting to be part of this changing ‘industry’. It’s so far out of alignment with my approach to celebrancy that, despite my view and ability to ‘adapt’ to changes, I’ve contemplated walking away many times. And yet, I’m still here. I remain, for now. Why? I’m here for those people who understand (even if they can’t articulate it) ceremony to be a liminal place in time whereby the celebrant holds the space for those crossing the threshold (regardless of the rite of passage). I don’t, and never will, see rituals (such as handtying) as some sort of parlour game or joke or that it’s acceptable for people to arrive at a ceremony half drunk.
I can hand on heart say I will never outsource my work to AI or another celebrant. My sense of reverence for ceremony and the rituals within it don’t mean that I’m devoid of humour or can’t create a bespoke ceremony for a fun-loving couple or family wishing a joyous celebration of life. Far from it. What it does mean is that I understand the purpose of ceremony, and at each step of the way bring my whole heart, creativity, reverence, integrity and care.
To be clear: I’m not against technology. I’m writing on a laptop. I am grateful that I have a car and that a washing machine cleans my clothes rather than me standing all day long scrubbing them and wringing the water out of each item. These things all have a place in this world. I’m not against change or advancement. Ceremonies and storytelling, though? Let’s keep the heart there. In this rapidly changing world, we need it more than ever. Let us not lose touch with compassion, empathy, kindness, humour, wisdom, awareness of body language, curiosity and creativity, and dare I say: our innate sense of spirituality.
The day I don’t bring the human touch to my work as a celebrant, celebrant trainer and author is the day I step away.
Veronika Robinson has been a celebrant since 1995, officiating across all rites of passage, and is the co-owner and co-tutor at Heart-led Ceremonies Celebrant Training in Cumbria. It brings her great joy to, alongside her husband Paul, teach others the sacred art of creating ceremonies from the heart.
She’s the author of over 30 books including the popular books for celebrants: Write That Eulogy; The Successful Celebrant; Wedding Celebrant Ceremony Planner; Funeral Celebrant Ceremony Planner; and coming soon: Funerals for Children; and Discrimination-free Celebrancy. On a daily basis, she is connected to the natural world and draws her inspiration from there.