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  • Writer's pictureHardingstone Ceremonies

Can I Have a Ceremony for any Occasion?

Ceremonial candles
Photo by Sinitta Leunen

I have written elsewhere about the concern I have that as society and people become more secular and religious rituals cease to be as widespread, we are in danger of failing to acknowledge the significant steps in life as respectfully as we should.

Whilst the moral and cultural significance of marriage has changed dramatically in the past few hundred years - we no longer expect a bride to be virginal or consider her to be the property of her father to be ‘given’ to another man - the decision to commit to and make a family with another person is, I would argue, a significant step. It is surely for this reason that searches for celebrant-led weddings have increased by 49% in the last year (Hitched, Wedding Trends report).  Funerals and naming ceremonies are also already popular occasions for a celebrant-led ceremony.

Since embarking on my celebrancy training, I have become increasingly aware of other occasions worthy of formal acknowledgment.  Of course, many religious traditions mark the transition from childhood to adulthood with the Bar / Bat Mitzvah of Judaism being one of the most well known.  But many other communities mark this transition too - boys from the Sateré- Mawé tribe of the Amazon are initiated into manhood by demonstrating their strength and resilience by wearing gloves impregnated with sedated bullet ants - as the ants wake up the pain is excruciating.  Boys are expected to endure the pain without protest and are required to undergo this experience up to 20 times before their initiation is considered complete.

Phases of the Moon
Photo by Mark Tegethoff

Some communities still practise the celebration of menarche (first menstruation) as a sign of adulthood and the arrival of fertility within a woman’s life.  A menarche ceremony is usually an intensely female affair with the adult women of the community welcoming the maiden to their fold.  When I first heard about this ceremony, I confess I had something of a squeamish modern world reaction centred around the ‘no need for a fuss’ mentality.  But my celebrant guru Veronika simply asked me to imagine a world where this occasion was a huge celebration.  In an instant we would banish the shame, mystery and embarrassment that accompanies menstruation in the developed world.  That’s all it took for me to be convinced of the value of such a ceremony.

'Blessingway'. Photo by Jo Arganaraz

Another new experience for me was taking part in a ritual based around that found in a ‘Blessingway’ ceremony.  A blessingway ceremony is usually held towards the end of a woman’s pregnancy and involves the women of her community gathering to offer their blessings and support to her journey to motherhood.  All new mothers know the value of support, especially from other women but sadly, too often in our times, they are denied it.  The hospitalisation of birth with its restricted visiting hours along with the migratory nature of our communities means that many of the traditional networks of support are denied to women today.  Instead modern life offers the unrealistic expectations of celebrity motherhood and the, all too often, competitive parenting of endless social media posts.

There are so many moments in life for which a ceremony may be a helpful tool to acknowledge the significance.  A good celebrant can write a ceremony for any occasion because they see their job as reflecting the significance of the occasion for the individual(s) concerned.  Of course I am biased, but personally I am excited by a world in which people are supported to truly acknowledge the significant changes in their life.  Who knows, perhaps marking such changes would help us all manage them better - a ceremony to consciously let go of past relationships might just leave us better placed to embark on a new one of importance.  Starting a new business, acknowledging a gender transition or celebrating recovery from significant illness - these are all occasions for which I believe a ceremony can be invaluable.

So whilst birth, marriage and death certainly feature as the ‘big three’ for celebrants and every single one of these is a privilege with which to be involved, I am excited to know there is also the opportunity for other ceremonies too.  For more information on choosing a celebrant, please see my blog and if you would like to know more about me as a celebrant please visit my website.

By Catrina Young, Leicestershire Heart-led celebrant, Marking Life’s Moments.

© Hardingstone Ceremonies, May, 2024

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