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What is a Celebrant?


Catrina Young, Leicestershire Celebrant
Photo by Red N Dead Photography

Derelict church
Photo by Kristijan Arsov

As society becomes more secular and fewer people attend church regularly, the traditional ways to mark birth, marriages, death and more are becoming less relevant to many.  Church weddings have declined in recent years - in 2019 fewer than half British marriages were church weddings (Church Times, April 2019) and non religious funeral services have increased by 25% since 2017 (The Funeral Survey, June 2023).  This leaves people with something of a dilemma - how should they mark the important occasions in life whilst being authentic to their values and beliefs?  One option is, of course, to abandon the occasion; some people see no need for a wedding to seal their commitment to one another and direct funerals; those without any ceremony are increasingly popular.  However, plenty of people in the know such as psychologists, midwives, funeral directors and more will argue that rituals and traditions are important and we cast them aside at our peril. I discuss this in more depth in my earlier blog - The Importance of Ceremony.


When a couple chooses to marry, they are publicly declaring their changed status and they are following in the footsteps of the vast majority of their forebearers.  Even today in an age of gender equality, many brides will still want to be ‘given away’ by their fathers and including items from their parents’ or even grandparents’ wedding is important to many.  The rituals around death might be even more significant; a funeral is a time for the family and whole community to pay their respects to the deceased.  Those seeking counselling for grief often reflect on the lack of closure when a funeral has been missing or poorly handled.  The arrival of a new baby is no less significant for those parents who choose not to assign religious affiliation to their child!



Handfasting Ceremony
Photo by Red N Dead Photography

A celebrant is someone who will create, write and deliver a bespoke ceremony to mark any occasion of importance.  There are those who ascribe to a particular belief system such as paganism but many are ‘independent’ and as such will create whatever ceremony their client is after.  This means there can be a nod, large or small to religion if you want, or you can include readings from secular texts that are meaningful to you.  A celebrant will create ritual elements to your ceremony if that is what you want and these bespoke, personalised occasions can take place wherever you wish (with landowner’s permission).


Jumping the Besom
Photo by Red N Dead Photography

Celebrant weddings usually centre around the love story of the couple and popular rituals include handtying, jumping the broom or ring warming.  Funerals led by celebrants typically reference and include elements of the deceased’s life - a final cigar on the coffin or a toffee sweet for all the mourners to remember the lady who always seemed to have a toffee in her pocket.  Naming ceremonies can include promises from parents or moral guardians; music and poems are popular.  


Most people are familiar with the option to have a registrar marry them in a registry office or licensed venue.  This is a popular choice for non religious marriages but do be aware a registrar wedding does not allow for anything like the level of personalisation that is possible with a celebrant-led wedding.  For a more detailed comparison, please see my blog.


Of course just as the marking of an occasion is individual - what resonates with one person might not with another, so too what is an important life occasion for one might not be for another.  The beauty of celebrancy is that it can respond to any event which is felt to be significant.  Starting a new business, acknowledging a divorce or separation, marking a gender transition or establishing a new home; these are all occasions that can and, dare I say should, be marked.  A celebrant can, working with you, create the perfect way to acknowledge whatever important life events feature for you. For more information on ceremony options, please visit my website.


If you consider having a celebrant-led occasion, be sure to find the right one for you - you might like to read my guide.


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

© Hardingstone Ceremonies, April 2024


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