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Ask A Celebrant – Introduction

Ask A celebrant with Berni B and Dinah

Why Ask A Celebrant?

What am I talking about when I say ‘Ask A Celebrant’?

How many of you know what one is?

How many of you know what one can do?

How many of you have used a celebrant for a celebration of commemoration?

If you have, how many of your friends and family looked at you blankly when you mentioned the word celebrant?

I’m Bernice Benton, and I’m an Independent Celebrant.

Once you become a celebrant you tend to hang out in circles with other celebrants and in groups that use celebrants.  It’s easy to forget how new the Celebrant industry is, and that it is still not the ‘norm’ to work with one.  Yet more and more people are opting to engage a celebrant when organising a funeral, wedding or other life celebration.

We are still (in England and Wales at least) waiting for legislation to catch up with the demand for our services.  Couples wanting a celebrant-led wedding, still have to seek out and officiant at county hall to complete the legal paperwork (** this is still true as of January 2022, although the white papers are in and Wedding Law Reform is being reviewed).  This is not the case in some other European countries, some international countries and even in Scotland

This lack of knowledge about celebrants, their services and their role, is the reason that I have partnered up with good friend and fellow celebrant , Dinah Liversidge, to start the podcast, Ask A Celebrant.  The first episode is being recorded this week and goes live on 28th January.

People have so many questions

We realised that there are so many questions and misconceptions. about celebrants.  For example a Humanist Celebrant is not the same as an Independent Celebrant, although a celebrant can be both, A wedding officiant is not the same as a celebrant, but again a celebrant can be both.

The roles of a celebrant, and scope of a celebrant are wide, we have, much (much) more flexibility than a registrar for example.

I still laugh, at the amount of times I’ve been asked why I’m celibate, after the surprised pause when I discuss my life choice to become a celebrant (spoiler alert:  I’m not!  And I can assure you I know more about being a celebrant than about being celibate!!!).

What will the Podcast cover?

Episode 1 will start with introductions to Dinah and I; chat about why we became celebrants; what aspects of the role of celebrant we each cover; and an overall look at what the celebrant industry can offer

After episode 1, its up to you.  You ask us your questions and we’ll answer them for you.

Each Episode will be accompanied by two blog posts, one from each of us, on our respective websites.  The podcast will also appear as a video via our respective YouTube channels.  Hopefully this covers all bases and makes it accessible to as many people as possible.

What makes a good Celebrant?

Celebrants come from all backgrounds and tend to find their way into the role for an infinite number of different reasons.  Some celebrants are religious or spiritual, others are agnostics or even atheists, like myself.

Generally celebrants are empathetic, caring, practical and supportive.

I like to think I have all these qualities and more.

Why did I become a Celebrant?

I have always worked in some form of service focused environment, from helping people write CVs, find jobs, retrain, to teaching and advocacy.  I’ve always cared about those around me, and wanted to facilitate and advocate for people who felt unable to stand up for themselves.  I’ve worked in hospitality and public speaking too.

Over the years I have been to traditional weddings, religious wedding, and funeral services in various churches.  To me the funerals were lacking in personality and failed to represent the individuals and families they were their to celebrate and remember.

Then my uncle passed away.  His funeral and life celebration were magnificent.  His service was led by a Humanist Celebrant and the entire service talked about him as an individual, his friends and family and the strength they could find in supporting each other and their importance in each others life and in sharing my uncles memories.  There was laughter, they was music, there was dancing at the party/wake we had at his home after.

Some years later I attended the most moving and life affirming service for a man who died in his 40’s.  The service was at a crematorium, but it was a ‘double slot’ and it was led by an independent celebrant. There was singing, there was video, Buddhist chanting and singing bowls, hymns, folk music, theistic and non-theistic readings and poems.  Everyone wore bright colours, wrote memories on cards and placed them in a box on the coffin as they filed past at the end to say their personal farewell.

Why is my focus on funerals?

By this time I knew I wanted to be a Funeral Celebrant.  I wanted to help families navigate their grief, and create farewells that were truly personal to both the deceased and those grieving.  A good farewell will help a family begin to process their loss and set them on a journey into the future without their loved one present.  I believed and still believe that facilitating a none time-restricted, , all inclusive celebration in recognition of someone’s life is the best way I can help families at one of the most difficult moments of their life.

It was a while after deciding this was my true vocation that I finally trained to be a celebrant

Ask A celebrant with Berni B and DinahHow do I sign up to the Podcast?

You can sign up to the podcast here.

You can watch the video of the podcasts , as they are produced, over on my youtube channel here

And you can read the accompanying blog posts both here (click follow me to receive notifications of new content) and over here  for Dinah

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