“The other really special situation is working in advance with someone on their funeral, and then helping them make sure that their wishes are carried out.”
Why did you become a humanist celebrant?
For our daughter’s naming 26 years ago, I found the very first edition of “New Arrivals” really useful. Reading it I realised I was a humanist. I joined the BHA, and over the years used BHA celebrants for family events, happy and sad. When I was made redundant six years ago, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
What kind of ceremony do you find most satisfying?
All of them! I love using my skills to help people get exactly the ceremony they want, be it a joyous beginning, or a sad farewell. Every humanist ceremony is different, designed with and for the people it celebrates.
There are two situations that I find particularly satisfying. First, multiple ceremonies for the same family or friendship group – perhaps first a wedding, then namings for the couple’s children over the next few years. Or my many trips to Whitstable, where I’ve done ten namings now for the same group of friends.
The other really special situation is working in advance with someone on their funeral, and then helping them make sure that their wishes are carried out. I recently started a funeral with the words “You all knew ‘S’, so it won’t surprise you to know that, however much she loved you, she didn’t trust any of you to plan her funeral”.
What’s your advice to someone wanting to become a Humanist Celebrant?
It is now easier for people to get on a training course, so consider applying. You need to be a good listener, to really enjoy meeting people, and be happy to speak in public – though that last skill can be learned. You have to be well organised and punctual. If you’re a woman, you may want to have a range of clothes to meet all situations – if you’re a man, you can usually get away with a suit.
And a strange piece of advice – I happen to have a name that is particularly appropriate for all kinds of ceremonies. If you name is in any way inappropriate – if it were “De’ath”, for example – you might adopt a professional name for your celebrant work.
Tell us about some of your most memorable moments
Animals are always memorable – such as the cat which walked down the aisle before the bride at my first wedding, and the rabbit which ran among the mourners at a burial on the South Downs.
I’ll never forget the wedding I did at dawn on a Greek beach, the one in a castle near Naples which had to also contain a (long) Italian civil ceremony, or the occasion when the Red Arrows flew over us just as the couple were exchanging promises. But perhaps my most memorable wedding was the one I did in Scotland, which was legally recognised. Now that really was exciting.
“Felicity was incredibly warm, enthusiastic and full of great ideas that made our wedding special. She captured everything about our story that we wanted to share with family and friends and relayed it beautifully. We had so many comments about what a wonderful ceremony it was, many said the best they had ever been to. It inspired one of our guests to renew their own wedding vows with a humanist celebrant!”
“I wanted to also take this opportunity to thank you for the tribute, and the service – I feel that your kindness and obvious willingness to create and present an open, honest, and sometimes funny tribute to her resulted in something that I will treasure in the days and months to come. “
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